Homeowner Association Law Column

Attorney Michael T. Chulak writes a syndicated legal column for newspapers called “Homeowner Association Legal Advisor”. It is a Question and Answer column that addresses homeowner association legal issues. The column is available free to California newspapers (print and on-line), weekly or monthly, and may be provided exclusively in some cases.

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Attorney Answers Your Questions

By Michael T. Chulak
Michael T. Chulak & Associates
A Law Corporation


Can our homeowners association establish a rule that prohibits smoking in the common areas?

In the absence of a provision in your CC&Rs that prohibits such a rule, the answer is yes. Directors of association boards have the right to make rules governing the use of the common areas so long as they follow the required legal procedures, are legal and are not inconsistent with the CC&Rs. Keep in mind that such a rule can be overturned by a subsequent board of directors, and consequently, an amendment to your CC&Rs would make more sense if you want a long-term ban.


We live in a common interest development. Based on the recommendation of our management company, our board of directors obtained three bids for landscaping maintenance and then selected the company with the highest bid. The bids were for identical work. Since all three companies were proposing to do the same work, shouldn’t our board have selected the lowest bid? Our monthly assessments are already too high and many of us live on fixed incomes.

The board should use its best judgment in deciding which company to use, based on all facts available. This is their legal duty. While the three companies may have submitted bids for the same work, it does not logically follow that all three companies will provide the same quality of work. Sometimes experience is helpful in determining which company will provide the highest quality work and, likewise, who will be the most reliable contractor. One of the advantages of hiring an established local management company, is that they have experience with contractors and can provide valuable recommendations to the board of directors.


We live in a three story condominium complex that is over twenty years old. The roof needs replacement, but the association does not have the funds to replace it. It has been patched numerous times, over several years, but still leaks when it rains. Our roofer tells us that patching will only slow the water down and that we must replace the roof. This has been confirmed with a second opinion. The board has attempted three times to get a special assessment passed, but has failed to get one approved due to a combination of indifference and people on the lower floors refusing to pay the cost. Our ceiling, walls and furniture has been damaged. What can be done?

The board can approve an emergency assessment where there is a threat to personal safety on the property. While your situation may be a legal stretch, the board should immediately discuss the option with its legal counsel. Absent a special assessment and repair, your option is to sue the association for failing to maintain the common area.

Our homeowners association consists of twelve townhomes. We have a three person board which includes two members who live off-site. The two off-site board members just voted as a majority to remove several beautiful, twenty-five year old trees because they want to save money on tree trimming. The ten members of the association who live on-site are furious about the decision. The trees are being removed within a week. Is there anything we can do?

If the board of directors has a good reason, in their reasonable judgment, to remove the trees, they may do so. While I recommend that you present a petition signed by the ten members to your board in order to influence their decision, they may legally exercise their reasonable judgment and remove the trees. This situation illustrates the critical importance of electing board members who will represent the majority of members. Members of associations should take the subject of board elections very seriously.

Michael T. Chulak is the founding partner of Michael T. Chulak & Associates, A Law Corporation. Questions can be sent by e-mail to MChulak@MTCLaw.com. Answers are general in nature. An attorney should always be consulted when legal advice is needed. For more information visit these two web sites: www.MTCLaw.com and www.HOAQandA.com. The firm also offers free legal seminars throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties. To find a legal seminar closest to you, visit www.LegalSeminars.net.

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