REAL ESTATE
Q&A

Unit owner's request for information about HOA is ignored

At the close of escrow, buyers should make document demands directly to the association board

Question: I purchased a townhouse condominium in Hawthorne recently. I asked the management company to notify me of the annual meeting and election of board directors. Management continues to send me homeowner association bills and collect my payments, but they won't respond to any of my requests. They won't tell me who the board directors are or how to reach them. I'm not sure there are meetings or elections. How can I get this information?

Answer: Initially, information should have been provided to you in escrow at time of purchase and you should have refused to close without it. Moreover, it is entirely possible that by the time escrow closes such vital notices and association-related information will not be sent in a timely manner, if at all.

At the close of escrow, buyers should make document demands directly to the association board, then compare the escrow documents' text with documents received after taking title. Titleholders have reported discrepancies when comparing escrow-provided documents with recorded documents on title and with after-sale documents provided by the association. Ensure that you are on record for making these demands by obtaining written confirmation for all.

Invoke your right to view documents by regularly inspecting and copying association books and records (covered by Corporations Code sections 8330, 8333, 8334; Civil Code sections 5200, 5205, 5210, 5260). Your covenants, conditions and restrictions (also known as CC&Rs) and bylaws should list an address for notices to the association. If incorporated, your association should have a registered agent listed with the California secretary of state. Try a corporate information search at: kepler.sos.ca.gov.

For owner requests to be effective, Civil Code section 4035 details how documents must be delivered to an association; oral demands are no longer acceptable. Civil Code section 5260 states that certain requests "shall" be delivered in writing to the association. Evidence Code section 11 states the word "shall" means "mandatory."

Request "individual delivery" of all notices. Next, request a full copy of a specified annual budget report and 24 months of board meeting minutes. Review minutes for election results naming board directors. Try making contact again.

If documents and information are not forthcoming, and your request is within time frames noted in Civil Code sections 5200 to 5205, and there is no compliance by the statutory deadlines, file a small-claims action. Ask for an order to produce the records, a $500 penalty (Civil Code section 5235 for association noncompliance) and small-claims court filing costs.

Zachary Levine, partner at Wolk & Levine, a business and intellectual property law firm, co-wrote this column. Vanitzian is an arbitrator and mediator. Send questions to Donie Vanitzian JD, P.O. Box 10490, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or noexit@mindspring.com.

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