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Condo | HOA Lawyers

Tenants Due Process Rights are NOT the same as Owners Rights

Harbour Island Condominium Owners Association, Inc. v. Alexander, No. B285755 (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 24, 2019)

Summary

In Harbour Island, the Court of Appeals of California held that tenants renting a unit that was part of a condominium association did not have standing before the board concerning meeting attendance and fines imposed for violations. The association did not have to give the tenants an opportunity to be heard, unlike the rights of actual unit owners.

The Facts

In Harbour Island, two tenants (the “Tenants”) rented a unit from a unit owner that was part of a condominium association (the “Association”). In 2015, the Tenants were sued by the Association, and the Association alleged that the Tenants were harassing other unit owners, causing noise disturbances, and violating several Association rules.[1] The Association asked the trial court to issue an injunction against the Tenants.

The trial court agreed, and granted a preliminary injunction against the Tenants.  It required them to place rugs in all walking areas to reduce noise/stomping, cease recording or photographing the president in the common areas, and cease allowing their dogs in certain common areas.

The Tenants appealed, and argued that the trial court abused its discretion in issuing the injunction because (1) the Association governing documents did not address dog restrictions, (2) the Association did not adequately investigate the noise/stomping complaints with a physical investigation, and (3) the Tenants were unfairly denied an opportunity to challenge the violation notices and fines imposed by the Association by attending Association meetings.

The appeals court noted in part that courts are not inclined to question the wisdom of an association restriction unless it violates public policy. In doing so, the court held that the Association declaration did not obligate the Association to conduct a physical inspection, and the Association was entitled to seek an injunction to stop nuisances that interfere with other residents’ quiet enjoyment.

Most importantly, the appeals court upheld the Association’s restrictions on not allowing tenants of unit owners to participate in and attend Association meetings. In doing so, the appeals court determined that the Tenants did not have standing to challenge the Association and its Board of Directors because they did not have the same rights as the unit owners in the Association.

Lessons Learned

  1. Tenants may not be entitled the same rights, including due process rights, as unit owners;
  2. Nuisance provisions, found in most association documents, can be broadly used to enjoin offensive or harassing behavior; and
  3. Those unit owners, you know which ones were talking about, literally cannot see how offensive their anti-social behavior can become and often times court action in the form of a declaratory judgment is required to at least curtail that behavior.

[1] The rule violations included loud noise and persistent stomping the unit, dogs in common areas where pets were prohibited, and photographing the association president at the community pool.

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