The First Lady
Adams Stirling PLC
  California's Leader in Community Association Law May 6, 2020

First Lady. How does a board direct the president to stop referring to his wife as the "First Lady"? -Anonymous

RESPONSE: I laughed out lout at this one. Surely, your president isn't being serious. If so, it sounds like someone is taking his role as president too far. If it's annoying, politely ask him to stop. If he refuses, evaluate his performance as president. If he's doing a good job — live with the annoyance. If he's doing a bad job as president, it's time for the board to appoint one of your other directors to that position.

Dark Ages. One of our board members does not have a cell phone, no laptop or home internet access, and no voicemail capability for her home phone. She is unable to participate in our virtual board meetings. She maintains that internet access, cell phone, and long distance calling plans are not required to be on the board. Any recommendations? -David J.

RESPONSE: I didn't think such people existed anymore. If your technophobe director wants to participate in board meetings, she must make an effort to do so. My 87-year-old mother is a whiz at texting, Facetime, and emails, not to mention regular phone calls. If she can do it, your technophobe can enter the 21st Century too. If not, it may be time for her to resign and make room for someone who can be productive on the board.

Guideline vs. Law. Some people on our board say the Davis-Stirling Act is just a guideline and others say it’s the law. -Georgeann H.

RESPONSE: It's the law. If your association was created to manage a common-interest development, you are subject to the Davis-Stirling Act. See Association Defined and
Hierarchy of Documents.

Suddenly Astute. Our board has been using Zoom to conduct meetings. Our open meetings are live-streamed and then posted on our YouTube channel. It's becoming obvious that one of our board members who is not exactly known for much brilliance during meetings has suddenly become very astute. The suspicion is that she has someone with her at home coaching her remarks and votes. If true, this would be extremely concerning conduct, especially during executive sessions. Any insight on how to handle it? -Melinda A.

RESPONSE: Find out who is coaching her and recruit that person onto the board. If you are video conferencing, you should be able to see and hear if someone is coaching her. Even if the coach is off-camera, your less-than-brilliant board member will have to look to her coach for direction before she speaks. That should be obvious. For executive sessions, make a statement at the beginning of the meeting about everything being confidential and ask each participant to affirm that no one else is in the room.

Political Signs. Can the HOA prevent me from putting a political sign in my front yard? -Alan E.

RESPONSE: No. However, your association can set number, size, material, and time restrictions. See Political Signs.


Architectural Committee. Does the architectural committee HAVE to meet during COVID-19? -Donna W.

RESPONSE: Only if owners are submitting architectural applications. Otherwise, submittals might be deemed automatically approved. Check your governing documents; there should be a provision that requires prompt deadlines for review, as required by Civil Code §4765(a)(1). Most governing documents grant automatic approval of a submittal if the architectural committee does not respond within so many days.

Balcony Inspections. We are a planned unit development consisting of 24 attached units and 90 detached units. Some of our attached units have raised decks off the master bedroom. Are we subject to the inspection provision in the statute? -Bryan S.

RESPONSE: Planned developments are not subject to the Civil Code §5551. I'm assuming the attached units are townhouses. Because your association is a planned development, each owner owns the structure and the lot on which it was built. That means he/she owns their balcony. Unless your governing documents state otherwise, owners, not the association, will be responsible for inspecting, maintaining, repairing and replacing their raised decks.

Condo Plan. How can a homeowner get a copy of the original condo plan? -Kelly S.

RESPONSE: It’s been my experience that the condominium plan is the one document that seems to get lost most often. It should have been recorded, either separately or attached to the original CC&Rs. A title company should be able to locate your association's condo plan. If it still can’t be found, the DRE might have a copy on file.

EV Charging Station. Our HOA has units which have their own private garages with breaker panels with 220V service, so it is a very minor matter to hook up a (Level 2) EV charging station. Do they need to submit an architectural application before installing a charging station? -Stephanie C.

RESPONSE: If your development consists of single-family homes, I wouldn't think so. If it consists of townhouses, an application should be submitted, since it involves running new electrical lines from the panel. The association will want to know that the person obtained a permit and will use a licensed and insured electrician. If done improperly, it could lead to a fire that impacts other units.


I am on the board of directors of the Foundation for Community Association Research and a member of the Aging Infrastructures Task Force. The Foundation completed a major study on aging infrastructures and published a report that will be invaluable for boards of directors, managers and reserve specialists.

The nationwide survey revealed that more than 80% of respondents encountered unanticipated infrastructure issues over a recent 3-year period. More than one-third experienced plumbing or electrical system issues that were not identified in their reserve studies. Another third had unidentified problems with roofs and sheathing, building envelopes and structure, and recreational facilities.

The report, Breaking Point, is in an easy-to-read format and deals with funding issues, reserves, insurance, and communications with the membership. The Foundation also produced a promotional video about the project.


Harsh Language. We received County Covid-19 Guidelines. Our president sent an HOA-wide notice using harsher language than the Health Department to "impress upon" members to obey the guidelines. He unilaterally sent it out as a Board-approved document, affixing all board member names to it. The other board members never saw, discussed, or approved this policy beforehand. His justification was that the president speaks for the board. -R.K.

RESPONSE: It's true that the president speaks for the board, but that's when the board has something to say. In this case, the board did not speak. Board presidents should be careful not to overstep their authority. 

Covid-19 Notice? Do we need to inform members that some residents in the park have had the coronavirus, been hospitalized, recovered and released? -Barbara S.
RESPONSE: There is no legal requirement that you inform the community. I don't see any real benefit to passing on the news. If you do report it, do not reveal any names.

COUNTY ORDERS. Below is a highlight of changes to county restrictions. It should be noted that some counties do not have their A-Teams writing their releases. Their information is either buried or nonsensical (or both).

NorCal Counties. The City of Fresno's new order extends to May 31, 2020 and expands essential businesses, but gives no guidance on what outdoor activities are allowed with social distancing. There are specifics as to parks, with all city parks closed on May 9, 10, 23, 24 & 25.

Tulare County updated their order, making outdoor activities permissible with social distancing and no shared equipment with persons outside the same household. A facial-covering requirement was added. The order is still poorly written and vague.

Calaveras County released FAQs that clarifies that tennis and swimming are allowed with social distancing. It also made a point of indicating that outdoor recreation facilities not owned by the County could remain closed if they so chose.

Sutter and Yuba switched to guidance from Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and have moved away from essential v. non-essential terminology. The list of low-risk businesses/activities includes restaurants, retailers, shopping malls, gyms/fitness studios, salons/spas/tattoo parlors, libraries, playgrounds, athletic fields/non-contact school sports, parks, walking paths, trails and dog parks. The guidelines include limiting numbers, social distancing, regularly disinfecting, providing sanitizer and posting protocols. While Governor Newsom criticized these actions, he did not say if he would take any action to enforce his stay-at-home order.

SoCal Counties. Kern County rescinded its April 2, 2020 health order which defined a variety of types of business closures, including gyms and fitness centers, and had a county definition for gatherings and social distancing. The rescission means that the county has relaxed its restrictions to follow the Governor’s stay-at-home order, which is expected to be updated this month. The April 16th amended health order is still in effect, which has requirements for appropriate levels of PPE for EMS response calls and guidelines of PPE and face coverings at healthcare facilities.

Santa Barbara amended existing orders for health requirements for individuals entering critical infrastructure facilities and licensed care facilities, to include misdemeanor language that violation of the health orders are punishable by $1,000 fine or imprisonment.

The City and County of Los Angeles have not loosened their restrictions. The County made administrative changes to its guidelines for multifamily residences. Revised Safer at Home order for City of LA 5/4, no material changes, removal of prior obsolete language. In effect until 5/15.

Updated Chart. For a list of county restrictions and links to their orders, see County Orders as of 5-6-20. If we missed anything, please contact us.

I love your newsletters and your website is a wealth of information. -Kelly R.
Hi, you all. I really appreciate the chart you publish showing the status of permissions for various state counties. One thing, though. Since these permissions are becoming more fluid, how about a “date published” on the top of each page so everyone can see at a glance how current their information is. -Gerald P.

RESPONSE: Good suggestion. Jason and Megan added a "date published" to the chart's footer.
Our health officials this week made a major distinction between “family” and “household” when we had a large spike due to Easter gatherings by “families.” Forty-six new cases. It was pointed out that while family conjures up an extended group of related members, it is “household” that matters. It is the household, solely contained, that counts when we are guarding against the “silent killer’s” reach. -Marilyn B.

Thank you for your informative newsletter. -Bryan S.

I have been reading your newsletter for years, and it is greatly appreciated. During this time, the funnies put a smile on my face. -Audrey M.

Having served as an officer of our HOA on and off for many years, I have found your newsletters very helpful (and entertaining!). Thank you so much for your and your firm's work in helping and supporting HOAs throughout the State. -Lyle B.

Boards can contact us for friendly,
professional advice.

Adrian J. Adams, Esq.
Founder & Managing Partner
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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