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The Heritage Law Group July 5, 2022

When some people buy a new home, they may have to sign a contract with a homeowners’ association (HOA). HOAs are prevalent in neighborhoods across California and operate by collecting fees from the community members to maintain the area and create a cohesive atmosphere. Much of the time, the collected fees are used wisely for the benefit of everyone who lives there. However, there can be times when the HOA does not act in your best interests and you may wish to take legal action against it. If you’d like to hear more about your options to sue HOA boards, call us at ​​The Heritage Law Group. We have offices in San Jose and Aliso Viejo but can serve clients throughout Northern and Southern California.

Rights and Obligations of an HOA

When you purchase a new home and sign a contract with your HOA, there are certain rules you both must follow. HOA obligations include managing the property, assuming financial responsibility, disclosing certain information, allowing community members to sit on the board, and serving the community it governs. This includes a duty of care and loyalty to only make decisions that are in the best interests of those who live there, and they cannot act in a way that is outside of their authority.

Each HOA should provide you with a document that outlines its covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R or “Declaration”). These governing documents should lay out the rights and responsibilities of both the homeowner and the association. Although these documents may be long, you should familiarize yourself with them since they are the foundation of your contract. 

Taking Legal Action

If you feel your HOA has not acted in accordance with the CC&R, you have the right to take legal action against them. Some common reasons that homeowners may wish to sue their HOA are due to negligence, a breach of fiduciary duty, or a breach of covenant.

Negligence: It’s the responsibility of the HOA to maintain safe common areas for its residents, and if they neglect this duty, you can file a lawsuit against them. Negligence can be for relatively minor things like not maintaining landscaping or failing to address nuisances such as barking dogs, but it can also extend to negligent acts that could actually endanger the residents. If repairs or maintenance are not performed in a reasonable time frame, this could cause injury. For example, if common stairs needed to be replaced and were not, residents could fall and hurt themselves.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty: Your HOA is responsible for acting in your best interests and using their budget responsibly. If they do not, you can sue them. For example, if they mismanage money and are found to be using the funds for their own gain instead of for the community, they would be breaching their fiduciary duty. This would also cover issues like board members not attending meetings and not staying reasonably informed about their job.

Breach of Covenant: The covenants of your HOA are simply the rules and regulations they agree to follow, and if they do not follow these, then they have breached their duty. These covenants cover anything from landscaping, pet restrictions, property maintenance, and what property alterations and additions you’re allowed to perform on your home.

How Legal Counsel Can Help

Addressing concerns with your HOA can be a daunting task, especially if you need to slog through pages of legalese in the CC&R. An experienced attorney can help you make sense of all this and help you understand your choices when it comes to seeking redress. If you’re in the San Jose and Aliso Viejo, California, areas or anywhere in Northern or Southern California, reach out to our team at The Heritage Law Group today to set up a consultation.