In response to Assembly Member Donald Wagner’s article last week dealing with homeowner community association bills, community associations seem to be under attack. The attack this time came in the form of AB 1720.

Community associations are communities first and foremost. They are run by volunteer community members who are elected to a position on a board by the other homeowners. The volunteer board members are your neighbors: nurses, secretaries, business owners and teachers. They represent the community as a whole, but are not trained to respond to an attorney’s question in a board meeting any more than you are, unless they have an attorney for the association present. AB 1720 creates a situation where attorneys would be allowed, potentially without notice, to attend board meetings to represent an individual homeowner.

Currently, there already exist a number of legislated steps for the resolution of individual disputes within community associations and steps to allow for representation. This fact is pointed out in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee’s review of the bill. Those steps include: requirements for accommodation of those with disabilities, meetings with the member and the board (California Civil Code § 5855), the Internal Dispute Resolution (IDR) process available to homeowners who have complaints or problems to resolve with the association (Civil Code §§ 5900, 5905), and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) if IDR fails, which involves mediation, arbitration, or any other non-judicial procedures (California Civil Code § 5930), where the member is represented by an attorney. If these processes fail, litigation and hearings are available to homeowners to engage others including attorneys in finding a way to settle the dispute.

AB 1720 had the potential to take every issue and immediately escalate it with attorneys rather than working through issues as a community and as neighbors. The added expense to the community to have an attorney present at board meetings would be passed on to the individual homeowners, including seniors, the disabled, and others on fixed incomes. That would have put a financial strain on both while keeping attorneys busy.

If a board can no longer function for the community without attorneys present, then the attorneys are running the association and the community ceases to exist. Community association volunteer board members don’t need or deserve to be subjected to an attorney’s questioning, interrogating, or intimidating them.

Community Associations Institute’s, California Legislative Action Committee (CAI-CLAC) supports AB 1799 authored by Assembly Member Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) because it is simply and sincerely a smart cost-saving bill.

The homeowners in community associations elect volunteer directors to an association board. However, when there is no competition for director positions, current law still requires an election to be held, resulting in an unnecessary expense to the association and the owners. AB 1799 would amend the law to eliminate the requirement to proceed with uncontested elections, where the number of candidates does not exceed the number of positions available. The bill preserves openness and increases fairness by allowing self-nominations and write-in candidates, and allows for a judicial remedy if the election procedures aren’t followed. No one is deprived of the opportunity to run for office or to vote.

The community association voting process often takes more than one mailing. With AB 1799, costs for paper, printing, management, tabulation and postage can be saved without these unnecessary mailings. estimated that for a 999 member association the cost of one ballot mailing would be more than $1,100. These avoided costs can be redirected to pay for needed community repairs.

As the law stands, associations spend countless hours and hundreds (or in some cases thousands) of dollars in conducting an election where there is no contest to vote on, nor multiple candidates to choose among. AB 1799 corrects that situation while maintaining the integrity of the election process.

Community associations, CAI-CLAC and others who have supported AB 1799 and opposed AB 1720 are simply doing their jobs by supporting the community, the owners’ investment in their home and their future.