Any recourse when the homeowners association board is not responsive?
Question: Five times this year I requested that the homeowners association board conduct a meeting, and each time I’ve been completely ignored. There has not been one association meeting this year even though the covenants, conditions and restrictions state that a meeting must be conducted at least once every three months. I sent a written request to the management company complaining that no meeting was held before a CC&R amendment vote was conducted. No response. I asked for the board’s meeting minutes and was told no minutes exist. Unsigned minutes appeared the next day but did not show where the meeting was held or who was in attendance. They did show that six of the eight directors voted “yes” on the amendment. The board unilaterally changed our CC&Rs. Attorneys have told me I would need to spend at least $10,000 to start a court battle against my board. Any recommendations for an owner on how to fight a board that disregards titleholder rights?
Answer: The board does not have the legal authority to unilaterally change or amend the covenants, conditions and restrictions.
The board of directors, not the management company, is the legal authority for the association. In future, address your document-request correspondence to the board of directors and send each letter certified mail, return receipt requested. If those records are not provided within the time limits set by California’s Davis-Stirling Act, in Civil Code section 1365.2, be prepared to go to Small Claims Court.
California Corporations Code section 7510(b) requires the association hold at least one meeting every year to elect directors and to “transact any other proper business which may be brought before the meeting.” Association boards have a fiduciary duty to convene open meetings, produce an agenda and make minutes available for any titleholder requesting them within 30 days.
Failure to hold that meeting or produce minutes is a violation of the law. Breaking the law by not following California statutes and directives in the CC&Rs, or by not providing minutes or by providing minutes that are incomplete, is unacceptable. An action in Small Claims Court should produce the minutes and other requested documents or $500 if the board fails to provide them.
Determining whether you should hire a lawyer can be made only through a careful process of elimination of your internal and/or administrative remedies. Getting other owners to share attorney costs is an option, or think about utilizing mediation.
Consider removing this nonresponsive board. The Davis-Stirling Act (Civil Code sections 1350 to 1378), which applies to common-interest developments throughout the state, provides a mechanism for removing and replacing a board like yours. Unless your CC&Rs specify otherwise, the California Corporations Code, section 7510(e), provides that as few as 5% of your homeowners can petition the board for a special meeting to remove all the sitting directors. Obtaining enough votes and collecting proxies necessary to remove the old directors and replace them may be difficult but not impossible.
In situations like this, time is the titleholder’s enemy. Procrastinating or doing little to stop this type of activity serves to condone lawbreaking actions. Forcing accountability and acting to remove this board help owners preserve their assets.
Send questions to P.O. Box 10490, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or email email@example.com.