Responding to an Accommodation Request? What’s your Policy?

Responding to an accommodation request does not have to be scary. Adopting a policy for an association to follow goes a long way to successfully addressing accommodation requests properly. But there are several stages where boards and managers can get tripped up in the process.

This article first appeared in the January/February issue of the Orange County Chapter of CAI’s OC View Magazine.

With all the various moving parts that go into managing a community association, few issues cause more confusion or are as fraught with risk as dealing with a request for a reasonable accommodation or modification. Failing to respond timely, or denying a request when it is appropriate exposes the association to potential liability for violating fair housing laws. Granting one without getting sufficient information to determine if it is warranted exposes the association to potentially unnecessary expenses and potential breach of fiduciary duty claims. Asking for additional information to support the request might be a no-no. That is why having a good, clear, concise policy in place to guide a board of directors as to how to address such requests can go a long way to help navigate the potential landmines that responding to a request for a reasonable accommodation involves.

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California Drought restrictions Officially Lifted

California Governor Jerry Brown Officially declared an end to the drought and rescinded two drought-related executive orders from 2014, including the one that declared a drought state of emergency, excepting four counties in Central California. The Governor’s action today reinstates the ability for California community associations to impose fines or otherwise enforce their governing documents related to an owner’s decision to not water grass or other vegetation.

Executive Order B-40-17 lifts the drought emergency in all California counties except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, where emergency drinking water projects will continue to help address diminished groundwater supplies. Today’s order also rescinds two emergency proclamations from January and April 2014 and four droughtrelated executive orders issued in 2014 and 2015.

In a related action, state agencies today issued a plan to continue to make conservation a way of life in California, as directed by Governor Brown in May 2016. The framework requires new legislation to establish long-term water conservation measures and improved planning for more frequent and severe droughts. Permanent restrictions shall prohibit wasteful practices such as:
• Hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscapes;
• Washing automobiles with hoses not equipped with a shut-off
nozzle;
• Using non-recirculated water in a fountain or other decorative
water feature;
• Watering lawns in a manner that causes runoff, or within 48
hours after measurable precipitation; and
• Irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.

Who’s the Boss? The National Labor Relations Board’s new standard for determining joint employment may make community associations and management companies responsible for contractors’ pay, benefits and legal liability. Review your agreements with business partners now.

By Robert M. DeNichilo, Esq., and Greg Coulter, Esq.

Reprinted with permission from CAI’s Common Ground TM magazine, September/October 2016

whos_the_boss_250_250A BOARD MEMBER OR MANAGER tells a landscape company’s employee that he or she can only work during certain hours on particular days of the week or directs the employee to plant flowers in a specific way or location. Or, if a board believes the association isn’t receiving the level of service it expects, it may try to require its management company to fire a manager or replace him or her on the account. These situations aren’t all that uncommon.

Since the association is contracting for these services, the board (and maybe its manager) probably believes the contractor—and not the association—employs those individuals. However, under certain circumstances, the association could be found to be a “joint employer” of a contractor’s employees, which means a lot more fiscal responsibility and legal liability.

In a 2015 case known as Browning-Ferris Industries of California (# 32-RC-109684), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) overturned a long series of cases in the collective bargaining arena. With the decision, the circumstances expanded under which an entity that contracts for services can be found to be a joint employer. The decision could have far-reaching implications for both community associations and management companies, making them responsible for the employees of landscapers, painters, managers and others who provide services to an association.

Continue reading “Who’s the Boss? The National Labor Relations Board’s new standard for determining joint employment may make community associations and management companies responsible for contractors’ pay, benefits and legal liability. Review your agreements with business partners now.”

The ABC’s of IDR & ADR

ADRDisputes between owners and associations can easily spin out of control. When those disputes result in a lawsuit, the costs, both in terms of time and money, can be significant. That is why attorneys often encourage parties to first meet and try to resolve those issues through some form of dispute resolution process before a lawsuit is filed. In fact, the law often requires that parties at least offer to meet in some form of alternative dispute resolution setting before they file a lawsuit, or they may lose the right to recover attorney’s fees even if they win the suit.

California’s Davis-Stirling Act contains several sections that address, and sometimes require, the use of the dispute resolution process before litigation can be filed. The statutory process includes (1) Internal Dispute Resolution and (2) Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Internal Dispute Resolution or “IDR” is an informal process where one or two representatives of the association (typically a board member and the association’s community manager) meet with the owner of the property at issue and try to resolve the issue informally. Civil Code section 5905 requires that associations provide a “fair, reasonable, and expeditious procedure for resolving a dispute” with members.

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LEGISLATIVE ALERT – Governor Brown signs AB 349 Banning Prohibitions on Artificial Turf

Art turfGovernor Brown has signed AB 349, an urgency statute which takes effect immediately. AB 349 amends Section 4735 of the Civil Code, and prevents associations from prohibiting the installation of artificial turf, or “any other synthetic surface that resembles grass.”

This bill also prohibits any requirement that an owner remove or reverse water-efficient landscaping measures, installed in response to a declaration of a state of emergency, upon the conclusion of the state of emergency.

As anyone who has looked into replacing natural grass with artificial turf can tell you, there are different types and quality of artificial turf available in the market. AB 349 does not prevent an association from developing and applying reasonable landscape standards, including standards regarding the installation of artificial turf, so long as the standards do not restrict or prevent the installation of artificial turf, any other synthetic surface that resembles grass, or other drought tolerant landscape.

In light of AB 349 and its immediate impact, associations which have not already done so should work quickly to develop architectural standards which allow for installation of artificial turf and “any other synthetic surface that resembles grass.” This can often best be done by working with a landscape architect who can advise the board of directors with regard to the different types of products available, and how those different products may look in community. Failure to have such standards in place may result in an association not being able to require owners seeking to install such items to install the type and quality materials which the association deems consistent with the aesthetics of the community.