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CONDO Q&A

Law Requires That Board Meetings Be Open

May 28, 2000|JAN HICKENBOTTOM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: I live in a complex with a property owners association. The architectural committee reviews and approves or disapproves home plans that are submitted by owners wishing to build a home on their property.

The architectural committee and the board of directors hold secret meetings, and owners are not allowed to attend unless the president invites them. Minutes are not available even after repeated requests.

I believe that this conduct is immoral and possibly illegal. What are my options?

Answer: You have the right to attend board meetings unless the board has a legitimate reason to have an executive session (closed meeting). In my opinion, you have the right to attend the architectural meeting if the committee is considering plans you have submitted for approval. You should conduct yourself in a businesslike manner. Your first approach might be to educate the board about California laws. According to California Civil Code, Section 1363.05, community association board meetings must be open meetings. The association must publicize the meeting dates and location, and the board must give owners an opportunity to address the board within reasonable time limits. Board decision-making and official action should take place at a duly noticed meeting.

Minutes, other than executive session (closed meetings) minutes, must be provided to any owner who requests copies. The requesting owner must pay the copying costs unless the association has a policy of distributing them to each owner without charge. The association must provide the minutes, a draft or summary within 30 days of a meeting, even if the minutes have not been approved by the board.

As an owner, you have a right to attend the meetings unless the board is discussing personnel issues, litigation issues, the formation of third-party contracts and disciplinary hearings that require discretion in order to protect the privacy of individuals. Anyone accused of a violation may request that their hearing be conducted in executive session and the board must comply.

You should be allowed to attend the open meetings and speak to the board briefly, though you do not have the right to participate in the board's discussion or disrupt the meeting in any way. Read your association bylaws to find out about the procedure for conducting board meetings.

I recommend that boards allow some time before the meeting to hear owners' comments or questions. Time limits should be imposed fairly so that owners do not unnecessarily delay the meeting.

Boards that hold secret meetings are often accused of having something to hide. Your board has compounded its problem by refusing to allow you to have access to the minutes. Now board members are probably offended by your criticism and wishing they could resolve the matter. If they do not provide access to the board meeting minutes or allow your attendance at meetings, you can take legal action. Contact an attorney to discuss your options.

Restrictions Protect Quaint Building's Status

Q: I recently purchased a condominium unit in a delightfully quaint building designated as a historical site. Before purchasing the unit, I was not informed that I would not be allowed to make some interior changes in the unit. I was unaware that there are complicated requirements established by the city's Historical Preservation Commission and federal guidelines for historic buildings.

The condominium association's architectural committee requires a lengthy application process, and it has informed me that some of my proposed remodeling will not be allowed. Do I have any recourse?

A: It is usually very difficult for a property to attain historical status. This designation enhances the building's appeal, contributes to an increase in value and enhances the association's ability to obtain grants for restoration projects. Architectural guidelines that might seem unreasonable in any other building are quite appropriate in the type of building you describe.

The architectural committee has a duty to protect the quaint building that attracted your interest. In addition to protection of authenticity, the architectural committee is probably overseeing particular problems with electricity and other "modern conveniences." Though it may be tedious, you must work within the restrictions of the governing documents and the guidelines of the architectural committee.

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Jan 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. Send questions to: Condo Q&A, Private Mailbox 263, 4790 Irvine Blvd., #105, Irvine, CA 92620-1998.

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