California HOA Laws

California HOA Laws

Last Updated: June 15, 2023 by Corrin Swintosky

Homeowners associations (HOAs) manage many planned communities in California. Various local, state, and federal regulations as well as governing documents oversee HOAs in California.

Who Regulates HOAs in California?

In California, HOAs are governed by the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Interest Development Act found in California Civil Code section 4000-6150. This act applies to all common interest developments that contain separate units and common elements or association memberships.

HOAs are also regulated by their governing documents. The governing documents typically include: Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, and, other rules and regulations. However, all HOAs are different in what documents they may or may not include.

HOAs in California may be subject to applicable federal laws such as:

HOAs may be subject to certain state laws such as:

How to Find HOA Regulations in California

The documents governing an HOA are not available to the public in California. HOA governing documents are only available upon request by members and must be recorded with the County Recorder to be enforced.

HOA records filed with the California Secretary of State are accessible to anyone online and include the creation of an HOA, financial statements, and dissolution of an HOA.

Alternatively, the California Uniform Commercial Code can also hold HOA business records that include financial statements, amendments, or other modifications of the business. Record requests can be handwritten or accessed through the California Secretary of State website.

HOA Powers in California

In California, an HOA has the power to:

  • Maintain common areas
  • Collect payments for assessments
  • Levy reasonable fines
  • Foreclose on a house for unpaid liens

An HOA’s governing documents can also grant added powers such as restrictions on membership, parking, fencing, and exterior paint colors.

Can an HOA Impose Fines on a Homeowner in California?

In California, an HOA can impose fines on a homeowner for late payment of assessments and other reasonable charges. Charges are considered late 15 days after they are due.

There are multiple ways HOAs can impose fines on a homeowner. Fines can include attorney’s fees, interest on the total amount owed, and a late charge not to exceed 10% of the fine owed or $10, whichever is greater. The interest rate cannot exceed 12% annually.

An HOA cannot fine a homeowner for (or generally prohibit) any of the following:

  • Displaying the American flag so long as the flag is displayed in a manner consistent with federal flag display law
  • Displaying religious items on the entry door or entry door frame
  • Displaying noncommercial signs, posters, flags, or banners
  • Keeping at least one pet
  • Installing fire retardant roof covering material
  • Installing satellite dishes and antennas
  • Regulating or restricting the use of water according to the California Water Code
  • Pressure washing the exterior of an individual unit
  • Renting or leasing a portion of an individual unit
  • Installing an electric vehicle charging station
  • Installing an EV-dedicated TOU meter
  • Modifying the property to accommodate a disability
  • Operating a family day care home
  • Installing a solar energy system

An HOA’s governing documents may include reasonable regulations and rules about the placement, manner, and display of the items listed above.

Can an HOA Take a Homeowner’s House in California?

An HOA in California can foreclose on a home within its community. The process starts with an HOA placing a lien on a property when the owner neglects to pay their dues. If a lien goes unresolved, the HOA can foreclose on the house.

An HOA cannot evict a homeowner. However, if the homeowner is leasing a tenant, the HOA may be able to evict the tenant. For example, an HOA may be able to evict a tenant if the lease was not properly authorized by the HOA.

In addition, the HOA may have other powers or restrictions regarding rental properties in its governing documents.

Can an HOA Enter a Homeowner’s Property in California?

In California, there is no provision in the law allowing an HOA to enter a homeowner’s property. However, most governing documents contain a provision allowing an HOA to enter the homeowner’s house as reasonably necessary to maintain the units, common elements, or shared utilities.

Units are private spaces only intended for the property owner’s use but have certain spaces that require maintenance by the HOA, such as balconies. Common elements are the shared spaces around the units owned by the HOA, such as elevators. Shared utilities may include water or trash removal directly provided by the HOA.

Before entering a property, except in the case of an emergency, an HOA should give prior notice to the homeowner. Typically, an HOA will give 1-2 weeks’ notice, but notice requirements are determined by the governing documents.

Where Do Homeowners File Complaints Against Their HOA in California?

The venue for filing a Complaint against an HOA in California depends on the type of complaint.

Complaints about HOA fees can be filed with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or hire a private attorney. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, homeowners may also file in state or federal court within one year of the violation date.

For complaints of housing discrimination, they can file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department, the U.S. Department of Urban Housing, or file a private lawsuit in California state or federal court.

Alternatively, a homeowner with any other complaints can bring a claim in state court in the appropriate county or, if certain conditions have been met, to the Office of the Attorney General.

Joining and Leaving an HOA in California

In California, if a person is an owner of a separate interest unit in an HOA, they are automatically a member. The rights and duties of members are defined in the HOA’s governing documents.

If a person bought a house in an area where an HOA is present, they cannot leave the HOA. To depart from an HOA, the homeowner can sell their house or petition to have their home removed from the association. However, there is no guarantee the petition will be granted.

How to Dissolve an HOA in California

The dissolution process of an HOA in California may be found in the HOA’s governing documents. If it is not, a unanimous vote by the HOA members is required to approve the dissolution.

If 100% of the members approve the dissolution, the HOA needs to transfer all assets and file a certificate of dissolution with the Secretary of State.