Association Openly Acts Outside Law

It is "Association's Obligation to Enforce Standards of Association," and Please Disregard That Pesky Little Law

After dealing with a rat infestation for months, a homeowner attempted to work with the Edgewater Isle North Association to be reimbursed for their costs of dealing with that infestation.

The HOA issued a check, then placed a stop payment on it. After months of seeking the reimbursement again, the homeowner became fed up, and on May 13, 2011, the homeowner placed this sign in the window:

Sign in condo window at Edgewater Isle

The Association was quick on their feet to respond with this letter:

Edgewater Isle demands removal of sign from condo window

To which the homeowner replied via e-mail and pointed out a little part of the California Civil Code:

California Civil Code Section 1353.6

(a) The governing documents, including the operating rules, may not prohibit posting or displaying of noncommercial signs, posters, flags, or banners on or in an owner's separate interest, except as required for the protection of public health or safety or if the posting or display would violate a local, state, or federal law.

(b) For purposes of this section, a noncommercial sign, poster, flag, or banner may be made of paper, cardboard, cloth, plastic, or fabric, and may be posted or displayed from the yard, window, door, balcony, or outside wall of the separate interest, but may not be made of lights, roofing, siding, paving materials, flora, or balloons, or any other similar building, landscaping, or decorative component, or include the painting of architectural surfaces.

(c) An association may prohibit noncommercial signs and posters that are more than 9 square feet in size and noncommercial flags or banners that are more than 15 square feet in size.

The Law Has Been in Effect Since 2004: Why Didn't Management Company Know This?

Wouldn't an association management company and/or a property manager have known this? Shouldn't the property manager advised the "board" of this? This law, which was Assembly Bill (AB) 1525, Longville, was signed by Governor Davis on October 10, 2003, and has been in effect since 2004. In fact, the revised North Association CC & Rs, which were drafted by the HOA's lawyer and recorded in San Mateo County on February 24, 2004, failed to recognize this new section of the law.

Hmmm......anyone wonder why? An oversight by, uh, professionals? How convenient.

Community Management Services's web site says on its FAQ web page:

Community Management Services claims licenses and certifications for managers

That's interesting because we have to ask why this law never came up in Community Management Services' "ongoing in-house training" in the 7 years since it was enacted. Hmmm. Especially since the Legislature included this language when the law was passed:

SECTION 1. It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act to
provide for all of the following:
(a) That homeowners throughout the state shall be able to engage in
constitutionally protected free speech traditionally associated with
private residential property.
(b) That owners of a separate interest in a common interest
development shall be specifically protected from unreasonable
restrictions on this right in the governing documents.

Well, apparently someone looked it up because the Association then sent this letter:

Let's Review

Let's count how many times the story changes from the first letter to the second:

First Letter
Second Letter
"Writing to you on behalf of the Association becomes "A few board members requested"
"On a recent site walk" becomes "A few board members noticed"
"You have unauthorized signage" becomes "We retract our previous correspondence, but please take the sign down."
"It is our obligation and duty to enforce the standards of the Association" becomes "We were unaware of this provision."
"Failure to do so could result in your being called to a Board Hearing." becomes "We appreciate you bringing Civil Code 1353.6 to our attention."

This is fascinating. It's a rare occasion to see a "board" back pedal as fast as this one. It's fun to watch how a "site walk" becomes "a few board members noticed." Wow. Is that how things are run? A few "board members" can dictate letters, legal correspondence from the Association, as coming from an entire board that has discussed and voted on the matter and it's recorded in minutes?

Yes, it happens all the time.

What a joke.