Living in a Prison
Adams Stirling PLC

  California's Leader in Community Association LawApril 2, 2020

: I feel like I'm living in a prison. The board is telling us what we can and can't do. They closed our facilities and are threatening to fine owners. This is ridiculous! What can we do to stop them? -Had Enough!

RESPONSE: I know people are frustrated but boards are doing what they are supposed to. Your volunteer directors are the ones with fiduciary duties and have, unfortunately, been saddled with the task of managing the crisis created by the coronavirus.

Projected Deaths. If you've been following the news, deaths in the U.S. are now projected at up to 240,000 over the next few weeks. For California to avoid becoming the next New York, everyone must stay home and not interact with others. That means no gyms, swimming pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, basketball courts, restaurants, dinner parties, etc. It's painful but necessary.

Notices, Letters & Meetings. Our firm has been helping boards (i) prepare notices closing recreational facilities, (ii) send cease and desist letters to owners behaving badly, (iii) send letters putting members on notice when a resident has become infected with the virus, (iv) prepare guidelines for handling delinquencies caused by layoffs, and (v) create guidelines for virtual meetings. I suspect many directors would gladly step off the board and let someone else handle the crisis.

Emergency Rules. Because some people seem to have trouble with the concept of social distancing, we have been developing emergency rules for associations. Boards are allowed to adopt rules to address an imminent threat to public health or safety without the normal 28-day noticed waiting period. (Civ. Code §4360(d).)

RECOMMENDATION: Boards faced with residents behaving badly should consider adopting emergency rules for their community. Members upset that boards are too restrictive will cry the loudest when the virus hits their community. They will then accuse boards of being too lax. Boards of directors needing our assistance with notices, letters, guidelines, and emergency rules can contact us.


Feedback. You are correct that having inspections inside homes is an unnecessary risk at the moment. Most termite control operators have already suspended all interior services.

However, approximately 65%-80% of termite treatments are done to building exteriors and putting off termite control can lead to unnecessary deferred maintenance costs down the road.

Also, because most pest control operators are expecting a surge of work once the lockdown is lifted, it is very likely pricing will be an issue when all of a sudden requests for inspections and treatments peak.

In many cases, it would be better to start the exterior termite inspections and treatments now to get on warranty, stave of termite infestations, and lock-in pricing now rather than have the unexpected surprise of surge pricing. -Isaac Camacho, Accurate Termite Control

RESPONSE: I agree. External inspections and treatments can and should continue. They protect an association's infrastructure and don't require social interaction. CDC guidelines can be followed so that no one is put at risk and properties are protected.


Pepper Spray. We have a homeowner who runs her water at all hours, loudly slams her door when she leaves around 6:30, stomps around her unit at all hours and shouts and threatens with pepper spray if another resident comes near her, especially in the elevator. The police have been called, letters written to her, but don't know what else to do. Help! -Dee

RESPONSE: Pepper spray will not kill the coronavirus, but it could land your homeowner in a lawsuit. A cease and desist letter from a law firm is in order. 

Public Bathrooms. I live in a 55+ RV park. They closed our pools, but left the restroom/shower area open. It is connected to the pool area. All of our RVs are self-contained so it seems that the restrooms/showers, at the very least, should be closed. -Deborah P.

RESPONSE: I agree. Close the restrooms. Otherwise, they will be a source of contamination that could spread the virus through your park. As a 55+ community, you can least afford to have the virus catch fire in your association.

Pressure Washing. The HOA received a homeowner urgent request that the common areas immediately be "disinfected" by pressure washing. We do not find much guidance on the CA State website for this. What do you recommend? Our greatest concern is liability issues for the HOA concerning COVID-19. -Marla N.

RESPONSE: I can't imagine what you would pressure wash. If it's sidewalks, parking lots and building exteriors, that would be a bit much. Close all of your facilities and keep them closed for now.

Free WiFi. I have a new board member wanting to install community-wide Wifi. How do you feel about free wi-fi in an HOA? -David S.

RESPONSE: Free is never free. Plus, I cringe at the security problems it creates--hacking, identity theft, viruses, etc. When I travel, I NEVER log on to public (free) WiFi. It can be as deadly as the coronavirus.

Teleconference Meetings. We teleconference our meetings. Not only can residents listen in, they can participate in the homeowners forum portion, and sometimes we open it up to the audience during agenda discussions. -Janet L.

More Tax Info. No, no, no, the banner associated with link actually reads: News COVID-19: Tax file and pay deadlines extended to July 15, 2020. Get updates for California taxpayers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more and the IRS link reads: Tax Deadline Changed The deadlines to FILE and PAY federal income taxes are extended to July 15, 2020. -George H.

RESPONSE: Everyone--talk to your tax preparer and check official websites.

More Goats. I don't agree that weed abatement should be a reserve expense. Since weeds grow every year, taking care of them should be an annual activity and should be budgeted as an annual operational expense, not a reserve item. Reserve fund items should be items which happen less frequently than every year (replace a clubhouse, large fence, etc). -Bob F.

t depends on how often the goats are used. If they are rented annually, the expense is operational. If it's less often, it's a reserve item. A more interesting question--if the association owns the goats, should they reserve for replacing them?

Large Parties. I am the president of our association of 219 homes. We have large numbers of residents outside partying, drinking, gathering in groups with large groups of kids all day and night. People are concerned about their own safety and the noise levels when they try to work from home. Is there really anything the board can do if residents just don’t care about the social distancing order? -Heather

RESPONSE: This is where emergency rules need to be adopted and lawyer letters sent to residents who seem to have a death wish. Contact us if you need help.

HOA Fees. We had an owner request that her monthly HOA fees be deferred. Are we allowed to do this and if not, why given the current economic situation? -Rick F.

RESPONSE: You can work out payment plans with those who need it, but you should not waive assessments. See my Newsletter of March 26.

Severe Allergies. About the coughing...I have severe allergies and airway reflux. Both cause chronic coughing. I've had this for over 50 years. I"m not contagious or ill, I just have a chronic cough. I know it alarms people but it is not something I can control. When I'm on my patio, people see and hear me cough. I get dirty looks. I thought about having cards printed that I can hand out to reassure people but I don't think they would touch the cards if I try to hand them out. -Pamela L.

Electronic Voting. How could we could agitate to get the laws updated to allow for electronic voting and online meetings –permanently? Ballot inspectors aren’t looking forward to opening double envelope ballots with layers of spit on the flaps… this year or in the future… -Brad P.

RESPONSE: One of our associations has already had their inspector of elections resign. I expect others may do the same. Someone needs to have a heart-to-heart talk with Marjorie Murray. Her organization has repeatedly opposed elections by acclamation and electronic voting.

    Marjorie Murray
    Center for California Homeowner Association Law
    3758 Grand Avenue, #56
    Oakland, CA 94610
    [email protected]
    (855) 648-4043

Laundry Facility. Our condo has a small laundry facility. It has 8 dryers and 8 washers. Should we close the laundry due to the Covid-19 virus. It does provide cleaning facilities for 144 units that do not have washers and dryers. -James T.

RESPONSE: That's a problem--people need to wash clothes. Contact us about adopting emergency rules.

Statewide Order. In your article dated 3/31/20 there is a reference to Governor Newsom’s order that shared courts in housing community are to be closed. Just to be clear is that a statewide order including San Diego? We have some homeowners wanting to use our tennis court which the board closed. -Ben C.

RESPONSE: I'm not sure about San Francisco, but I'm pretty sure San Diego is part of California. That means a statewide order would apply to San Diego. Keep your recreational facilities closed.

Zoom Meetings. We have three homeowner hearings coming up. All meetings are now on Zoom. Our office manager will contact each of the three homeowners to let them know we are using Zoom. They will receive an invitation and then can either call in or connect through their computer. I assume during this COV-19 crisis, hearings by teleconference will be deemed the best way to proceed? -Sue B.

RESPONSE: Yes. Video and teleconferenced meetings are the only acceptable means for now.

Zoom Limitations. We are a master association with 1,963 members. Our monthly board meetings are attended by 20-25 members. We plan to hold our first virtual board meeting using the free version of Zoom. With the limitation of 100 participants using this format, can we legally restrict access to the meeting to the first 100 individuals that sign in? Or, are we obligated to pay for an extended service that would accommodate all 1,963 members, even if only the same expected 20-25 people actually log in for the meeting? -Boyce S.

RESPONSE: In the current climate, I suspect you will have more than your usual 20-25 members joining your meeting. You should pay the Zoom fee so your meeting is open to all members. I should add a note of caution, limit your notice to members only. If your login information is disseminated publicly, you may encounter "Zoom Bombing" where non-members join your meeting display obscene material or do other stupid things. We are all in a learning curve. Report back your experience with a large-scale Zoom meeting.

The quicker people get serious about the virus, the quicker we can return to work. If you know someone who should receive our newsletter, add their email address here: Newsletter Sign-Up


Good Morning, I am so glad I went through my spam and started releasing these newsletters. They are fantastic! Great sense of humor! Keep sending! -Shelie X.

Good Morning. I love your newsletter. I read it religiously. -David S.

Your letter regarding shoes in the hallway could not have come at a more appropriate time. We had a person doing this. To solve the problem, we printed out the newsletter, highlighted the article in pink and stuffed it in her shoes. Low and behold, the next morning the shoes and shoe rack were gone!! Love your newsletter!!! -Stephen L.

It’s almost worth having COVID19 around to get a DAILY newsletter! Seriously, it’s both informative and humorous. Regarding the shoes in the hall issue, I keep a spray bottle of alcohol in my car and spray the soles of my shoes when I get back in it. -Nancy H.

RESPONSE: The alcohol part makes sense. I keep several bottles on hand.

I want to sincerely thank you for the expert advice and information you freely give. I've been reading your newsletter for 6 years and look forward to every issue. -Boyce S.

I’m sorry to admit, with so much in my inbox, I often didn’t read your newsletters. But now when I see it in my inbox, I read the whole thing immediately, and quite often end up laughing out loud. Thank you for bringing a bright spot to these somber times. -Tracy B.

I just have to say THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! For your information and badly needed humor!!!!! I read and learn from all of your newsletters! -Sandra C.

Boards can contact us for friendly,
professional advice.

Adrian J. Adams, Esq.
Founder & Managing Partner

Because we invested in technology that allows us to operate during emergencies, ADAMS | STIRLING continues to respond to client needs when others cannot.

If you need anything,
call us at
(800) 464-2817
or send an email.
Boards needing assistance adopting emergency rules related to the coronavirus can

ADAMS|STIRLING Litigation Department handles all HOA litigation needs, including:
Contract disputes
Disability claims
Easement issues
Election disputes
Employment claims
Insurance bad faith
Litigation defense
Mold problems
Noise violations
Pet issues
Property damage
Rules enforcement
Second-hand smoke
Water damage

When your association needs assistance, Contact Us.

Contact us for a proposal for legal services.


Contact us about amending your CC&Rs and Bylaws.


Our newsletter is for advertising and general information only. Readers should consult legal counsel.


Articles may be reprinted provided there are no changes and the following is included:

Reprinted from by ADAMS | STIRLING PLC

If you know someone who should receive our newsletter, add their email address here:
 Newsletter Sign-up