Adams Stirling PLC


QUESTION: Our association bans pickups from parking overnight in driveways or in common areas. Parking in garages is permitted since the vehicles aren’t visible when they are in a garage. Our CC&Rs date back to the 70s and, as I understand it, things have changed in 40+ years. Can we still legally ban pickup trucks from parking in driveways and common areas overnight?

ANSWER: Yes, a lot has changed in the past 40 years. Although associations can restrict recreational and commercial vehicles, they cannot prohibit all trucks. Noncommercial pickup trucks, 4-wheel drive off-road vehicles, and SUVs have become the primary vehicle for may owners. Accordingly, any restrictions related to pickups must be reasonable.

Case Law. This issue was addressed in a 1987 case, Bernardo Villas Management v. Black. The association had a CC&R provision that "No truck, camper, trailer, boat of any kind or other form of recreational vehicle may be parked in the development." Such restrictions were quite common and boards were obligated to enforce them. 

A resident in Bernardo Villas bought a pickup which he used solely for personal transportation and parked in his carport. The board did its duty and sued the resident for violating the CC&Rs. Much to everyone's surprise, the trial court found the restriction unreasonable. Convinced the court got it wrong, the association appealed.

The court of appeal also sided with truck owners and agreed the restriction was unreasonable. The court noted that, "As times change, cultural perceptions--including society's acceptance of certain types of vehicles--also change. The pickup truck no longer has a pejorative connotation. One person's Bronco II is another's Rolls-Royce." The court added that beauty, even with cars, is in the eye of the beholder.

In a later case, the California Supreme Court in Nahrstedt v. Lakeside Village criticized the Bernardo Villas decision for failing to apply a deferential standard to the association's CC&Rs. The Court did not overturn Bernardo Villas. Instead, it established a test for evaluating CC&R restrictions.

It held that CC&Rs are presumed reasonable and will be enforced uniformly against all residents of the common interest development unless the restriction is (i) arbitrary, (ii) imposes burdens on the use of lands it affects that substantially outweigh the restriction's benefits to the development's residents, or (iii)) violates a fundamental public policy. Moreover, the restriction must be viewed not by reference to facts that are specific to the objecting homeowner, but by reference to the common interest development as a whole.

If the pickup truck prohibition had not previously been litigated and were tried today under the Nahrstedt standard, it might produce a different result. Until that happens, the Bernardo Villas decision stands and blanket pickup truck prohibitions are invalid.

Reasonable Restrictions. Pickups used as work trucks with signage, racks and tools can still be banned. Associations can also impose reasonable restrictions on the size and types of vehicles. RVs, tow trucks, tractor-trailer rigs, and monster trucks can all be restricted. Such vehicles are not normal and accepted means of personal transportation. Golf carts can be restricted. It depends on the community. Some retirement communities allow them and some do not. Each community can decide for itself what makes sense for their association.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC