HOA Homefront: New laws coming in 2023 protect roommates, social media posts

While 2021 was a banner year for positive HOA legislation, 2022 turned out to be less helpful in Sacramento for California HOAs.

While many bills were introduced this year, only one made it to the governor’s desk. Assembly Bill 1410, authored by Assembly Member Freddie Rodriguez from Chino, was signed into law Sept. 30 by Gov. Gavin Newsom, effective at the beginning of 2023.

In my many years following HOA legislation, I often see bills that are sparked by a constituent reporting an incident that sounds to a legislator to be a problem deserving action and new law.

However, it’s important for legislators to investigate if the incident represents a widespread problem among HOAs and whether legislative involvement is needed. Unfortunately, Assembly Bill 1410 appears to address issues arising from isolated incidents. In my 33 years advising HOAs, I’ve never seen any of the issues in this bill actually occurring.

AB 1410 makes three changes in California law regarding social media usage, taking on boarders and failure to comply with HOA requirements during emergencies.

Civil Code Section 4515, enacted in 2018, is essentially a free speech statute for HOAs. It protects the right to meet and canvass or petition members and to circulate information to members and residents. AB 1410 adds a subpart (6) to the list of protected activities in Section 4515(b), which will not allow HOA governing documents (CC&Rs, bylaws or rules) to ban the use of social media or internet resources to discuss the HOA, legislation, public elections or other issues of concern.

The new subpart clarifies that HOAs are not required to provide social media or online resources to members or to allow members to post on the HOA’s website. A new Section 4515(e) is also added, prohibiting retaliation against members or residents for exercising rights under the statute.

Since CC&Rs and rules regulate how homeowners use their homes or common areas, it is hard to imagine how governing documents could regulate social media commentary. I have not seen an association sanction somebody for criticizing the HOA on social media although I have seen some horrible allegations on social media, where apparently anyone can say anything without accountability. I do not think this new law will have much impact on HOAs or their members.

Many HOAs have various requirements and limitations regarding rentals of HOA residences. A new Civil Code Section 4739 says that the HOA may not prohibit owners who live in their residences from renting a room to a tenant so long as the rental is longer than 30 days. The impact of this new law is that members living in their HOA home can take on boarders (but not for the short-term).

The third new law from AB 1410 is a new Civil Code Section 5875, which will not allow HOAs to pursue enforcement actions (except for enforcing payment of assessments) during a declared emergency if the nature of the emergency prevents the homeowner from preventing or remedying the violation. I have not encountered this situation and find it hard to imagine it occurring.

Now, Sacramento, how about next year doing something truly important for HOAs by changing the law to allow electronic voting — like every other nonprofit corporation in California!?

Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and Partner of Richardson Ober LLP, a California law firm known for community association expertise. Submit column questions to Kelly@roattorneys.com.

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