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Homeowners Association

QUESTION: Thank goodness for your new column. Now maybe I can get an answer to my question: What is the difference between a condo and a townhouse? I've asked many real estate agents and friends who own condos and what a mishmash of answers I have received. Please let me know the correct definition as we are interested in buying one or the other but not until we know for sure what we are getting into.
April 13, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Thinking this would be cost-effective housing, I bought a condo in the Riverside County area. Since then I've asked the board to repair my unit's balcony railing numerous times to no avail. Six years later, I received a notification that the balconies on all 96 units must be repaired, costing each owner more than $3,000. I have no say in the way things are done around here. This homeowner association has wasted thousands of dollars on repeated cosmetic primping like painting, parking lot slurry seal, landscape and more.
May 20, 2012 | By Stephen Glassman and Donie Vanitzian
Question: There are five directors on our homeowners association board. If the vote on an item is two yes, two no and one abstention, what is the outcome: yes or no? Answer: Yes or no? Neither. The matter is unresolved because it did not receive a majority of votes. Tie votes prevent a board from taking any action on the motion. Glassman is an attorney specializing in corporate and business law. Vanitzian is an arbitrator and mediator. Send questions to P.O. Box 10490, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or email .
April 6, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Our manager refuses owner requests for documents, causing our association to be sued several times a year. Each time she comes to court as a defendant, she brings her so-called evidence and answers, "Your honor, see Exhibit X. " She overloads on exhibits, most of which are contrived for the purpose of that hearing. Her main strategy includes putting on big exhibit head notes supposedly explaining what each exhibit consists of, but when the exhibits are scrutinized and read, they have little or nothing to do with what is head-noted.
September 8, 2012 | By Paloma Esquivel
A Kentucky doctor accused of shooting and killing one person and seriously injured another during a homeowners association meeting in Louisville pleaded not guilty Saturday. Mahmoud Hindi awalked into the meeting at a local church late Thursday and stayed for a short while before he pulled out a gun and began shooting, police said. Hindi tried to leave but was stopped by two people in the room, Louisville Metro Police Lt. Barry Wilkerson said at a news conference Friday, which was posted online by the Courier-Journal.
October 3, 2010 | By Stephen Glassman and Donie Vanitzian
Question: Our gated association has several swimming pools, tennis courts and lakes with boats. These amenities belong to the titleholders and are free of charge for owners, guests and renters because the fees are included in our monthly dues. For years, at least three times a week, one board director has been using the tennis courts for his personal gain, charging patrons for tennis lessons. Without association approval, he conducts classes of a dozen people per class and charges upward of $50 per hour for private lessons.
August 23, 2013 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Looking to buy a home, we found a single-family residence only to learn it had a homeowners association, so we looked at condominiums. Each had different documents. With the HOA fees on top of our mortgage payments, the house and condo became unaffordable. We want to buy that house but don't want to be part of the association. Can we remove it from the HOA? We're not understanding the concept of these developments and associations. We're at a loss what to look for when buying property.
July 19, 2013 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: I've been president of our homeowners association for several years. We have fewer than 20 units and have managed to keep our HOA dues low at around $330 a month, mainly because we don't have earthquake insurance. We've saved a lot of money because we haven't paid for earthquake insurance for more than 15 years and have been very lucky. Do we have to get it? Answer: With one earthquake, your luck may run out. However, after 15 years of savings, and in the best interests of the association, the board should have been depositing those savings in an interest-bearing bank account.
February 13, 2011 | By Stephen Glassman and Donie Vanitzian
Question: My homeowners association's letterhead states we are "a non-common interest 55-plus senior community. " I obtained all the documents pertinent to our development from the Department of Real Estate as well as the county planning department's zoning descriptions and requirements. These documents make it clear that maintenance of common areas and facilities are incumbent on the association, which has a right to lien lot owners in default on assessment payments. Documents state that each lot "shall have a common area consisting of a 20-foot minimum setback along all adjoining boundary streets and a 15-foot side and rear setback along all non-street boundaries of the development.
September 24, 2002 | From Times Staff Reports
A homeowners association expo and conference is scheduled from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday at Santa Cruz Hall in Seaside Park, 10 W. Harbor Blvd. Admission is free, but registration is recommended. For more information, call 658-1438 or respond via e-mail at
March 30, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: I'm the president of our homeowner association mainly because no one else wants the job. We live in a prestigious area of Los Angeles and have fewer than 30 units. Because nobody wants to be on our board we hired a management company. They're not a California company. Their head office is out of state, and we've never seen or been to their California place of business and do not know where it is or that they even have a California office. A management representative came and picked up our files and documents, including owners' personal information and accounts, and gave us their P.O. box number.
March 23, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Our association board allows the manager to control all the homeowners association notices that owners are supposed to get. The manager picks and chooses who will receive notice of meetings, elections and other important issues. Sometimes she puts these vital notices in a locked glass case, way at the other end of our huge complex, takes a picture of them as proof the notices were put up, then orders the security guards to remove those same notices from the case after the snapshot.
March 9, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Our board is very lax when it comes to financials. We don't get timely information, and the information we do get from management and our treasurer is so sparse that owners and the board alike don't have any idea where our association stands. Is there some kind of format that financial statements must follow? Answer: Civil Code section 5305 pertains to standards used for preparation of review of the association's financial statement. It states that unless the governing documents impose more stringent standards, a review of the association's financial statement shall be prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles by a licensee of the California Board of Accountancy for any fiscal year in which the gross income to the association exceeds $75,000.
March 2, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Is our homeowner association's board obligated to disclose legal actions to titleholders? Does the board have a duty to disclose the costs of legal fees incurred for such legal actions, or do we owners just sit back and wait to be slammed with several thousand dollars' worth of special assessments months or years later to cover those fees? Our pro forma annual report is sparse, so how can owners protect themselves from something like this? Answer: Owners should never sit back and wait to be slammed with assessments.
January 26, 2014 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: I am a board director at my homeowners association. Receipts produced by our management company personnel requesting reimbursement for "office supplies" showed purchase of a $21 bottle of Tequila. At the board meeting I showed that office supply receipt to the board and demanded homeowners be reimbursed. Totally ignoring my demands that the association be reimbursed, the president joked, "Tequila goes better with lime. " That wasn't the first improper and unauthorized expenditure on the association's office supply account the president authorized on his own. I found purchases for over-the-counter drugs, candies, gum, cigarettes, party supplies, home decorating items and pet food, none of which our association ordered or received.
December 15, 2013 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: I own a house and my mom owns a one-bedroom condo in the same homeowners association development. We want repairs made and we're frightened because our board directors constantly threaten owners; if we violate any of their rules or governing documents they'll fine and then sue us. Those threats are reduced to writing by the board's voracious attorney, who threatens to send us invoices for legal fees. Our properties are not in trusts and we're unsure how to proceed. What are the costs of setting up a trust and will a trust protect us from litigation by the association?
A four-year dispute over tall trees and blocked ocean views has escalated into a mini-war in an affluent neighborhood here after 200 eucalyptus trees were abruptly cut down this week by the local homeowners association. Sheriff's deputies responded Tuesday and Wednesday to reports of unrest in the 151-home Potomac Landing community, where tree crews say they were threatened with a shotgun, shoves were exchanged, and members of the Potomac Landing Homeowners Assn.
When you move into a homeowners association--be it a condominium, a townhome or a master-planned community--you must agree to abide by rules and regulations that restrict both what your property can look like and what you can do there. It is these regulations--formally known as "covenants, conditions and restrictions" (CC&Rs)--that have been the most controversial aspect of the homeowners association boom.
November 24, 2013 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: I have been on my homeowners association board for two years. All communication between the board and the attorney goes through the association's manager before distribution to the board. I just discovered the manager has been withholding communications the attorney has written to the board. I've also found instances where the manager regularly emails the association attorney stating, "The board wants" and "The board would like you to," when in fact the board never discussed such matters.
November 17, 2013 | By Donie Vanitzian
Question: Our 15-unit condo complex, built in 1982, has only one parking space assigned to each unit. One owner purchased an electric car and requested board permission to install an electric vehicle charging station in her assigned parking spot, costing her $3,000. The electric plug she plans to use cuts into another homeowner's exclusive-use garage parking spot. There's a 24-hour electric vehicle charging station open to the public less than 0.1 mile from our building, but she wants to plug her car into the homeowners association's electricity.
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