Avoiding Political Turmoil in Your HOA
These days, the idea of having politically charged meetings in the common area clubhouse may make your Board of Directors nervous, and rightfully so. Civil Code Section 4515 took effect January 1, 2018. The law states that an association must not prohibit a member or resident from: (1) peacefully assembling or meeting with members, residents, and their invitees or guests during reasonable hours and in a reasonable manner for purposes relating to common interest development living, association elections, legislation, election to public office, or the initiative, referendum, or recall processes; or (2) inviting public officials, candidates for public office, or representatives of homeowner organizations to meet with members, residents, and their invitees or guests and speak on matters of public interest.
Associations cannot prohibit these meetings from being held in the common area (such as the community or recreational hall or clubhouse) or, with the consent of the member, in a separate interest area. An association must allow these activities at no cost to any member or resident, including not requiring any payment of a fee, deposit, insurance premium or insurance deductible. The Association may, however, limit these activities to occur at reasonable hours and in a reasonable manner.
The new law is aimed to protect an owner’s right to free speech, but it raises a number of practical concerns for Associations. What if an owner wishes to invite 300 guests to a meeting but the clubhouse only holds 100? Under what circumstances can a HOA require the owner to provide security for the meeting? What if the meeting isn’t so “peaceful” and an owner or guest damages the common area? Can your Association’s guest parking accommodate the number of visitors anticipated? Can an owner post the meeting on NextDoor or other websites and have an open invitation to the general public to attend? Do these meetings open the HOA to potential exposure to ADA/FHA claims?
In light of the potential risks, Associations should implement policies to place reasonable restrictions on using common area facilities to hold such meetings. A policy will also ensure members and residents are fully aware of their responsibilities and the consequences should damage result. We would be pleased to assist your Association in crafting a practical policy that best protects the HOA while adhering to the requirements of California law. Please contact Angius & Terry for more information.
Julie M. Mouser Esq.
ANGIUS & TERRY LLP