Homeowners Associations

A homeowners association (HOA) is an organization that makes and enforces rules and guidelines for a residential subdivision, planned community, or condominium building. In most cases, residents within the subdivision, community, or building must become members of the HOA, agree to follow the HOA’s rules, and pay HOA fees and assessments. HOAs are usually governed by a board of directors or governors that is elected by the homeowners to make decisions about the HOA and enforce its rules. Most HOAs in California are set up as nonprofit mutual benefit corporations, but some may be structured differently.

HOA Rules and Bylaws

The covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) are a set of rules that govern the operation of an HOA, including what rights and responsibilities the HOA has, what requirements and limitations homeowners must follow (for example, regulations on fencing height and placement), and what remedies there are for violations. Each HOA’s CC&Rs may be different. In addition to the CC&Rs, most HOAs have bylaws that establish how the HOA is run, as well as rules and regulations established by the HOA board.

Applicable Laws

A number of laws apply to HOAs, including the following:

  • The Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act is a body of laws that govern HOAs in California, including rights and requirements regarding board elections, finances, maintenance responsibilities, dispute resolution, and many other matters. (Civil Code, § 4000 et seq.)
  • The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discrimination in employment and housing based on protected characteristics, including race, color, national origin, religion, disability, gender, gender identity, familial status, and sexual orientation. (Government Code, § 12900 et seq.)
  • The Nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporation Law applies to most HOAs, which are usually set up as nonprofit mutual benefit corporations. (Corporations Code, § 7110 et seq.)

Other laws, including provisions in the Civil Code and Corporations Code, may also apply.

Issues with HOAs

If you are having issues with your HOA, you may wish to review the HOA’s rules to see what recourse you may have. You may also consider consulting with an attorney regarding your legal options. For information on how to find an attorney, see Attorneys/Lawyers.

If you suspect criminal activity, such as fraud, theft or embezzlement by the HOA's board of directors or individual officers, please file a report with the police or sheriff's department. After investigating, they may send the case to the county district attorney's office for prosecution, if appropriate. The decision whether or not to file criminal charges will then be made by the district attorney.

Additional information about HOAs is available from the Department of Real Estate.