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CONDO Q & A

High-Handed Board Raises Legality Issue

February 16, 1992|JAN HICKENBOTTOM | Hickenbottom is past president of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI), a national nonprofit research and educational organization

QUESTION: Our cooperative association board announced that there will be a $10 charge for requests for minutes of board meetings and a $100 charge for requests for the minutes of the general membership's annual meeting.

In addition, a fine of $50 will be charged for any materials delivered under the door to the owners in the building. How are owners going to communicate if there is a common concern? If we place an announcement on the bulletin board, it is removed within the hour.

Does this sound reasonable to you?

ANSWER: It sounds neither reasonable nor legal! As an owner or shareholder of a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation, you are entitled to see the minutes of board meetings and annual membership meetings without charge. If you request your own photocopy, it seems unreasonable that the board would charge anything beyond the photocopying cost.

The board's attempt to control communication may be evidence of a fear that people will find out what is going on and do something about it. That is the larger problem, in my opinion.

You have a right to communicate with the rest of the cooperative's members. I do not understand why communication with one's neighbors would justify a $50 fine. You should not allow your association board to trample on your rights as an owner in this manner. I recommend that you discuss this with the board and urge them to seek the advice of an attorney.

In California and in many other states, the law establishes certain rights for owners. If you submit a written request for the mailing list of the members, for instance, the California Nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporations Code, Section 8330, sets the association's response time as 10 days.

Pool Rules Use Height to Restrict Child Use

Q: My husband and I reside in a high-rise condominium in Long Beach. After repeated requests the board of directors approved new pool rules that allow only children 48 inches or taller who have passed Red Cross certification or similar designation to use the pool with an adult homeowner accompanying them.

I feel that these rules discriminate against all other children. Why can't other children enjoy the use of the pool if they are accompanied by an adult homeowner?

A: The federal Fair Housing Amendments Act has made great strides in eliminating restrictions against children and their full use and enjoyment of their residences. One of the few exceptions would be senior housing that provides special services and amenities for persons over 55 years of age. The law contains very specific requirements that associations must meet in order to qualify as senior housing.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act is California's law that provided protection from arbitrary discrimination in "accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever."

In the case of O'Conner versus Village Green Owners Assn. in 1983, the California Supreme Court ruled that a condominium association is a "business establishment" and therefore the owners association could not discriminate against children by denying them as residents.

I have heard attorneys debate this issue and other age discrimination cases for hours so there will surely be other court challenges in the future.

I advise community associations, especially those that were formed prior to 1983, to evaluate their rules to see if revision is necessary. If there is any doubt or controversy, rely on the advice of an attorney who is familiar with both the federal and state laws governing age discrimination.

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