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Board Refuses to Trim View-Spoiling Trees

December 03, 1989|JAN HICKENBOTTOM | Hickenbottom is president of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI), a national nonprofit research and educational organization.

QUESTION: We bought our condominium in 1983. It is located on the third floor overlooking the gardens and tennis courts. The trees outside our unit are not pruned often enough.

Every unit overlooks the gardens and all we can see is trees. Pleas to the board to trim the trees have fallen on deaf ears, and even my two-year stint as a board member did not change the board's attitude. What can we do to correct this situation?

ANSWER: As you have learned, it is sometimes impossible for an individual to have an impact on a board of directors. Is the board ignoring their responsibility to maintain the area properly or is this just your opinion? Perhaps the board is listening to another faction that likes the trees and the privacy that they provide.

I suggest that you try to enlist the help of other owners who feel as you do. Then, as a group, you may be able to persuade the board to hire an arborist or landscape architect who would make recommendations as to the proper maintenance of the landscaping. You may feel so strongly about this that you are personally willing to pay for an expert's opinion.

This may be one of those situations where you will always be at odds with the board. Remember, when you live in a community association, you cannot expect that every decision the board makes will be agreeable to you. The board must also realize that it is impossible to please all owners. If you cannot live with that realization and abide by the majority rule, then you may not be cut out for the condominium life style. Sometimes people realize this only after living in a condo for a few years.

Steps to Take When Owners Don't Pay Up

Q: Our condominium association consist of 168 attached homes in buildings of two, three or four units per building. The association's CC&Rs specifically disavow any responsibility for termite abatement.

However, I can see problems arising where one owner in a group may not agree to the tenting procedure and may refuse to pay for his or her share of the treatment. Are there any laws that provide guidance?

A: The way that you describe your buildings leads me to believe that your association may be a planned unit development rather than a condominium. You need to determine what type of association you have because the California Civil Code, Section 1364, has different stipulations for various types of associations.

In a condominium, a cooperative or a community apartment ("own-your-own") project, unless stated otherwise in the association's declaration (CC&Rs), the association is responsible for repair and maintenance of the common areas due to the presence of wood-destroying pests.

In a planned development, unless stated otherwise in the declaration, each owner is responsible for the repair and maintenance of the individual unit.

Your question refers to this situation and the concern that owners will not willingly share the cost of tenting the entire multiunit structure. Your association may want to consider the following solution: The law states that "upon approval of a majority of the members of the association, the responsibility for the termite abatement can be delegated to the association and the association is then entitled to recover the cost as a special assessment," which is billed directly to the affected owners.

Some planned unit developments have passed amendments to their CC&Rs that make the association responsible for the cost of termite treatment, so that all members share in the cost. Jim Bowyer of Western Exterminator Co. feels that this is a more equitable and responsible way for the association to deal with this problem. He recommends that associations set aside funds for termite treatment in the operating budget each year.

Go to your local library and research the California Civil Code. Section 1351 defines condominiums, cooperatives, community apartment projects and planned developments. Then refer to Section 1364, which states the association's responsibility and sets forth the methods of notification and temporary relocation of occupants when termite abatement is necessary.

Under-Funded Reserve Could Bring Problems

Q: We live in a 17-unit condominium complex that is self-managed. When a study was done two years ago, it was recommended that $75 out of each unit's monthly dues be deposited to the reserve fund. The annual budget based on this recommendation was rejected by the homeowners. The approved budget allocates only $37 of each unit's monthly dues to the reserve fund. This means that our reserve account continues to be grossly under-funded.

Homeowners who plan to move within three to five years are against building up the reserves, assuming that keeping the dues low will enable them to sell more easily. Those of us who plan to live here for a longer time are faced with the probability of large special assessments when major repairs are needed. Your comments, please.

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