Assembly and Meetings. Effective January 1, 2018, associations cannot prohibit members and residents from peacefully assembling or meeting with other members, residents, or their respective invitees or guests for purposes relating to (i) CID living, (ii) association elections, (iii) legislation, (iv) elections to public office, or (v) the initiative, referendum, or recall processes. (Civ. Code § 4515(b)(1).)
Public Officials, Candidates and HOA Representatives. Associations cannot prohibit members or residents from inviting public officials, candidates for public office or representatives from homeowner organizations to meet with members, residents, invitees and guests to speak on any matter of public interest. “Homeowner organizations” would include such groups as Community Associations Institute (CAI), California Association of Community Managers (CACM), and Education Community for Homeowners (ECHO), but also could be broadly interpreted to include any organization related to or involving homeowner associations. (Civ. Code § 4515(b)(2).)
Matters of Public Interest. Any “matters of public interest” would include CID living, social, political, educational, and, to the extent it would overlap any of those categories, religious purposes. However, while meeting and speaking about religious issues in the context of politics, society or education would be permitted, exercising religious rights, such as prayer sessions or religious services, would likely fall outside the scope of this statute. (Civ. Code § 4515(b)(2).)
Use of Common Area. Associations cannot prohibit members or residents from using the common areas, such as a lawn, lobby or a clubhouse, for purposes discussed above. Further, members cannot be charged a fee or required to make a deposit, buy insurance, or pay premiums or deductibles on the associations’ insurance policy when the common area is being used such purposes. A private home also may be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions, with the owner’s consent. (Civ. Code § 4515(b)(3); (c).)
Canvassing and Petitioning. Associations cannot prohibit members or residents from canvassing or petitioning (1) members, (2) the association’s board, and (3) residents to participate in permitted activities (assembling, meeting, speaking with public figures, etc.). (Civ. Code § 4515(b)(4).)
Distributing Flyers. Members cannot be prohibited from distributing or circulating, without permission, information about (1) CID living, (2) association elections, (3) legislation, (4) election to public office, (5) the initiative, referendum, or recall processes, or (6) other issues of concern to members and residents. This is by far the broadest and most overreaching portion of the new law. The scope of information which may be distributed, without permission, is effectively unlimited. It need only be any matter which concerns a member or resident. (Civ. Code § 4515(b)(5).)
Reasonable Restrictions. While the above matters cannot be prohibited, they can be regulated as provided by statute.
- Peaceful Assembly and Meeting. Meetings must be peaceful. (§ 4515(b)(1).) Associations can prohibit violence, threats, excessive noise, or other non-peaceful assemblies and meetings.
- Scope of Meetings and Speaking Topics. While the scope allowed for meetings (§ 4515(b)(1)&(2)), canvassing and petitioning (§ 4515(b)(4)) are broad, they are not unlimited. Associations can adopt rules restricting such activities to the purposes expressly allowed by statute. While the same could be done as to distributing and circulating of information under § 4515(b)(5), it would be less effective since the authorized subject matter, issues of concern to members and residents, is effectively unlimited.
- Reasonable Manner and Hours. Associations can restrict the assemblies, meetings, canvassing, petitioning, and distributing materials to reasonable manners and times. Although mailing is unrestricted, canvassing private residences can be restricted to reasonable hours. Members can slide flyers under front doors, door mats, or behind screen doors, and hand out flyers but should not affix flyers to common area walls, doors, and windows or placing them on vehicles.
Election Rules. An association’s election rules may require amendment to conform to allow members to meet to discuss association elections or recall processes and distributing or circulating information about same.
Penalties for Violations. Members or residents who are prevented from engaging in activities protected by this new law may seek injunctive relief and imposition of a civil penalty of up to $500 in civil or small claims court. (Civ. Code § 4515(d).)
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