The California legislative session has ended with the legislature passing, and Gov. Brown signing, a handful of bills that will affect common interest developments, or, as they are also known, community associations or homeowners associations. CAI’s California Legislative Action Committee, “CLAC,” took positions on the key bills and had some success in amending them to better serve CLAC’s goal of association self-governance.

AB 968, authored by Assembly member Gordon and supported by CLAC, clarifies an ambiguity in the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act. Civil Code section 4775 provides that, unless the governing documents say otherwise, the association is responsible for repairing, replacing or maintaining common area, but owners are responsible to maintain the exclusive use common area serving their units. But who must repair and replace that exclusive use common area? AB 968 answers that question: The association repairs and replaces exclusive use common area; the unit owner just maintains it.

CLAC opposed AB 1738 (Chau), which will expressly allow homeowners and associations to bring attorneys to Internal Dispute Resolution meetings. IDR was designed as an informal, low-cost way to resolve disputes, face to face. Lawyers participated, but only rarely. Allowing attorneys by statute can only encourage parties to bring their lawyers, and make the process more complicated and expensive.

Gov. Brown signed emergency legislation, AB 2100, effective July 21, 2014, to prohibit associations from fining owners for failing to water during a declared drought emergency. SB 992, authored by Assembly member Nielsen, provides an exception to this rule for associations that use reclaimed water for irrigation. CLAC proposed this exception. The bill also prohibits associations from requiring owners to power-wash during a declared drought, unless non-potable water is used.

Assembly member Bradford’s AB 2561 encourages home fruit and vegetable gardens, or “personal agriculture.” As introduced, it would have prohibited associations from limiting personal agriculture in areas under owners’ control. With amendments proposed by CLAC, the bill as passed allows associations to limit fruit and vegetable gardens anywhere except in back yards.

CLAC has also been watching fire prevention fees. Since 2011, the Department of Forestry has imposed a fee on all assessor’s parcels in rural areas served by Cal Fire. The fee impacts condominium owners disproportionately, because each condo is a separate parcel, whereas a multi-family apartment building is a single parcel. AB 2048 (Dahle) does not end this inequity, but it does lessen the penalty for failing to pay the fee on time, and makes it easier to seek reconsideration of a fee.

In 2002, the legislature enacted Business and Professions Code section 11502, which allows a manager to call himself or herself a “certified common interest development manager” upon passing an examination with a specified subject matter. This provision was set to expire January 1, 2015, but was extended to January 1, 2019 by SB 1243 (Lieu).

For more information on these bills, as well as other bills affecting California’s common interest developments, visit CLAC’s 2013-2014 Hot Bills Page.  CLAC will continue to sponsor, monitor, and take positions on California legislation of interest to homeowners associations.

John R. MacDowell is managing shareholder of Fiore, Racobs & Powers’ Orange County office and is a delegate to CLAC from the Orange County Regional Chapter of CAI. He serves as one of CLAC’s Legislative Co-Chairs.

John R. MacDowell Fiore Racobs & Powers

John R. MacDowell
Fiore Racobs & Powers