Question: Management sent me a "cease and desist" letter saying I'm fined $50 and ordering me to appear at an executive session meeting because I swore at the board president. It said "further noncompliance will constitute additional fines assessed to" my account for violating the association's governing documents, stating:
"Illegal, offensive or obnoxious activities that interfere with an owner's quiet … enjoyment … are not permitted.... During the last inspection of the property, a vendor, management and a board member were in attendance where the board member, management and the vendor heard you utter profanity at the board member specifically."
I have repeatedly asked the president to stay away and not speak to me or my family members. She's always seeking to castigate, vilify and assess fines to people of color, especially immigrant owners. While in a common area she made a condescending and inflammatory salutation to me and my wife. I responded with an obscene and vulgar cuss word, which was apparently overheard by management and a vendor coincidentally out of sight but within earshot. Can they fine me for that?
Answer: Before fining you, the board must explain how your actions violate the governing documents. Using nebulous terms such as "illegal, offensive or obnoxious," without defining exactly what those terms mean, probably does not meet the mandate of due process. Although using profanity may not be nice, California's courts have held that "words alone" are not enough to incur liability. Even if someone thinks the words "offensive," that is not enough to qualify them as interference with that person's quiet enjoyment of his or her own unit, especially if they are uttered outdoors.