What to know if you’re considering borrowing from reserves.

In California, Civil Code section 1365.5 makes it clear that a board may authorize a temporary transfer of money from a reserve account to an association’s general fund. However, such transfers are only allowed to meet short term cash flow requirements or other expenses.

borrowingIn the current economic climate, many homeowner’s associations are facing tough budget decisions as they are faced with an increasing number of members falling behind on assessment payments, while operating costs are rising.  In such circumstances, many boards are tempted to dip into reserves to meet their cash flow needs.

In California, Civil Code section 1365.5 makes it clear that a board may authorize a temporary transfer of money from a reserve account to an association’s general fund. However, such transfers are only allowed to meet short term cash flow requirements or other expenses. In addition, prior to the transfer the board must have provided notice to the members of the intent to consider the transfer in a notice of meeting stating why the transfer is needed, some of the options for repayment, and whether a special assessment may be considered. Any such transfers must be repaid to the reserve account within one year of the date of the initial transfer.  The one year repayment period may be extended briefly if the board gives the same notice required for considering a transfer and makes a finding, supported by documentation, that a temporary delay in repaying the amount borrowed from reserves would be in the best interests of the association.

The statute, as well as the board members fiduciary obligations, require that the board exercise prudent fiscal management in maintaining the integrity of the reserve accounts. The statute goes so far as to state that the board “shall, if necessary, levy a special assessment to recover the full amount of the expended funds within the [one year]”.

Any board contemplating borrowing from reserve accounts should seriously consider levying a special assessment to recover the amount needed to fund the reserves, and also consider increasing dues to meet operating expenses. In addition, if not already part of the budget, the board should consider budgeting for “bad debt” to ease the impact of late assessments on the overall financial health of the association.  Failure to do so puts the association’s assets at risk, and exposes the directors to claims for breach of fiduciary duties.

Author: Robert M. DeNichilo

I am a partner in the law firm Nordberg|DeNichilo, LLP., specializing in the representation of community associations throughout southern California, For more information, please visit our web site at NDHOALaw.com.

2 thoughts on “What to know if you’re considering borrowing from reserves.”

  1. As president of a condo board, I have some questions you might discuss in your blog. (1) What is the best mechanism to use estimate a “bad debt” allowance? Owners are discouraged by being asked to pay for others delinquencies and the association wants to send the message that it will endeavor to collect all the assessments due. Our management company used a formula but the board would rather limit the allowance to what we really expect to have to write off, a smaller figure. (2) What are the issues around whether or not it would be prudent for a board to consider purchasing and renting vacant, bank-owned units, and selling them when the market improves (particularly for cash, and without the use of designated reserves)? It is a shame to have vacant units when there is a demand for rental units, and the banks are not paying condo fees.

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