I am not familiar with many homeowner association terms. Where can I find concise definitions of the most commonly used HOA terms?
Who establishes the rules that govern homeowner associations in California?
The rules that govern homeowner associations in California have four sources: (1) The Davis-Stirling Act, (2) CC&Rs, (3) Bylaws, and (4) Operating Rules.
The Davis-Stirling Act is the primary body of law in California that applies to common interest developments and homeowner associations. It was first adopted in 1985 and has been amended several times.
Association CC&Rs incorporate much but not all of the Davis-Stirling Act that existed when they were written. CC&Rs are commonly amended or restated approximately every 6 to 7 years. CC&Rs address what owners mayor may not do with their unit or lot and who is responsible for various costs. The document is recorded in the County Recorder's Office and is automatically transferred to successive owners.
Bylaws are created when the homeowner association is formed by the developer. It addresses, the subjects of elections, and meetings. Bylaws may be amended or restated if necessary.
Operating Rules deal with rules not addressed in the CC&Rs or Bylaws. Election Rules are a special form of operating rule that addresses matters not included in Bylaws. All associations are required to adopt Election Rules.
If a conflict exists, CC&Rs have priority over Bylaws and Bylaws have priority over Operating Rules.
What is the Davis-Stirling Act?
The Davis-Stirling Act is the main body of law that governs common interest developments including condominiums, planned developments, stock cooperatives, and community apartment projects. It consists of California Civil Code Sections 4000-6,150 You can assess the official and most current law: Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act.
What do HOA management companies do for their clients?
It depends on the type of service requested. Coast Management of California offers four types of services which are summarized on this website.
How do CC&Rs and Bylaws differ?
CC&Rs are recorded documents that determine what homeowners may do or not do with their individual homes. CC&Rs also determine who pays for the maintenance and repairs of each component of the property. Some costs are paid directly by each homeowner while other costs are paid by the association. The association pays with funds generated by assessing each of the owners.
The Bylaws address the election of the board of directors and the holding of meetings. If the CC&Rs and Bylaws conflict, the CC&Rs have priority.
What do the board members do?
The elected board of directors has responsibility for running the homeowner association. The board hires all contractors and vendors, establishes a budget, determines the level of assessments subject to certain limitations, and spends funds to run the association and maintain the common areas.
What is the association?
The association is the group of all homeowners within a community usually organized as a non-profit mutual benefit corporation. Each owner is a member of the association.
Who does a homeowner association management company work for?
HOA management companies sign a contract to provide services to the homeowner association which is usually a non-profit mutual benefit corporation run by an elected board of directors. Therefore, the management company owes its fiduciary duty to the association as opposed to the board of directors or any individual director. By its very nature a homeowner association must communicate with the management company through its board of directors which should make all significant decisions by means of a vote taken at an open board meeting.
What do I do if I have a maintenance issue?
The first thing you must do is determine whether it’s your responsibility or the association’s responsibility. The answer lies within the CC&Rs which every homeowner should read. If it’s the association’s responsibility, you should use the form on this website to request maintenance service. If it’s an emergency threatening health, life safety, or material damage to property, call the assigned Property Supervisor at Coast Management of California and also send an email maintenance request.
I'm going to have some plumbing work done in my condominium and will need to have the water shut off. What should I do?
All condominium buildings are different. In some buildings it is possible to shut off the water to only one condominium. If this is the case with your building, you can have the work scheduled by your plumber at any time between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm. Your plumber will be able to tell you if he or she can shut off the water only to your unit. In other buildings it is necessary to shut off the water in more than a single condominium unit. If this is the case with your building, the work must be scheduled between 9:30 am and 2:00 pm on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Unless it is an emergency, at least 48 hours advance notice will be required so we can alert your neighbors.
Will the water ever be shut off to my condominium without notice?
This will happen only if there is a plumbing emergency requiring that the water be shut off immediately. Otherwise, for non-emergency plumbing work, you should receive a 40 to 48 hour advance notice by email. Non-emergency work is normally scheduled between 9:30 am and 2pm on Tuesday, Wednesdays, or Thursdays.
What do I do if I want to change the exterior of my home?
You must submit an Architectural Change Application to the board of directors through the management company for approval. The process is set forth in the CC&Rs of your homeowner association. The application form is on this website.
What can an owner do if he or she is not satisfied with some aspect of the common area management?
Owners and renters are invited to complete and send us the We Value Your Opinion form on our website. Owners can provide their opinions concerning their assigned manager, the management company, and their current board. Your comments can be anonymous, or you can provide us with your contact information so we can respond. All opinions are welcome. By evaluating your comments, we will be in a better position to take any steps necessary to improve our company and its services.
Does the Board of Directors have meetings that I can attend?
Yes. Every board is required to meet at least four times each year and many meet monthly. Every member can attend board meetings except that the board can retire to executive session for limited reasons. We strongly suggest that all members of associations attend every meeting of the board of directors.
How can homeowners contact HOA board members directly?
Some board members provide homeowners with an email address or phone number, but many do not because they want the management company to be the point of contact. This decision is made by the board members, not the management company. Homeowners can always send an email to the management company with a request to forward the message to the HOA board. This is what we recommend.
Can I become a Board member?
Yes. There are two articles on this website that address Why You Should Run for Election to the Board of your HOA and How to get Elected to the Board of your HOA.
I'm a homeowner that is not on the board of directors. Can I read a copy of the management agreement?
Absolutely. As a member of your homeowner association, you have the right to read any contract your HOA board has signed with any third party.
Do I need to buy a homeowner’s insurance policy or does the homeowner association’s insurance policy protect me?
You must buy a homeowner’s policy to provide yourself with adequate protection. You should also buy loss assessment coverage. There is an article on this site regarding the importance of loss assessment coverage.
How do I order escrow documents?
Escrow documents for sales or refinance transactions can be requested on our website: Escrow Services for Homeowner Associations.
Can I hold a yard or parking lot sale at my condominium building?
No. These types of activities are likely to obstruct the common areas used by other owners.
I am in the process of refinancing my condominium and as part of the process the lender has sent a lender's questionnaire to the management company to complete and return. It is several pages in length. What is the purpose of the lender's questionnaire?
The lender will not tell you this, but there are two purposes behind the lender's questionnaire. The first is to obtain information about the association and loan applicant in order to assist the lender in making a loan underwriting decision. The other purpose is to transfer risk to the person signing the lender questionnaire as well as the association. Should the borrower fail a make any future payments on the loan, the lender will examine the lender's questionnaire in order to determine if any of the information was incorrect so they can claim a material misrepresentation was made or possibly fraud. This gives them the ability to file a lawsuit against the individual signing the questionnaire and/or the association to cover them for any losses the lender may suffer including the cost of repurchasing the loan if it had been sold to an investor. It is for this reason that it is critically important for the person signing the lender's questionnaire to exercise great care and to be accurate.
How do you suggest I handle a situation where my neighbor plays loud music late at night when I’m trying to sleep?
First, I would politely request that the neighbor turn the volume down because you must get to sleep. If that doesn’t work, contact the manager by email who will make contact with the neighbor. While you have the right to call the police to report a nuisance, this should be a last resort. The vast majority of residents in the buildings we manage are respectful of their neighbors.
Can I get a pet?
It depends on your CC&Rs. The CC&Rs of homeowner associations generally place limits on the ownership of pets. You need to review the CC&Rs of your association to obtain an answer.
If I am short of money, can I use my credit card to pay my HOA assessment?
You can use a Visa or Master Card to pay your assessments. Instructions are on this site. There will be a small service charge added to cover our cost.
What is an emergency?
An emergency is something that threatens the health, life, or safety of a person or threatens material damage to property. Water intrusion from leaking roofs or plumbing are two examples. Emergencies should be reported immediately by telephone as well as email using our website. We have an emergency service available for all residents.
Why do mortgage lender's reject loan applications from condominium owners and buyers?
There are several reasons, most of which, can be prevented. See: Reasons Lenders Reject Loan Applications from Condominium Owners and Buyers.
Will you always notify me before sending a repair person to my home?
Absolutely. You will always receive at least a 24 hour notice except for emergencies such as a gas leak or water leak. The notice will be posted on your door and we will always send you an email and voice mail message. The repair person will always “knock” first and delay entry by at least 20 seconds. We respect your right to privacy.
What should I do if my sink, tub, or shower is clogged?
Call your property manager and send us a maintenance request using our website. We will address the matter as soon as possible. If the plumber determines that you are responsible, we will be required to pass the cost on to you.
What should I do if there is a leak in my roof?
Call your property manager immediately and send us a maintenance request using our website. We will address the matter as soon as possible. You may poke a small hole in the ceiling with a sharp object such as a nail while placing a bucket below to collect any water. This will minimize damage and shorten the time it takes to make any repair.
Do you pay referral fees if we refer a management client to you?
Yes. Coast Management of California will pay a referral fee for a referral that turns into management agreement.
Can a homeowner association sell or transfer exclusive use rights to a portion of the common area to one homeowner?
Yes, provided that two-thirds of the membership vote by secret ballot to approve the transfer.
Are the boards of stock cooperatives required to be elected by secret ballot?
Yes. All common interest developments must elect their boards by secret ballot.
Can Late Fees be waived?
Please refer to: Late Charges – Homeowner Association
What do I do if I receive a hearing notice?
If you have received a hearing notice, the reason will be set forth on the notice form along with the scheduled hearing date. You have received a notice due to an alleged violation of your association's CC&Rs or Operating Rules. You should appear at the hearing prepared to address the accusation with any evidence you have including witnesses, documents, and/or photos. If it is not possible for you to attend on the scheduled date, you may request one alternative date that will be reasonably offered to you. You will not be fined unless a majority of the board finds that you are to be fined based upon a violation of the CC&Rs and/or the Operating Rules. All fines are deposited into the association's operating account.
Is it risky to buy a condominium in a building that is self-managed as opposed to one that has hired professional management?
Yes. Most experienced real estate brokers and agents will steer buyers away from self-managed homeowner associations because they are far more likely to be involved as a defendant in litigation. Very few board members have a thorough understanding of the laws that govern homeowner associations such as the Davis-Stirling Act and the California Corporations Code. While not all HOA management companies are first-rate managers, not having a professional management company is inviting all kinds of trouble.
We appreciate your business.
Coast Management of California