Older CC&Rs often have very high approval requirements that make it almost impossible to amend or restate the CC&Rs. The legislature recognized the difficulty and enacted Civil Code §4275 (formerly section 1356) to petition the court for approve the changes.
The purpose of section 1356 is to provide homeowners associations with the ability to amend their governing documents when, because of voter apathy or other reasons, important amendments cannot be approved by the normal procedures authorized by the declaration. In essence, it provides an association with a safety valve for those situations where the need for a supermajority vote would hamstring the association. (Mission Shores v. Pheil; internal cites & quotes removed.)
Apathy Not Required. Associations are not required to demonstrate voter apathy when petitioning the court to approve amending or restating CC&Rs (Orchard Estate Homes v. Orchard Homeowners Alliance.) The Court of Appeal ruled that voter apathy is not a prerequisite to an order authorizing relief under Civil Code §4275.
Good Faith Effort . If an association makes a good faith effort to obtain membership approval and the votes fall short of the super-majority, the association may petition the court to reduce the required percentage. (Blue Lagoon v. Mitchell.) The petition must contain the following:
- The reasons for the amendment.
- The number of votes required to amend.
- The number of affirmative and negative votes actually received.
- The association's effort to solicit membership approval.
- A copy of the governing documents, text of the amendment, and the notice and solicitation materials used.
Court's Decision. The statute gives the trial court broad discretion in ruling on such a petition. (Mission Shores at p. 795.) When making its finding, the court need not recite each factor it considered, nor detail the evidence supporting each factor. Instead, the record need only reflect that the court weighed the relevant factors. The requirements for granting a petition can be detailed in the association's moving papers, and the trial court's final order can reference Civil Code §4275 and simply deem that all necessary requirements have been met. (Quail Lakes v. Kozina.)
Time Frame. The petition is given priority by the courts. The process generally takes from 30 to 90 days to prepare and file the petition and have the matter heard in court.
Court Approval. The court may, but is not required to, grant the petition if it finds all of the following:
- The membership was given at least 15 days written notice of the court hearing.
- Balloting on the proposed amendment was conducted in accordance with the governing documents.
- A reasonably diligent effort was made to permit all eligible members to vote on the proposed amendment.
- More than 50% of the membership voted in favor of the amendment. (Peak Investments v. South Peak HOA)
- The amendment is reasonable.
- Granting the petition is not improper for any reason stated in subdivision (e) of the statute.
Secret Balloting. Although not mentioned in the six points listed above, the election on the amendment must follow the provisions for secret balloting described in Civil Code §5105 (appointment of an Inspector, secret balloting, public counting of ballots, etc.). Otherwise, the election itself may be deemed invalid before the court ever reaches the issue of reducing the percentage of votes required for approving the amendment/restatement.
Reasonableness. The standard for reasonableness for CC&R amendments is that they not be arbitrary or capricious; that they be 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 that they be fair and nondiscriminatory. (Fourth La Costa v. Seith)
Recordation. Once approved by the court, the amendment becomes effective upon recordation in the county in which the development is located. Recording the amendment provides constructive notice of the amendment.
Bylaws and Non-CID CC&Rs. To seek court approval of bylaw amendments/restatements, a petition needs to be filed under Corporations Code §7515. For deed restricted associations that are not common interest developments, petitioning for court approval of amendments is sometimes successful under Corporations Code §7515.
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