Adams Stirling PLC
  California's Leader in Community Association Law March 28, 2021

QUESTION: Once again an informative newsletter. On the subject of pets, we have a homeowner with quite a few snakes in glass tanks. Are snakes allowed and how many is reasonable? –Gary S.

RESPONSE: Associations are not required to allow snakes as pets. There are five classes of animals on the planet: mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. The Davis-Stirling Act states that members are allowed to have at least one domesticated bird, cat, dog, or aquatic animal kept in an aquarium. (Civ. Code §4715.)

Mammals and Birds. Cats and dogs fit into the mammal category and associations must allow them, provided they are domesticated. Small birds such as canaries, parakeets, cockatiels, and parrots are considered domesticated and are acceptable as pets. Large birds such as crows, vultures, turkeys, and eagles are not.

Amphibians and Reptiles. The two categories not provided for in the statute are amphibians and reptiles. I don't know of anyone who keeps amphibians as pets. This includes salamanders, frogs, and toads. The reptile category consists of turtles, snakes, lizards, alligators and crocodiles. Small turtles are harmless and I'm not aware of any associations that ban them. Lizards such as geckos, iguanas and bearded dragons are popular with those who like those sorts of things. Putting them on your shoulder while attending board meetings is generally frowned upon. Alligators and crocodiles do not make good pets. You could lose an arm trying to pet them.  

Fish are not listed as a category in the Davis-Stirling Act. Instead, it states that homeowners are allowed to have "aquatic animals." That clearly includes fish, some of which are spectacularly beautiful. That brings us to snakes. Sea snakes qualify as aquatic animals, of which there are 69 species. They have paddle-like tails for swimming but lack gills and must surface to breath. Homeowners are allowed to have them in their aquariums.

Snakes. The water moccasin, also known as the cottonmouth, is semi-aquatic. Water moccasins are venomous and their bites can be lethal. The problem with water moccasins and other "water snakes" is that they are semi-aquatic and are not confined to water. They can leave their tanks and slither into adjoining condominiums. Escaping confinement is true for all semi-aquatic and non-aquatic snakes, as well as live mice kept to feed to snakes. Both snakes and mice have a knack for finding their way into walls and ceilings, or out open windows and doors, into the common areas and neighboring units.

If your resident has tanks of snakes, concern is understandable. No one wants to see a large black snake emerge from under their couch or open a closet door and find a python. Pythons can grow to 23 feet and weigh up to 250 pounds. A large python can easily strangle or crush a person to death.

Other than sea-snakes, boards can prohibit reptiles generally, and snakes in particular, as pets. Boards can address the issue by adopting rules. Such rules do not have to grandfather existing snakes. (Villa de Las Palmas v. Terifaj.) Snake handlers can stay, but their slippery, slithering friends can be ordered out.

Manager Signs Correspondence: In our association, correspondence from the board is signed by the manager. Is this correct?

ANSWER: There is nothing illegal about the manager signing correspondence. The manager is an agent of the association who works at the direction of the board of directors.

Some boards have the manager sign on their behalf. Some boards sign their correspondence "The Board" or "Board of Directors." Others send it under the President's name. It's a matter of preference how boards sign their correspondence, and it can change from board to board. When it comes to correspondence to vendors, more often than not, letters are signed by the manager.

Balcony Special Assessment. We have 37 units but only 15 have balconies. Can the board levy a special assessment for balcony certification only on the 15 owners with balconies? -Star S.

ANSWER: Unless your CC&Rs specifically make condominium owners with balconies responsible for the structural elements of their balconies (which is unlikely), you cannot impose an assessment on the 15 owners with balconies; it must be levied on all 37 owners.

Inspect Stairs. I'm surprised that the new inspection law does not include any exterior wood-frame stairs that access second-floor units. A collapsing staircase can kill/maim just as surely as a balcony or deck. -Hank J.

ANSWER: Someone has misled you. Stairs are included in the statute. "Load-bearing means those components that extend beyond the exterior walls of the building to deliver structural loads to the building from decks, balconies, stairways, walkways, and their railings, that have a walking surface more than six feet above ground level, that are designed for human occupancy or use, and that are supported in whole or in substantial part by wood or wood-based products." (Civ. Code §5551(a)(3).) Exterior stairways need to be inspected. See Elevated Structure Inspections.

President Gets 2 Votes? Is it true that the president’s vote weighs heavier in a tie vote? My board has 4 directors. What happens when the vote is 2 to 2? One director said, in that case, the president’s vote counts as two. –Elsa
ANSWER: No, it's not true. Under no circumstances does the president get two votes. In his classic book Animal Farm (a must-read for everyone), George Orwell introduced the concept that everyone is equal but some are more equal than others. When it comes to the board of directors, the president is not more equal than other directors — all directors are equal. To avoid deadlocked 2 to 2 votes, you should amend your documents to create an odd-numbered board of either 3 or 5 directors.
Small HOA Boards. We are a small HOA with only 17 units. We have a hard time filling 5 director seats as required by the bylaws. Is it okay to amend our bylaws to have only 3 directors? –Eric C.
ANSWER: Yes, you can amend your bylaws. With only 17 units, you should easily obtain enough votes. Your articles of incorporation might also need to be amended — they sometimes address the number of directors. If you need assistance drafting and recording an amendment, contact us.

The next video in our series of 2-Minute Videos describes when and how associations can hold virtual board and membership meetings.

We take a look at the differences between speakerphone meetings, teleconferences, and video conferences, and what must be done to meet Davis-Stirling requirements. 

  Watch: Virtual Meetings


Kudos. Thank you for all you do for California HOAs! Faithfully yours, Celeste H.

Joking. I want to thank you for your sense of humor — it's the only thing that keeps us condo owners sane! Though I don't know what is funnier — the things you say, or the people that don't know you're joking! You rock! –Deanna F.

RESPONSE: In our industry, keeping your sanity requires a sense of humor (and a good lawyer on retainer).

Marjorie Murray #1. Marjorie Murray may be the one coming up with ridiculous mandates such as the new election laws, but she is not the one voting them into law. Please tell your readers how to find their local legislators and to complain to them. -Paul C.

RESPONSE: Ms. Murray's organization has contributed its share of ridiculous mandates imposing costly burdens on homeowners. In addition, she has lobbied against legislation that would have benefited associations and their members. In my opinion, her organization stokes the insanity in Sacramento.

The California Legislative Action Committee (CLAC) monitors and supports good legislation and opposes bad legislation. It publishes newsletters and alerts regarding pending legislation. In addition, CLAC has retained the services of a legislative advocate, Louie A. Brown, Jr. Another organization that tracks bills is the California Association of Community Managers with their own legislative advocate, Jennifer Wada. Both organizations deserve our support.

Marjorie Murray #2. We love your newsletter! One question, has your law firm or any other law firm taken action to rescind Marjorie Murray's SB 323 bill? If not, why not? If yes, what is the current status? –Jill B.

RESPONSE: We have been working through CAI's California Legislative Action Committee (CLAC) to address the problems created by Ms. Murray's organization and other hostile legislation. Nathan McGuire, Managing Partner of our Northern California Offices, previously served as Chair of CLAC and is on their Executive Committee. We will report on new bills in upcoming newsletters.

NEWSLETTERS. Readers can find current year and prior year newsletters posted here. Older newsletters are not posted since the information they contain can change over time with new statutes and case law. The website itself is kept updated with current information which can be found via the "Index" or through our website's internal "Google Search" feature. You can find the search line in the upper right corner of the website under our ADAMS|STIRLING logo.

Federal Update. The CDC issued updated guidance on: How to talk to friends and family about COVID-19 vaccines; What you can do if you are fully vaccinated; and Ventilation in Buildings. The CDC has some updates related to Guidance for Pools etc. in Communal Living.

Statewide Update.The following Counties have changed Tiers: Kern (Purple Tier to Red); Lake (Purple Tier to Red); Lassen (Red Tier to Orange); Marin (Red Tier to Orange); Monterey (Purple Tier to Red); Nevada (Purple Tier to Red); Riverside (Purple Tier to Red); Sacramento (Purple Tier to Red); San Diego (Purple Tier to Red); San Francisco (Red Tier to Orange); San Mateo (Red Tier to Orange); Santa Barbara (Purple Tier to Red); Santa Clara (Red Tier to Orange); Sierra (Orange Tier to Yellow); Stanislaus (Purple Tier to Red); Sutter (Purple Tier to Red); Tehama (Purple Tier to Red); Trinity (Red Tier to Orange); Tulare (Purple Tier to Red); Ventura (Purple Tier to Red); Yolo (Red Tier to Orange).

Press Release that vaccines will be available to those 50 and older starting April 1, 2021 and 16 and older starting April 15. Press Release regarding My Turn COVID-19 Scheduling System is now available in 12 languages: Armenian, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), English, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. The CDPH recently issued a Youth Sports Q&A to be a companion document to its updated guidance for Outdoor and Indoor Youth and Recreational Adult Sports issued February 19, 2021.

The State is expanding vaccine availability to those 50+, starting April 1, and those 16+ on April 15. The Governor signed SB 95, ensuring access to supplemental paid sick leave for workers impacted by COVID-19.

Northern California. Butte County issued a 3/19/21 Press Release re: Vaccinations Available to Persons 50+.

Contra Costa County issued a 3/16/21 Press Release re: UK COVID Variant Detected in Contra Costa. The County issued a 3/22/21 Press Release re: Vaccinations Available to Those 50+. The County issued a 3/25/21 Order Repealing Social Distancing Order and deferring to State Guidance. The County issued a 3/25/21 Order Repealing Face Covering Order and deferring to State Guidance. Contra Costa also issued a 3/25/21 Order Repealing Vehicle-Based Gathering Order and deferring to State Guidance.

Fresno County issued an Adult and Youth Recreational Sports Attestation Form. The County issued a 3/25/21 Guide to Reopening K-12.

Lake County has moved to the Red Tier and issued a 3/16/21 Press Release re: Move to Red Tier. The County issued a 3/19/21 Press Release re: Widespread Immunization.

Madera County issued a 3/16/21 Press Release re: Vaccination Eligibility. The County issued a 3/23/21 Press Release re: Variant Detected in Madera County.

Marin County has moved to the Orange Tier and issued a 3/23/21 Press Release re: Move to Orange Tier.

Mendocino County has issued a new Health Order to comply with the move to the red tier. They also issued a 3/12/21 Press Release re: Red Tier. The County issued a 3/25/21 Press Release re: Variants Discovered.

Monterey County has moved to the Red Tier and issued a 3/16/21 Press Release re: Move to Red Tier

Nevada County moved to the Red Tier and issued a 3/23/21 Press Release re: Move to Red Tier. The County issued a 3/25/21 Press Release re: Vaccine Eligibility.

Placer County issued a 3/19/21 Press Release re: COVID Variant Detected in Placer County.

Sacramento County has moved to the Red Tier and issued a new Health Order pursuant to this change.

San Francisco moved to the Orange Tier and issued a 3/24/21 Press Release re: Move to Orange Tier. The guidelines for pools, tennis courts, gyms, golf courses and social gatherings have been updated as well.

San Mateo County moved to the Orange Tier and issued a 3/16/21 Press Release re: Move to Orange Tier. The County issued a 3/25/21 Update Regarding Vaccinations and County COVID-19 Response. The County issued a 3/19/21 Press Release re: County to Update School Guidance.

Santa Clara County moved to the Orange Tier and issued a 3/23/21 Press Release re: Move to Red Tier. Santa Clara County issued a 3/17/21 Press Release re: Additional Variant Detected and 3/20/21 Press Release re: Need For Testing Due to New Variants. The County issued a 3/25/21 Press Release re: County Waiting for More Vaccines as Eligibility Expands. The County issued a 3/23/21 Risk Reduction Advisory.

Santa Cruz County moved to the Red Tier. The County issued a 3/15/21 Press Release re: Vaccinations, as well as a 3/22/21 Press Release re: Variant Identified in County

Shasta County issued a 3/24/21 Update re: New Variant and Vaccinations.

Solano County issued a 3/22/21 Press Release re: Decline in Allocation of Vaccine.

Sonoma County issued a 3/15/21 Press Release re: Vaccines. The County also issued a 3/26/21 Press Release re: Effort to Vaccinate Homebound Individuals.

Stanislaus County moved to the Red Tier and issued a 3/23/21 Press Release re: Move to Red Tier. The County issued a 3/18/21 Press Release re: Variant In County

Sutter County moved to the Red Tier.

Tehama County moved to the Red Tier and issued a 3/16/21 Press Release re: Move to Red Tier.

Tulare County moved to the Red Tier and issued a 3/16/21 Press Release re: Move to Red Tier. The County issued a 3/25/21 Press Release re: Vaccination Availability.

Yolo County moved to the Orange Tier and amended their Health Order and all attachments to address the change. The County also issued updated face covering guidance.

Southern California. Imperial County released Health Order on quarantine for persons exposed to COVID-19 who are not vaccinated (10 days' quarantine), those fully vaccinated for the past three months (no quarantine), and those who recovered from COVID-19 in the past three months (no quarantine).

Los Angeles County issued revised Health Order, which allows for Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries to reopen outdoors. Further, increased number of participants for group counseling services to 12 people. Golf Course Protocols have been updated lifting further restrictions, including socially-distanced group lessons, reopening of putting and chipping greens, and allowance for youth and adult recreational leagues. Gyms can reopen indoors at 10% capacity. Increased to 50% capacity office-based worksites that must be open indoors for essential operations.

City of Los Angeles updated its Safer LA Order to align with County moving to red tier and with CDC’s guidance for fully-vaccinated people.

Orange County Press Release regarding return to Red Tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Riverside County Press Release regarding return to Red Tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

San Luis Obispo County Press Release that local landlords and tenants can apply for rental assistance through CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Program. Press Release regarding allowing one immediate household member to observe a youth in youth sports (practices and games).

San Bernardino County Press Release regarding return to Red Tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Santa Barbara updated its Health Order to include required weekly COVID-19 testing of coaches and players aged 13 and above for the high-contact sports of football, rugby and water polo. The County continued its face covering order until April 19, 2021.

Ventura County Press Release regarding return to Red Tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Also mentioned that golf carts do not need a partition between members of a different household. Further, HOA pools guidance has been lifted, though the County still encourages HOAs to follow suggested County Guidance. Press Release regarding vaccine eligibility expands to 50 and older as of April 1, 2021 and to 16 and older April 15, 2021.

READING THE CHART. Because the chart is large and the text small, you can easily make it larger for viewing by holding down the "Ctrl" key on the left side of your keyboard and then using your finger to scroll forward or backwards with the wheel on your mouse. You will see the text grow larger or smaller as you move the wheel. For a list of County restrictions and links to Health Department Orders, see County Chart 3-26-21. The chart is also posted on our website.

Boards can contact us for friendly,
professional advice.

Adrian J. Adams, Esq.
Founder & Managing Partner
DISCLAIMER. Our newsletter provides commentary based on sketchy information 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. Keep in mind we are corporate counsel to California associations only. Request a proposal to represent your association. It's okay, we're friendly.

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Hon. Lawrence W. Stirling, Senior Partner and author of the Davis-Stirling Act
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