Points to Ponder When Considering A California Condo or Homeowner Association

Versailles HOA Condominiums
Single Family in Bixby Village HOA
Condominiums and other types of units in common interest developments (CID) are very appealing because they may offer homeownership in an area where houses cost much more, security, amenities, neighbor accountability, and less personal responsibility for certain maintenance issues that might otherwise be required in a non-CID single family home.

The most common form of ownership in Southern California is ownership in a condominium project where the owner has title to an individual unit and an undivided interest in the common area. Other forms are stock co-op, own-your-owns, and planned unit developments (PUDs).

The common areas are the areas outside the unit such as walkways and lobbies.  They also include, if present, exclusive use areas such as parking spaces, balconies, and private patios, which many people think they bought when they bought their condo, but in almost all circumstances what they acquired was the right to exclusively use them.

A standard part of the purchase contract includes the receipt and review of association documents which the seller is required to provide.  So often, though, these documents, which include the CCRs, the Rules and Regulations, and By-Laws, are not so thoroughly looked at during the buyer's contingency period, because there seems to be so much else to do, like go to your job everyday.  So the more you know beforehand, the better off you'll be.  Some of the more common concerns that pop up are pets, parking, smoking, and the hours on the association swimming pool or tennis court.  HOAs may regulate the number and type of pets within the guidelines of the pet law; smoking is becoming more of an issue even within private units because smoke drifts out windows; and be prepared to carefully check out the assigned parking area because you'll be signing a disclosure form from the seller so that your oversize truck does not become an issue when you move in.  Why is it so important to know your documents? Because they are voted in by the association members, and they form a contract between the owners and the Board of Directors whose duty it is to enforce them.

If you are buying into a small association, you want to verify that they have an active association as required by law--nothing could be worse than paying dues and not knowing where the money is going.  How old are their CCRs?  Yes, it's still not unusual to find 30-unit associations operating on original documents from the 1970s.  Just be aware that many California laws have changed since then and that older documents will not reflect those laws.  Associations are required to make a growing number of annual disclosures to their members, i.e., starting 1/1/2016, they must disclose in their annual budget if the project is FHA/VA qualified (FYI:  a growing number of formerly FHA-approved associations are not meeting current FHA requirements).

An important law effective January 1, 2015 requires the seller to pay upfront for all HOA documents (per Civil Code Sec. 4525) provided to the buyer.  This can amount to several hundred dollars depending on property management companies who typically manage the transmission for the seller; so the seller may instead forward complete copies directly with written verification (form provided by your Realtor) if he/she already possesses them.  You the seller will have to order what you do not have, but your costs should be greatly reduced.  The contract specifically details these and other HOA documents, and what the buyer or seller will pay for, because non-required documents may be paid for by the buyer.  A new owner could expect to find topics addressing solar panels, satellite dishes, roofing materials, sign and/or flag displays, right of board entry (or not), tenant use of common area, storage, parking, noise, use of swimming pools, architectural control, smoking, and much more including the owner's duty to pay dues and other assessments, what the board may impose a lien on and how, and how the board is elected.

 If you would like a more detailed written discussion about the rights and responsibility of homeownership in various types of common interest developments, please contact me with your information and I will forward you the information.

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