A handful of new California laws affecting the operation of homeowners associations and governance of common interest subdivisions take effect on January 1, 2020. The following is a primer on the new laws to know.
AB 670 – Accessory Dwelling Units
New and existing state laws promote the development of accessory dwelling units (commonly referred to as ADUs or granny flats) by limiting the ability of cities to implement requirements that may make ADU development difficult, such as fees and minimum lot size standards. AB 670 extends this ADU-favorable policy to common interest subdivisions that are governed by homeowners associations. Notwithstanding the requirements of the local jurisdiction, the CC&Rs governing the subdivision often impose stricter standards on a homeowner's construction of improvements on their lot, including a design review process. With AB 670, any provision of the association's governing documents that effectively prohibits or unreasonably restricts the construction or use of an ADU on a single-family residential lot (that meets specified requirements of the Government Code) is void and unenforceable. So-called "reasonable restrictions" that do not unreasonably increase the cost to construct or effectively prohibit the construction of ADUs are still permissible. The full text of AB 670 is available here:
SB 326 – Balcony and "Exterior Elevated Element" Inspections
In 2015, a balcony collapse in Berkeley, California resulted in the deaths of six people. In an effort to prevent similar structural failures from recurring, the legislature enacted SB 326 to require that homeowners associations inspect "exterior elevated elements" (such as balconies, stairways, walkways, railings) at regular intervals on buildings containing three (3) or more multifamily dwelling units. SB 326 also mandates that the maintenance and repair of the load-bearing components and associated waterproofing systems of such exterior elevated elements are the responsibility of the association and that the association take preventative measures immediately if the inspector advises that there is an immediate threat to safety, including preventing occupant access to the element.
SB 326 - Legal Proceedings Against Developer
SB 326 also impacts the association's commencement of legal proceedings against a declarant, developer or builder of a common interest development. In the CC&Rs or other legal instrument, developers establish a dispute resolution process for construction defect claims or other disputes that may be initiated by the association against the developer. Previously, developers may have included provisions that require a membership vote as a prerequisite to initiation of proceedings. SB 326 now prohibits the association's governing documents from requiring a membership vote or imposing other limitations on the board's authority to commence legal proceedings against the developer. The new law applies retroactively, meaning any such provisions in existing recorded governing documents are void and unenforceable.
The full text of SB 326 is available here: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB326.
SB 323 & SB 754 – Election Rules and Director Qualifications
SB 323 and SB 754 impose a number of new requirements and limitations on association elections and director qualifications. Among these, the new laws specify the minimum frequency for director elections, require retention of certain election materials and that such information be available for association members, impose new notice requirements for nomination of directors, and provide for election by acclamation in limited circumstances. Subject to an exception for developer-affiliated directors, the association is required to disqualify a person from nomination as a candidate for the board if such person is not a member of the association at the time of the nomination. The new legislation also limits the other circumstances in which an association may disqualify a person from nomination as a candidate for the board. The full text is available here:
SB 323: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB323.
SB 754: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB754.
SB 652 – Display of Religious Items on Entry Doors
Under SB 652, no governing documents shall limit or prohibit a homeowner's display of one or more religious items on the entry door or entry door frame of the home. The association may require temporary removal of the item to accommodate the association's maintenance, repair or replacement activities. The full text of SB 652 is available here:
SB 234 - Number of Children in Family Daycare Homes
The governing documents for a residential common interest development will typically prohibit certain business or other non-residential uses of the home. However, under existing California law, daycare facilities operated out of homes that provide care for up to eight (8) children are considered residential use of property. Among other provisions, SB 234 increases the number of children that may be cared for and still considered residential use to fourteen (14). The full text of SB 234 is available here: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB234.