Squatters. Foreclosed residences are often empty for months or years at a time because banks fail to diligently return them to the market. When that happens, squatters sometimes take possession. A squatter is someone who unlawfully occupies an empty residence. With the exception of staffed security entrances that utilize "authorized" access procedures, associations cannot deny a person's access to a residence, even if they believe the person is a squatter.
Except as otherwise provided in law, an order of the court, or an order pursuant to a final and binding arbitration decision, an association may not deny a member or occupant physical access to the member’s or occupant’s separate interest, either by restricting access through the common area to the separate interest, or by restricting access solely to the separate interest. (Civ. Code § 4510)
A similar provision can be found in landlord-tenant laws (Civ. Code 789.3(b)(1)) which includes penalties up to $100 per day if a landlord locks out a tenant. Even though your association does not own the unit, California courts have analogized associations to landlords and held them to the same standards. (Frances T v. Village Green.)
Police & Courts. Calling the police to escort a squatter off the property is not an option since it is a civil matter not criminal and the police will refuse to get involved. Going to court to evict a squatter via an "unlawful detainer" action will also fail if the association is not the owner of the property and, therefore, lacks standing.
Common Areas. Squatters can, however, be denied access to common area facilities as can delinquent owners.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.