QUESTION: Our association towed the cars of two of our adult children. Our children live in the complex and had valid parking stickers on their cars. We were not given any warning before the towing took place. We do not know why the cars were towed. I have asked the association to reimburse us for the cost of towing. If the board refuses, I may take this to small claims court
Does the board or the manager have the right to tow cars without warning?
ANSWER: Some associations and some managers are unaware that there are California vehicle codes that apply to homeowner associations. The association's rules are superseded if they are in conflict with the state laws.
Daniel C. Shapiro, an attorney with the Century City law firm of Wolf, Rifkin & Shapiro and chairman of Community Assns. Institute's Legislative Action Committee, warns that associations must comply with Vehicle Code Sections 22658, 22658.1, 22658.2 and 22853.
These laws are specific about the procedures that must be followed and even the size of the signs that must be displayed on the premises.
Vehicle Code 22658.2, regarding removal of vehicles from a common interest development, states, "The association may cause the removal without notice of any vehicle parked in a marked fire lane, within 15 feet of a fire hydrant, in a parking space designated for handicapped without proper authority or in a manner which interferes with any entrance to, or exit from, the common interest development or separate interest [individual unit or lot] contained therein."
Associations should have their attorney review the parking and towing rules before attempting to enforce rules that may be superseded by state law.
Just Close the Door on Dispute With Board
Q: Soon after we took possession and moved into our condominium unit, we received a notice from the association's architectural committee that our front screen door was not in conformance with the architectural guidelines. The screen door was installed by the previous owner. It was gold anodized aluminum with a peacock grill. The association approves only bronze doors with no grillwork.
This was a preexisting violation known to the previous owners. We feel that the association should bear the $195 cost of replacing the screen door because no one notified us of the architectural violation.
What advice can you give us?
A: Before closing escrow, you should have received a form called the Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement. The seller has an obligation to disclose any alterations or repairs that are not in conformance and "any notices of abatement or citations against the property."
You should not expect the association to pay for your new screen door. The association does not have any duty to disclose such violations before the sale. Sometimes the association will provide this information, but it is not required to do so.
If you had known about the architectural violation before the closing, would you have required that the seller pay for the new screen door? If so, Small Claims Court is an option for you.
When I purchased a home in an association a few years ago, I asked for verification from the association that there were no architectural violations and that all improvements (pool, patio cover and brickwork) were approved by the association. Sometimes buyers just don't know the right questions to ask.
If the correction of the violation amounted to only $195, perhaps you should consider yourself lucky. My advice would be to forget about it and don't let this minor disappointment deter you from enjoying your new home and your new neighbors.
Hickenbottom is a community association management consultant and a founding director of the California Assn. of Community Managers. She selects questions of general interest for the column and regrets that she cannot respond to all questions received. Send questions to Condo Q&A, Box 5068, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360.