Condo Owners Exempt from HOA Rental Prohibitions Adopted After Purchase, Court Rules

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The 4th District Court of Appeals has resolved an ambiguity in the intent and enforceability of Civil Code Section 4740, a statute within the Davis-Stirling Act (“Act”) placing limitations on rental prohibitions within common interest developments (“CID”) in California. The court’s ruling is a victory for owners of residential condominiums currently renting units in a manner that their homeowners association (“HOA”) seeks to prohibit through proposed changes to the CC&Rs, bylaws, rules, or related documents (collectively, the “Governing Documents”) of the HOA.

In Brown v. Montage at Mission Hills, Inc. (21 C.D.O.S. 8590), certified for publication on August 20, 2021, the court held that, pursuant to Section 4740(a), an HOA’s amendment to its Governing Documents prohibiting short-term rentals of less than 30 days (“STRs”) was unenforceable against an owner that had been using her unit for STRs the previous 16 years.

Civil Code section 4740(a) states that an owner of a property in a CID shall not be subject to a provision in its regulations “that prohibits the rental or leasing of any of the separate interests in that common interest development” un­less that provision “was effective prior to the date the owner acquired title to their separate interest.”

The trial court agreed with the HOA that Section 4740 precluded CIDs from imposing complete bans on renting, and that its prohibition on STRs was merely a restriction on rent­ing. The Court of Appeal reversed that ruling, finding the meaning of section 4740 to be unclear, ambiguous, and in need of closer scrutiny.

The ambiguity lied in two reasonable, but conflicting, interpretations of the statute’s meaning: on the one hand, if a regulation forbids a specific category of rentals, such as STRs, that regulation “prohibits” that type of rental, even if it does not prohibit all forms of rentals; on the other hand, Section 4740(a) could be read to forbid only outright “prohibitions” on leasing, but not “restrictions” on leasing that fall short of a complete ban on all leasing.

To resolve these conflicting interpretations, the court considered both the legislative history of Section 4740, as well as other provisions within the Act’s statutory scheme that imposed restrictions and/or prohibitions of certain actions or conduct.

While the court acknowledged that some statutes within the Act expressly created distinctions between “restrictions” and “prohibitions”, it also found that the legislative history of section 4740 indicated that the Legislature intended broad protection for owners against restrictions on renting, includ­ing restrictions against STRs. Further, the legislative history indicated that the Legisla­ture’s intention was to ensure that unit owners within CIDs maintained all of the rental rights they had at the time they purchased their unit.

In seeking guidance from both the entire statutory scheme of the Act and the legislative intent behind Section 4740, the court was required to “choose the construction that comports most closely with the Legislature’s apparent intent.” (Smith v. Superior Court (2006) 39 Cal.4th 77, 88) With this directive, the court determined the goal of Section 4740 is to exempt CID unit owners from any kind of rental prohibition or restric­tion that did not exist when the owner acquired title to the unit.

Notably, the court cited the opinion of the Legislative Counsel regarding section 4740’s effect on rental prohibitions in CIDs, including prohibitions against STRs, at the time of the statute’s enactment in 2012. The Legislative Counsel opined that a unit owner within a CID is subject to a provision of, or amendment to, Governing Documents that prohibits an owner from renting out their unit only if either (1) the prohibition took effect before the owner acquired title to his or her separate interest in that CID, or (2) the owner consented to the Governing Documents or amendment con­taining that provision.

In Brown, HOA respondent Montage nonetheless argued its STR prohibition was permissible due to “public policy considerations.” Montage observed that individual property owner’s rights must some­times give way to the public interest and the right of CIDs to decide their rules and restrictions. However, relying on the public policy considerations given priority by the Legislature when it adopted Section 4740, the court found the statute to have been enacted to protect “the rights of CID own­ers to rent or lease their properties, as the rights existed at the time they acquired them,” and that its goal was to ensure that “the right of an owner to rent or lease his or her separate interest [in a CID] shall be the same as when the owner purchased his or her separate interest throughout the life of ownership.” (Sen. Com. on Judiciary, Analysis of Sen. Bill No. 150 (2011-2012 Reg. Sess.) as amended Apr. 25, 2011.) (Italics added.)

In other words, a residential condominium owner will not be subject to amendments to Governing Documents prohibiting a specific form of leasing – including without limitation STRs – otherwise allowed at the time such owner first purchased their unit. An owner who acquired title prior to the HOA’s adoption of such a rental prohibition would be exempt from the same unless the owner waived this right by formally voting in favor of the proposed prohibition.

The Brown appeal was pending while the Legislature enacted Civil Code Section 4741, a statute that was the subject of an e-update by this firm earlier in the year.  Section 4741 allows an HOA to adopt and enforce a provision in its Governing Documents that prohibits transient or STRs of units within its CID for a period of 30 days or less. (Civ. Code, § 4741, subd. (c)). However, as pointed out by the Brown ruling, Section 4741 expressly provides that, in ac­cordance with Section 4740, Section 4741 does not change the right of an owner of a separate interest who acquired title to their separate interest before the effective date of this section to rent or lease their property. (Civ. Code, § 4741, subd. (h)).

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Michael Corbett.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.

Eliminating Single Family Zoning is OK, but Don’t Eliminate Parking

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SB 9 Makes it Through the Assembly but AB 1401 Dies in the Senate

Two bills that would limit local control over housing issues met very different fates this past Thursday in the California Legislature.  Both were vehemently opposed by cities and groups that favor local control over land use decision making.  One was opposed by housing equity groups.

Senate Bill 9

Senate Bill 9 (“SB 9”) would, among other things, require a city or county to ministerially approve (1) a two-unit housing project in a single-family zone, (2) the subdivision of a parcel zoned for residential use into two parcels, or (3) both.

SB 9 could unlock substantial housing production in single-family neighborhoods, where opposition to multi-family housing projects is typically greatest.  Many of the lots in these districts include only a single-family home and maybe an Accessory Dwelling Unit (which cannot be separately sold).  SB 9 would allow each existing single-family lot to be ministerially subdivided into two lots, and require ministerial approval of a duplex on each of the lots.

According to the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, SB 9 has the potential to allow for the development of nearly 6 million new housing units statewide.

Assembly Bill 1401

Assembly Bill 1401 (“AB 1401”) would limit minimum off-street parking requirements for projects located near a “major transit stop” (generally a train station or bus station with high frequency headways).

AB 1401 is hardly radical legislation.  When first introduced by Assembly Member Friedman in February 2021, the bill prohibited public entities (cities and counties) from imposing or enforcing minimum parking requirements on residential, commercial, or other development that is located within one-half mile walking distance of a “major transit stop” (generally a rail stop or a bus stop with frequent headways).  As last amended on July 5, 2021, the bill eased the prohibition for smaller cities.  A city with a population of 75,000 or more that is located in a county with a population of less than 600,000 was only prohibited from imposing the parking minimums on projects located within one-quarter mile of a major transit stop, and a city with a population of less than 75,000 was not subject to any prohibition.

Studies show that eliminating minimum parking requirements for projects located near transit routes supports the state’s housing goals by reducing the cost to deliver housing and allowing more dwelling units on a development site.  Eliminating parking requirements near transit also advances the state’s environmental goals by reducing emissions from cars.

Wait, the Parking Bill is the One That Died?

Both SB 9 and AB 1401 sailed through their respective policy committees in both the Assembly and the Senate with large vote margins in support.  Both were vehemently opposed throughout by local governments and groups that advocate for “local control” over land use decision making.  Yet AB 1401 was referred to the “suspense file” in the Appropriations Committee, where ambitious legislation often goes to die, while SB 9 was not.

It is hard to know exactly why bills are referred to the “suspense file.”  The “suspense file” is intended to be a place to evaluate whether to advance a bill that could have a significant fiscal impact.  But committee analyses of both SB 9 and AB 1401 show that both bills were anticipated to have the same annual impact on the budget (SB 9: $89,000 and AB 1401: $97,000).

A more plausible explanation emerges when one considers the groups opposed to the changes the bills would bring.  It is not surprising that numerous suburban cities and local government groups opposed both bills (SB 9 faced even greater opposition from these groups than AB 1401).  However, the opposition to AB 1401 was more diverse.  Affordable housing advocates argued that eliminating parking minimums for market rate development would reduce incentives for developers to create the affordable dwelling units required to reduce parking requirements using the Density Bonus Law.  In addition, environmental groups objected to the reduction of parking near transit as inconsistent with equity goals.

Decline in Value Real Estate Tax Appeals Due September 15

The deadline to appeal the valuation of property for real estate tax purposes is September 15 for both San Francisco and Alameda Counties.  Such an appeal would be appropriate due to a decline in property value because of the impact of Covid-19 and the related business shutdowns.  If you need more information, please contact Kevin Rose at krose@reubenlaw.com (415.567.9000).  Other counties may have different deadlines, so you should check with your local County appeals board to confirm the deadlines.

 

Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Attorney Matthew Visick.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient.  Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.