Reader Questions – Pandemic Questions ContinueMay 11, 2020
Kelly, I am on the board and we are having our first HOA virtual meeting next week because of Covid-19. Do we need to have a quorum for that meeting? I appreciate your help and enjoy your HOA Homefront each week.
R.S., Garden Grove
The declared state of emergency in California does not mean the Open Meeting Act or your bylaws have been suspended. Many HOA boards are mistakenly thinking that everything now is an emergency, and thereby dispense with the required transparency under the law. Quorum, notice to members, and openness are still the requirements, even during this emergency. Civil Code Section 4923 defines “emergency” as “circumstances that could not have been reasonably foreseen” requiring immediate action. There are few topics which cannot wait four days for proper notice to members. Also, meetings can still be in the open. Telephonic or electronic meetings are permitted by Civil Code 4090(b) and 4925(a) – so there is no reason to hold improper closed or emergency meetings. Even in times such as these, proper association governance is not suspended – there is no “HOA martial law” in effect.
Best regards, Kelly
Dear Mr. Richardson:
Our residents are concerned about cases of Covid-19 in our HOA. Our manager told us that legal counsel said because of HIPAA rules they are not obligated to report if there are or have been any active Covid-19 cases. We are not asking for names, just a knowledge of whether there are or have been Covid-19 cases. What is our HOA responsibility in this matter?
I have had many association clients with rumors circulating about illness and even COVID-19 fatalities, but associations have no greater right to know residents’ medical information than anyone else. Some of my client boards have been in the same situation, with homeowners wanting to know what the HOA also does not know and cannot share if it did know who was ill.
Most California homeowners associations have been doing a wonderful job to reduce the risk of contagion by closing recreational facilities and otherwise thinking of ways to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. However, sharing medical information (even if the HOA had it) is probably outside the HOA’s role, even during a pandemic.
Best regards (and looking forward to reducing “Safer At Home” soon), Kelly.
I received a letter from my HOA notifying me of a large (over 10%) increase in my monthly dues. This is an outrage to subject people to this type of nonsense during the health and financial crisis in the world. I was unable to find anything in current legislation covering HOA payment increases similar to the rent increase cap. Is there anything that can be done to prevent this increase? Is there anything you can do to help shine a light on this?
Per Civil Code Section 5600, associations may only assess for actual expenses. If your association is having a shortfall in its ability to meet expenses, those expenses are yours as much as anyone else in your HOA. It would be wonderful if HOAs could have all vendors hold off on billings, but HOAs must meet their bills, pandemic or not.
Written by Kelly G. Richardson
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to [email protected]. Past columns at www.hoahomefront.com. All rights reserved®.