Q: I am a veteran trying to get a VA refinance, but the VA wants an HOA for our house. We live on a two-on-a-lot, with another separate home behind us. The city calls our place a condominium even though we are not attached. The VA says we need an HOA with all the documentation just for two units. We had an HOA when we purchased (about 30 years ago) but walked away from it and have had handshake deals with our neighbors only for lawn care. Everything has been by mutual agreement. No meetings, no minutes. The CC&Rs also date back 30 years. Can I ask for a waiver or do we need to makeshift an HOA to satisfy the VA? –T.L., Redondo Beach
A: If a lot is too small to legally split, developers sometimes create a 2-unit condominium project on the lot in order to circumvent zoning restrictions. You will probably find that your deed describes your property as a “unit,” and that the long-ignored CC&Rs describe the two homes as a condominium project.
So, you almost certainly have an HOA consisting of two members. You and the neighbor can make informal arrangements to handle your homes and shared concerns (your common driveway), but it doesn’t change the fact that this lengthy document, the CC&Rs, is a “covenant running with the land” and does not go away just by being ignored.
So, you not only have an HOA, but one which is not functioning correctly. Your situation is very common with very small HOAs, which typically do not have managers and generally ignore the complicated and lengthy provisions of the CC&Rs and Davis-Stirling Act.
Unfortunately, most CC&Rs and the Davis-Stirling Act make no concessions for very small HOAs. Your HOA CC&Rs were probably written from a form that also was used for all-size associations, following Davis-Stirling’s unfortunate “one size fits all” approach to HOAs.
Q: I was recently cited for having a clothesline visible above my fence. The clothesline has been there for the over 20 years that I have lived here. I put it in. And nothing has changed on my end. Not sure why the sudden interest. The HOA Architectural Committee cited me. When I asked for more information on this sudden problem, I was informed they don’t make the rules and it’s part of the governing documents. What do you think I should do about getting my clothesline back ASAP? With all the concerns about energy, drought, climate change, you’d think clotheslines would be mandatory. — P.H., San Diego
A: Clotheslines are protected by Civil Code Section 4753, which was added to the Davis-Stirling Act in 2017. This statute protects the ability of homeowners to have clotheslines or drying racks in their exclusive use backyards.
The law does not allow homeowners to use any part of the building (such as a railing) as a drying rack or clothesline and allows HOAs to have reasonable rules regarding them. “Reasonable” in this context means a rule, which does not effectively ban or significantly increase the cost of clotheslines or drying racks.
As to discipline, only boards can impose fines after a hearing following the requirements of Civil Code Section 5855.
Kelly G. Richardson CCAL is Partner of Richardson Ober DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Send potential column questions to Kelly@rodllp.com