So, what does the “Inspector of Elections” do, anyway?

So, what does the “Inspector of Elections” do, anyway?

By Robert M. DeNichilo, Esq., CCAL The role of the inspector of elections can be a confusing mystery to members asked to serve in that role and to managers who may not really know what the job involves. Too often the inspector of elections is not appointed before the election process starts, and owners are frequently asked to serve in the role to open and count ballots at the time of the meeting set for that purpose. However, the inspector of elections has a far broader role than just opening and counting ballots, and with the enactment of Senate Bill 323, management or anyone under contract to the association can no longer act as the inspector of elections. Therefore, it is more likely that members will be asked to serve in this role and more important than ever that managers, board members, and homeowners understand what the role and duties of the inspector of elections are in community association elections. The California Civil Code sets out some very specific duties and requirements for the inspector of elections in California community association elections. Effective January 1, 2020, one of the changes imposed by SB 323 is that the inspector of elections can not be otherwise under contract to the association. This means that management companies, lawyers, CPA’s or others who are under contract to perform services, and employees of those firms, cannot act as the inspector of elections. Members who are not a director, or a candidate for director or related to a director or to a candidate for director, can continue to act as inspectors of elections. While members...

Responding to an Accommodation Request? What’s Your Policy?

With all the various moving parts that go into managing a community association, few issues cause more confusion or are as fraught with risk as dealing with a request for a reasonable accommodation or modification. Failing to respond timely, or denying a request when it is appropriate exposes the association to potential liability for violating fair housing laws. Granting one without getting sufficient information to determine if it is warranted exposes the association to potentially unnecessary expenses and potential breach of fiduciary duty claims. Asking for additional information to support the request might be a no-no. That is why having a good, clear, concise policy in place to guide a board of directors as to how to address such requests can go a long way to help navigate the potential landmines that responding to a request for a reasonable accommodation involves. The law defines “person with a disability” to include:  (1) individuals with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) individuals who are regarded as having such an impairment; and (3) individuals with a record of such an impairment. In coming up with an appropriate policy it is important to understand what is a request for an “accommodation.” A request for an accommodation maybe a request to allow a disabled person to do something that would normally violate the governing documents. Accommodation requests can relate to any of an association’s rules, policies, practices, or services in order to allow the disabled person to have full use of their home and community, which they would not otherwise have as a result of...

Who’s The Boss?

The National Labor Relations Board’s New Standard for Determining Joint Employment May Make Community Associations and Management Companies Responsible for Contractors’ Pay, Benefits and Legal Liability [Reprinted with permission from CAI’s Common Ground TM magazine, September/October 2016] A board member of manager tells a landscape company’s employee that he or she can only work during certain hours on particular days of the week or directs the employee to plant flowers in a specific way or location. Or, if a board believes the association isn’t receiving the level of service it expects, it may try to require its management company to fire a manager or replace him or her on the account. These situations aren’t all that uncommon. Since the association is contracting for these services, the board (and maybe its manager) probably believes the contractor—and not the association—employs those individuals. However, under certain circumstances, the association could be found to be a “joint employer” of a contractor’s employees, which means a lot more fiscal responsibility and legal liability. In a 2015 case known as Browning-Ferris Industries of California (# 32-RC-109684), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) overturned a long series of cases in the collective bargaining arena. With the decision, the circumstances expanded under which an entity that contracts for services can be found to be a joint employer. The decision could have far-reaching implications for both community associations and management companies, making them responsible for the employees of landscapers, painters, managers and others who provide services to an association. Joint Employment The “joint-employer” doctrine isn’t a new concept in the law. A joint-employer relationship can exist when someone performs...

The ABC’s of IDR & ADR

Disputes between owners and associations can easily spin out of control. When those disputes result in a lawsuit, the costs, both in terms of time and money, can be significant. That is why attorneys often encourage parties to first meet and try to resolve those issues through some form of dispute resolution process before a lawsuit is filed. In fact, the law often requires that parties at least offer to meet in some form of alternative dispute resolution setting before they file a lawsuit, or they may lose the right to recover attorney’s fees even if they win the suit. California’s Davis-Stirling Act contains several sections that address, and sometimes require, the use of the dispute resolution process before litigation can be filed. The statutory process includes (1) Internal Dispute Resolution and (2) Alternative Dispute Resolution. Internal Dispute Resolution or “IDR” is an informal process where one or two representatives of the association (typically a board member and the association’s community manager) meet with the owner of the property at issue and try to resolve the issue informally. Civil Code section 5905 requires that associations provide a “fair, reasonable, and expeditious procedure for resolving a dispute” with members. Offering guidance on what is a “fair, reasonable, and expeditious dispute resolution procedure” in the IDR process, Civil Code section 5915 provides that (1) the procedure can be invoked by either party to a dispute, (2) the request to invoke the IDR procedure must be in writing, (3) if a member of the association requests IDR, the association must participate, but if the association is the one offering IDR, a member...

California Regulations Mandate Stricter Maintenance Requirements for Community Association Pools

Community pools provide welcome relief from summer heat. They also impose certain obligations on operators of those pools, including community associations. Recent regulations adopted by the California Department of Health define “public pools” to include pools maintained by community associations. The most dramatic changes are set forth in Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations (the “Regulations”) which were amended effective January of 2015. Others are contained in the California Building Code contained in the California Code of Regulations, Title 24, which also were amended, effective January 2014. Associations should know that local health agencies are starting the process of enforcing these new standards. Because some of these changes significantly impact the way associations must service, monitor, and track activity at community pools, associations would be well-advised to note the requirements and implement any necessary changes to ensure compliance now and down the road. Specifically, there are several amendments to the Regulations that affect association management of community pools, including (1) new parameters for water characteristics; (2) strict daily monitoring of public pool facilities and requirements for written records; (3) enforcement of specific safety and first aid equipment; (4) requirements that a public pool have at least one keyless exit and self-closing latches; and (5) imposition of health restrictions for employees or pool users. New Parameters for Water Characteristics As has been the case, operators of community association pools must use a chemical disinfectant to preserve the clarity of the water. It should be noted, however, that the amended Regulations require higher chlorine levels. Pools have one level of chemicals necessary, and spas, wading pools, and spray grounds...

A Guide to the Revised Davis-Stirling Act (AB 805)

I recently spoke to the Inland Empire Chapter of CAI regarding the upcoming changes to California’s Common Interest Development Act, or the Davis-Stirling Act, which takes effect on January 1, 2014. In preparation for that presentation, it became clear that despite the numerous resources available regarding the revised Act, many people are still concerned and wonder how the new law will impact their community association. The good news is that there is no reason to panic. The revisions to the Davis-Stirling Act were designed to be non-controversial. As a result, the substantive changes to the law are relative few in number and small in impact. In addition, there are some advantages to revising the Davis-StirlingAct. The current version of the Act has several “issues.” Sections which are logically related to each other are not located near each other in the Act making locating all the relevant sections difficult and confusing. Also, several sections are excessively long and complicated making them hard to read. The revisions to the Act make several changes which address the current version’s short comings. These include changes which group related provisions in a more logical order, long sections are divided into shorter, easier to read sections, more consistent terminology is used throughout the Act, and governance procedures are standardized. That does not mean there aren’t some disadvantages, however. The most significant of which is that those of us who deal with the Davis-StirlingAct will have to learn all over again what code sections contain various provisions due to the complete renumbering of the Act. While a board may want to consider amending the governing documents, there is no legal requirement to do so. However, the...

What Makes for a Good Set of Meeting Minutes?

Of all the various issues boards deal with, one of the issues that comes up time and again are meeting minutes. What are they? What should be in them? Incorrectly kept minutes can get a board in trouble. They can invalidate proper board actions, lead to claims for defamation or support claims for breach of fiduciary duty. So how should minutes be taken? What should go into the minutes and what should you leave out? First of all, it is important to understand the purpose of meeting minutes. Minutes are meant to be an outline of what happened in a meeting. They serve to ensure that the decisions and actions resulting from a meeting are not lost or forgotten. They should include not only reference to motions that passed, but also to motions that were proposed even if they were not ultimately adopted by the board. Once you understand that minutes serve as a record of ACTION taken, it should become clear that minutes are not a verbatim transcript of what was said in a meeting. Minutes should be as concise as possible. What the board did should be included, such as it reviewed a report and then made a decision, but not the discussion that or debate that led to the decision. Keep in mind that the minutes can often be used as a tool against the board and association in litigation. Keep the minutes short and to the point. What should you include in the minutes? As minutes should include what was done at the meeting, not what was said, record the details of what action was taken. Remember...

“YAY! I’m on the Board!” or, “OMG, What Did I Get Myself Into?”

Boards serve a necessary function in any corporation, and especially within a homeowners association. It would be impossible for an association to function without one. In an association, the buck ultimately stops with the board. The board is elected by the members of the association to accomplish the tasks required of an association by the governing documents. Volunteer board members are accountable to the association itself, as well as to the owners within the community. While the board can, and should, rely on opinions of experts and information presented by committees, decisions affecting the community are the ultimate responsibility of the board, and the board members will be held accountable for these decisions. While the position is voluntary, board members should take their fiduciary responsibility to the association and its members seriously. Despite the important role the board plays in the association, board members must keep in mind that they have been elected by the members of the association to conduct the business and affairs of the association. Board members should not become power hungry or otherwise harass owners. Likewise, owners must respect the authority of the board to conduct the association’s business and enforce its documents. Board members must remember that the owners must be kept informed of the board’s activities and make sure that proper communication with the other owners is maintained. In deciding what to communicate to members, board members should consider what they would like to know and how they would like to be treated as a non-board member owner, and strive to act in that manner as a board member. Fiduciary Duty & Business Judgment Rule...

Running an Effective Board Meeting

A challenging aspect of community association board meetings is how to actually conduct the meeting. Generally speaking, there is little statutory guidance or document-specific provisions explaining how a board should run a meeting. As a result some boards struggle with this aspect of association management, either not meeting frequently enough, or allowing too much discussion (by both board members and homeowners) so that a meeting, convened to allow the board to conduct the business of the association, effectively turns into a town hall meeting which lasts far too long into the evening. So what can a board do to conduct meetings in an efficient manner that allows all the appropriate discussion to take place and allow the board to consider its work in an orderly fashion? The first step in effectively running a board meeting is to adopt and utilize procedures that assist the board to efficiently run and control its meeting. A board meeting which is organized will run smoothly and conduct the business of the association and yet effectively communicate the position of the association on various matters to the membership. Here are some tips and suggestions to make board meetings run more smoothly and efficiently: Prepare and Stick to an Agenda Planning and conducting an effective board meeting starts with a good meeting agenda. The agenda is the “road map” of the meeting and is a useful and powerful tool to keep both board members and homeowners on topic and in control. In fact, the agenda must be part of the notice of a meeting which is given to the members. A good agenda will facilitate...

Protecting a Board Member’s Emails

Imagine this scenario: a person volunteers their time, and spends countless hours working for the betterment of their community. Many of these hours are late at night or on weekends. They and their fellow Board members exchange countless emails at all hours of the day. The emails are often sent from their work or personal computers or phones. One of the many decisions made by the Board is challenged by a member of the Association who files a lawsuit. In seeking to examine what discussion the Board members had with management or other Board members on the issue, the member’s attorney requests that the Association produce all correspondence related to the issue, and issues a subpoena to each Director requesting they produce all Association related emails. The Director has been using their personal email for Board business, or worse, their work email, in which case the subpoena went to their employer, who is now asking why the Board member was using their work email for personal matters. The employer is concerned that complying with the subpoena will expose private, trade secret information to outsiders, and they are not happy, to say the least. Not to mention the fact that use of a work email address for personal communication, such as Board business, will often violate the employer’s email policy and expose the Board member to potential discipline from the employer. The employer is also faced with having to decide between spending thousands of dollars to have the employer’s attorneys review the emails to identify the relevant emails to produce and redact any information not relevant to the subpoena, or to...