Mentally Unstable Owners
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  California's Leader in Community Association LawMay 13, 2020
MENTALLY UNSTABLE
OWNERS

Compulsive Watering. We have a homeowner who is mentally unstable, has frequent outbursts of abusive language, and compulsively waters common area to the detriment and destruction of the property. She will water for sometimes 5 hours, going over and over the same areas. We all pay for the water she wastes. Can we get a court order to keep her from watering, stealing our money? -Lori C.

RESPONSE: Dealing with a mentally ill resident is one of the hardest things for boards to handle. Yes, you can go to court but it's been my experience that judges are reluctant to issue orders unless you can show that you made every effort to resolve the matter on your own.

Disciplinary Action. Even though the following will likely not work on a person with mental illness, have management send a warning letter, followed by a request for internal dispute resolution, followed by a hearing and fines, then a lawyer letter threatening legal action. If none of this stops her behavior, then go to court for injunctive relief. Even a court order may not work. Depending on the level of her illness, she may not be able to help herself. 

Plumber. Another possible solution is to talk to a plumber to see if her use of water can be restricted, perhaps with a timer for particular times of the day and/or a restriction on the volume of water from the spigot. If you can't get access, perhaps that is what you seek in court — access to her patio to make plumbing changes to restrict her excessive watering.


Cyber Bullies. How does a board handle cyber bullies who inundate directors and management with a string of emails complaining about closure of common area amenities and tree trimming? This homeowner sends countless emails demanding immediate attention without any regard to committee schedules and board meetings.

She is angry and causing a rift within our community as she copies other residents who chime in. Her actions are sucking the oxygen out of the room with no end in sight. -David C.

RESPONSE: I put cyber bullies in the same category as the mentally ill. Tell your compulsive emailer that her emails will be blocked by directors and management. If she wants to send a written communication, she can put it in a letter and send it to management. Let her know her letter(s) will go in board packets and will be read by directors once a month.

Your compulsive emailer will only gain traction with members if they think the board is not doing its job. To head that off, send monthly newsletters to the community updating them on maintenance projects and anything else of interest. Send additional letters as needed about special projects.

If members are satisfied the board is taking care of business, your emailer won't be able to stir up very much trouble. She will always have a small following of malcontents but there is nothing you can do about them. Just make sure the membership as a whole is satisfied with the job you're doing.

Restraining Order. In an unpublished case last month, an HOA resident obtained a restraining order against another resident, due in part to what the court determined were numerous unwanted emails about the plaintiff (~300 over 7 months) “on issues that were mundane and designed to simply inflict distress/harassment.” The trial court ordered the defendant not to harass or contact the plaintiff.

Guests and the ADA. Our clubhouse and recreational areas are only open to members and their guests. Would this qualify as inviting the public into the development? -Bob C.

RESPONSE: No, members and guests are not defined as the public. A residential common interest development is a private community and normally not subject to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Only when an association invites the public into the community, such as holding swimming meets, setting up polling stations, etc., does an association become subject to the Act, and only in those areas where the public is invited. 

Commercial & Mixed-Use CIDs. Commercial CIDs that deal with the public, such as doctors, lawyers, retail outlets and food outlets, are subject to  ADA requirements. The same is true for the commercial elements of mixed-use associations.

RECOMMENDATION: If boards are unclear about what laws apply to their community, they should have legal counsel provide them with a written opinion.

SECURITY CAMERA
ISSUES

26 Cameras. We use ADT and have 26 cameras. We use a phone app and any resident can check the cams. Works great for when deliveries are made and you want to see who's at the main entrance before a resident buzzes them in. -Joseph L.

Petty Criminals. Our condo building has experienced its share of break-ins over the years, but we had two in the past two weeks! We have 12 cameras and, in my experience, burglars never care about being caught on camera. Now they're wearing masks (which I assume is to comply with  coronavirus orders). Luckily, they have itchy faces and constantly pull down their masks on camera. One even took time to adjust her hair in our lobby mirror. They are petty criminals who target mailboxes and unlocked vehicles. The latest pair had knowledge of how to hot-wire our intercom system to open the front door. We are concerned about the situation escalating. -Paul Y.

RESPONSE: It's time to upgrade your security system. Also look at your lighting and gate controls. Members generally support increased security and will pay a small special assessment to make their homes safer.

Children on Camera
. My HOA has many security cameras, some of which are trained on the pool area which is used by families including children. Some members have expressed concern that unregulated access could lead to these videos or photos being uploaded to the internet, such as porn sites, or downloaded to personal computers. To protect the HOA and its employees, is it a good idea to have the videos protected by passwords and have policies which restrict who can view them and under what circumstances? -Rudy K.

RESPONSE: You should talk to a security and IT consultants about how best to protect your cameras from abuse. Also talk to legal counsel about your concerns.

Hot Tub Camera. Can we post a security camera in the hot tub area? -Debra

RESPONSE: Yes. A number of our clients over the years have installed them, along with signage, to discourage sexual activity and alcohol consumption in hot tubs. In my experience, members do not like the idea of getting into a spa with other bodily fluids floating in the water. You should talk to a security consultant about camera placement to minimize intrusion while still accomplishing your goals.


REOPENING
CLUBHOUSES

Clubhouses. Since many associations have clubhouses, what restrictions do you foresee for using the facilities? -Lisa P.

RESPONSE: I don’t believe any state or county orders have yet  issued guidelines for clubhouses. If they don't, boards can adopt their own to fit the needs of their community.

Senior Communities. Senior communities will be most vulnerable, so they will want to take special precautions, such as installing sanitizer dispensers at key points around the clubhouse, handing out masks to anyone who does not have one, spacing out furniture to ensure social distancing, removing chairs and small tables where people might want to play cards or assemble puzzles, regularly wiping down surfaces, propping open doors so people don't have to touch handles
(don't prop open fire doors), putting signs on elevator and restroom doors limiting the number of people in each, budgeting more money for thorough cleaning each night (instead of just picking up trash), installing higher grade air filters, not supplying coffee or other drinks that require people to touch the same surfaces. Some might want to take the temperature of people entering their clubhouses. There may be other measures appropriate to particular clubhouses that boards will want to implement.

Dining Areas. Clubhouses with dining areas will want to limit the number of people in the area, space out tables, remove all menus and condiments from tables, etc. For guidelines specific to restaurants, see what has been published for restaurants in your area and follow them.


Family Picnic. A neighbor received a letter chastising her family for having a picnic in our courtyard. They were socially distancing and all had masks if anyone else came out. Isn't this a bit too crazy? -Michell

RESPONSE: Common sense seems to be in short supply. Household units are already living together. Telling them they cannot sit together outside is a bit much. That's as bad as Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti refusing to allow anyone over 65 to play golf. Or having to drive to the next county to get a haircut. Restrictions need to make sense; otherwise, people will ignore them.



COUNTY ORDERS. Many health department orders contain detailed requirements. Boards should carefully review them and consult with legal counsel on how best to open their facilities.

Because so many counties are in the midst of updating their health orders, we will wait until Friday to summarize changes affecting associations.

Updated Chart. An updated chart is posted on the website. If we missed anything, please contact us.



I love your newsletter. So much news to keep us current and legal along with bits of great humor. -Vivian H.

Regarding the treasurer working for the management company, the board has another option. They could merely appoint a different treasurer. -Dan T.

RESPONSE: Good catch. That's an obvious option I missed.

As a former board member, I appreciate your helpful newsletters, and now more than ever. -Wienke T.

I love your newsletter. Thanks again. You are so informative and helpful. -Lisa P.

As always, stupendous service and thoughtful guidance through these stressful times. Much appreciated. -David B.

Love these newsletters. We've been avid readers for years now. Your newsletters are incredibly informative, and we've learned much from them over the years. Thank you very much for this service to your/our communities. You and your newsletters are much appreciated. -Larry M.

Thank you for your continuing efforts to make sense from this ball of rubber bands. Or as the Governor would say, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” -Bob C.


Boards can contact us for friendly,
professional advice.


Adrian J. Adams, Esq.
Founder & Managing Partner
ADAMS|STIRLING PLC

DISCLAIMER. Our newsletter provides commentary based on sketchy information we receive from readers. From time to time, we add a little humor. Some find it amusing. Others are appalled. Some readers are excited when they score free legal advice. Not so. Our newsletter provides commentary only, not legal advice. You need to pay real money for an attorney to review all the facts and give you a legal opinion. We do that too, but you have to actually hire us. It's okay, we're friendly. You can call us. Keep in mind we are corporate counsel to associations only.

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