CC&Rs are enforceable equitable servitudes unless unreasonable. Restrictions can be enforced "unless they are wholly arbitrary, violate a fundamental public policy, or impose a burden on the use of affected land that far outweighs any benefit." (Nahrstedt v. Lakeside Village.) Associations are not required to litigate every violation but when they do, courts look at how the association handled the alleged violation.
Defer to Boards. Overall, California courts have adopted a deferential approach when dealing with decisions made by boards of directors. In general, courts will uphold a board's decisions so long as they represent good faith efforts to further the purpose of the association, are consistent with the development's governing documents, and comply with public policy. In particular, CC&Rs vest broad discretion in associations to grant or withhold consent to construction. (Dolan-King v. Rancho Santa Fe.)
Rational and Nondiscriminatory. However, when reviewing an association's decision to compel a homeowner to stop or remove construction, courts require the association to show more than just a violation of CC&Rs. (Ironwood v. Solomon.) When a homeowner questions the reasonableness of an association's action, courts consider:
- whether the action is rationally related to the protection, preservation or proper operation of the property and the purposes of the association as set forth in its governing instruments, and
- whether the power was exercised in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner. (Laguna Royale v. Darger.)
Follow HOA Procedures. In addition to showing a violation of a restriction, an association must show that it has followed its own standards and procedures prior to pursuing such a remedy, that those procedures were fair and reasonable and that its substantive decision was made in good faith, and is reasonable, not arbitrary or capricious. (Ironwood v. Solomon.)
Improper Enforcement. In an unpublished case, the Court of Appeal ruled that constant surveillance by an association member on another member to document potential rules violations without actual evidence of a violation constitutes illegal stalking and harassment. (Manrodt v. Albelo)
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.