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CONDO Q&A / JAN HICKENBOTTOM : A Fine Way ($25) to Guarantee You'll Cast a Ballot

June 23, 1991|JAN HICKENBOTTOM | Hickenbottom is past president of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) .

QUESTION: My husband and I live in a 64-unit condominium in the San Fernando Valley. We were unable to attend the association's annual meeting because we were out of town.

Soon after the meeting, we received a notice from the association that we were being fined $25 for not voting in the election. Do we have to pay this fine?

ANSWER: If you don't pay the fine, you may be in for lots of letters, delinquent notices and additional charges from your association. If you don't want to pay the fine, then you should attend the next board meeting and calmly discuss it with your board of directors.

This must be the new tactic that associations are using in an attempt to get the attention of the owners who ignore their responsibility to vote. What a great concept to generate revenue for our federal government!

Several readers have written recently inquiring about this matter, They challenge the board's authority to impose a fine for this purpose. I would ask your board about this, especially if you weren't notified prior to the meeting that fines would be levied against those who failed to participate.

I understand the reason that the association's board of directors wants to encourage attendance at the annual meeting. If the meeting has to be postponed because of the lack of a quorum, the association has to pay the cost of sending out another meeting notice. Sometimes there are other costs such as meeting room rental, management fees or attorney fees. It is a waste of everyone's time and money when meetings must be rescheduled.

The board of directors should encourage attendance at the annual meeting, but I believe their methods are inappropriate in this case. In my opinion it is a bit heavy-handed, especially without prior notice.

The board probably feels that most owners will not argue over $25 and this is a way of encouraging participation of owners who are apathetic. They may feel that the results will justify their methods.

Now that the board of directors has "reminded" you of your responsibility to vote, I hope that you will attend your next annual meeting. If that is not possible, then be sure to sign and return a proxy form to be used for either quorum purposes or for voting.

Association Can Vote to Avoid Termination

Q: I live in a planned unit development. Is it true that after 50 years the PUD can be legally discontinued and then the property would no longer be governed by an association? If this is true, then how would the complex operate and how would the property be maintained?

A: Most common interest developments have some shared property ownership or common area that would require an association continue to operate.

I have heard of some associations with single-family homes that have decided to disband their association, but each situation must be analyzed as to responsibility for such things as privately owned streets or perimeter lots or landscaped areas that must be maintained. It is usually impossible to dedicate these portions of land to the city or county and terminate the association's maintenance responsibility.

Some associations have declarations of covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that specify a date that the document expires. The declaration usually states the procedure required to extend the expiration of the association. In most cases, extension requires an affirmative vote of at least 50% of the membership.

If your declaration has a termination date with no provision for extension, then California law, Civil Code Section 1357, states that the association members can vote to extend the association's term with a 50% affirmative vote or the percentage that the declaration requires for an amendment, whichever is greater.

Dog Owner Faces Two Choices, Both Tough

Q: I am a dog owner who has just moved into a condominium association that does not allow dogs. I saw a woman with a dog when I was touring the complex prior to purchasing my condominium unit. The real estate agent told me that if other dogs were present in the building, the association could not make me get rid of mine. I have been notified that the association will not allow me to keep my dog. The association's attorney sent me a copy of an amendment to the declaration which states that after a certain date, owners are not allowed to have dogs. He stated that the dog that I saw in the lobby was "grandfathered" and that no other dogs can be brought into the building.

What can I do?

A: You have two choices. You should either keep your dog and move to another location or, if moving is out of the question, you must get rid of your dog. You are the only one who can decide which is least painful.

You probably have no recourse against the real estate agent. If you received and signed for a set of the association's legal documents, then the real estate agent has the right to assume that you read them and were aware of the amendment to the declaration.

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