Court of Appeal Upholds Association’s Prevailing Party Status

R|O attorney Jonathan R. Davis successfully defended a matter in the Court of Appeal against a homeowners association. After a neighbor filed a lawsuit attempting to force the Association to sign a dubious easement contract, the Association recorded its own maintenance document and successfully moved to dismiss the lawsuit. The trial court deemed the Association the prevailing party and awarded it attorneys’ fees. The neighbor appealed, arguing under the “catalyst theory” that it was the prevailing party because the suit caused the Association to record a maintenance document – despite the fact that the recorded document contained different terms than the contract at issue in the lawsuit. The Court of Appeal sided with the Association, reaffirming the general rule that a defendant in whose favor a dismissal is entered is the prevailing party. Written by Jonathan R. Davis Jonathan R. Davis, Esq. is a Senior Associate Attorney at Richardson|Ober|DeNichilo. Follow ← Older Entries Next Entries...

100-Count Lawsuit Dismissed [R|O Court Victory]

R|O attorneys Kelly G. Richardson and Jonathan R. Davis obtained the dismissal of a frivolous, 100-count lawsuit filed by a vexatious litigant and a coconspirator against an Association and its Board. The vexatious litigant, who had been barred from filing lawsuits without first obtaining a court order due to his history of filing multiple harassing lawsuits against several organizations, utilized a coconspirator to file claims against R|O’s client on his behalf. The vexatious litigant attempted to obscure the fraudulent claims by incorporating them in a lawsuit involving claims that, at first glance, appeared to belong solely to the coconspirator. All claims were brought in the name of the coconspirator despite the fact that many claims were really being brought by the vexatious litigant. The lawsuit alleged violations of Governing Documents and the Davis Stirling-Act, infringement of constitutional rights, as well as a multitude of claims for slander and emotional distress. R|O obtained a court order deeming the coconspirator vexations, meaning that the coconspirator was also barred from filing new lawsuits without first obtaining permission from the court. Moreover, R|O fought each of the 100+ claims by the vexatious litigants on their merits, and obtained the dismissal for its clients. Written by Jonathan R. Davis Jonathan R. Davis, Esq. is a Senior Associate Attorney at Richardson|Ober|DeNichilo. Follow ← Older Entries Next Entries...
One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure – Part Two of Four

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure – Part Two of Four

This four-part series outlines an association’s legal obligations when dealing with unchaperoned personal property – which may include items that appear to be trash, but could be of value to someone. Associations must take care to identify the character of property left in common area due to potential liability if certain precautions are not taken. This series of articles is not intended as legal advice, but can serve as a general guide to dealing with unchaperoned personal property. As always, we suggest consulting with an attorney when handling legal matters. In Part One of the series, we discussed the importance of identifying the character of personal property and the general legal standards for doing so. In Part Two of the series, we will outline the process for handling property which has been identified as “abandoned” property. As a reminder, personal property may generally be deemed “abandoned” if it appears that it has been left behind on the premises after a resident (whether tenant or member) has terminated their residency and vacated the premises. The “Abandoned Property” Statutory Procedure: The Association cannot simply dispose of abandoned personal property. California Civil Code section 1986 states that the association may either keep the abandoned property onsite or move it to a storage facility until the required waiting period prior to disposal. The association will be deemed responsible for keeping the property reasonably safe until it has completed the prescribed statutory procedure. It is thus imperative that an association maintain its records of following the procedures mandated by the Civil Code to protect itself from claims of damage. California Civil Code section 1983...
One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure – Part Two of Four

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure – Part One of Four

Community Associations Must Exercise Caution When Removing Personal Property in Common Area Due to Potential Legal Exposure As children, most of us are taught to clean up after ourselves and to respect our living environments, as well as the living environments of others. Unfortunately, many people have forgotten – or sometimes disregard – those lessons.  Residents, tenants, and visitors sometimes leave trash, store belongings, and abandon bulky-items where it may be most convenient for them, including in community association common area. This occurs when a resident leaves items abandoned in storage units, garages, or patios and balconies. Sometimes it is obvious that the property has been abandoned, however, the situation can sometimes be less obvious. We have seen lawsuits where trespassers (with no known connection to the community) have deposited property in association common area and thereafter claimed that the association destroyed or damaged it because such property was not handled properly. Disposal of personal property from association common areas is not simply a matter of providing notice and then removing it. It can be fraught with risks and results in liability if certain precautions are not taken. Community associations must be aware that they may have statutory obligations relating to the disposal of personal property. It is the intent of this series to outline an association’s legal obligations when dealing with unsupervised personal  property in common area– which may include items that appear to be trash, but could be of value to someone. Determining the Character of the Property: Identifying It As Abandoned While the obligations of community associations are typically guided by an Association’s Governing Documents and...
Electrifying California: The Role of California HOAs in Reducing Greenhouse Gases

Electrifying California: The Role of California HOAs in Reducing Greenhouse Gases

Under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 1996, California law requires the State to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. Transportation is the leading contributor to California’s greenhouse gas emissions, so the state has aggressively adopted policies to incentivize Californians to use alternative energy vehicles. State incentives for such vehicles include allowing drivers of such vehicles to use carpool freeway lanes when driving alone, and generous tax credits to purchasers of new alternative energy vehicles. Unsurprisingly, alternative energy vehicles are quickly gaining popularity in the Golden State. While state incentives began with mild hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius, technology has progressed substantially to the point where California incentives now focus primarily on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the Chevrolet Volt and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) like the Tesla Model 3. PHEVs and BEVS can be plugged into power outlets and run solely on electricity rather than gasoline. While most PHEVs and BEVs can be plugged into standard 120-volt wall outlets, such charging takes a substantial amount of time. Thus, many BEV and PHEV owners use special 208/240-volt electric power stations to charge more quickly. These charging stations typically require special wiring and professional installation.  The impact of all this on California common interest developments (aka “HOAs”) is that associations will soon be fielding increasing requests from residents to install specialized car-charging stations — including requests to install charging stations in common area garages and exclusive use parking spaces. California Law In keeping with the legal requirement that California reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, the California Legislature has adopted policies making it...
“Hey, You Can’t Pray Here!”: Requests for Religious Meetings in Common Area

“Hey, You Can’t Pray Here!”: Requests for Religious Meetings in Common Area

Religion, like politics, is a topic people typically avoid in polite company. It provokes emotion, elicits strong opinions, and can be deeply personal. As such, religion is a topic that can spark a great deal of conflict. Community associations are not immune from this struggle. We regularly receive inquiries from managers and board members asking how to handle religious issues in their communities. One of the most common inquiries is what to do about member requests to use common area for religious meetings and prayer groups. While community associations routinely get requests from members to use common area for group meetings, associations are often particularly concerned about the ramifications of religious meeting requests because of the controversy such requests can engender. Will the membership be upset that religious meetings are being held in common area? Will chaos erupt if we grant the request despite vocal opposition on the topic at the last board meeting? Can we just ban religious meetings in general in order to avoid the issue altogether? Will we be sued for religious discrimination if we deny the member request? The simple answer to the last question is: “Yes, you can be sued.” In evaluating religious meeting requests, associations must keep in mind the requirements of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act (“Unruh Act”) and Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA). The Unruh Act and FEHA both prohibit arbitrary discrimination by community associations based on religion (amongst a variety of other factors based on personal beliefs, background, and other personal characteristics). The Unruh Act expressly guarantees to all persons in the State of California, the “full and equal...
Controlling Rentals: Support for an Association’s Effort to Limit Short-Term Rentals

Controlling Rentals: Support for an Association’s Effort to Limit Short-Term Rentals

Short-term rentals, once a small segment of the hospitality industry, are becoming increasingly common as peer-to-peer websites like Airbnb make it substantially easier for homeowners to rent out their homes to vacationers. Airbnb, for those unfamiliar, connects homeowners via the internet with travelers seeking accommodations outside of traditional hotels at competitive, and often lower, prices. The website currently has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. While Airbnb and similar websites such as vrbo.com provide a valuable service to travelers, the rapid expansion of the short-term rental market has caused considerable controversy. The home-sharing market has been accused of contributing to housing shortages in California and opening up travelers to scams. Accordingly, city and municipal governments are rushing to implement new regulations of short-term rentals, with varying degrees of success. Of course the short-term rental market is having a growing impact on community associations. Residents often complain that short-term renters – who are transient by definition – do not treat association common areas with the same care as owners and are unaware of association rules. Homeowners often complain of problems related to security, trash removal, parking, and noise caused by short-term renters. Associations are often faced with higher security, maintenance, and administrative costs due to the increased burden of handling short-term renters. And, on an emotional level, residents are often uncomfortable with the fact that their neighborhoods are filled with unfamiliar faces, with some renters on site for only brief periods of time. At the same time, however, some homeowners support short-term rentals arguing that they can provide homeowners with supplemental income and can prevent unoccupied units...