Property Management Tips

HOA Board of Directors Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s and Don’ts for Board Members

According to Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), 90% of new communities built in California in the last 10 years were incorporated into a Condominium or Planned Unit Development. The 1970 CAI Statistical Review indicates there were only 10,000 HOA communities in U.S. but by 2015 that number ballooned to 388,000. In the years to come, more Common Interest Development (CID) communities are expected to be built in California and nationwide.

CIDs attract homeowners for a number of reasons – recreational facilities, well-maintained common grounds, and architectural-standards enforcement are among the few reasons that help retain and increase the property values overtime. The Board of Directors, consisting of volunteer homeowners, is responsible for setting the policies and overseeing the operation and maintenance of the association. If you are planning to buy into or already live in a CID, you should consider becoming involved with your community.

There are a couple of things that potential and current Board members should keep in mind when serving on the association board. The Board, as a group, is empowered to make decisions on behalf of the association. With this power comes great responsibility, meaning that the Board has a duty to enforce the governing documents and community regulations. The Board is not only responsible for the oversight of the day-to-day operations, but also entrusted to interview and select the vendors to perform maintenance and repair of the common areas. The Board must review monthly financial statements, prepare the operating budget and update the reserve study on an annual basis. According to the Open Meeting Act, the Board may not take action outside of the properly announced meeting, and all business decisions must be disclosed to the association membership in the minutes. The Board members are strictly prohibited from conducting any business outside of the meeting or without quorum present, with an exception of when a health or safety related emergency occurs. In these cases, the situation should be addressed in a timely manner. Last, but not least, it is imperative for Board members to refrain from discussing any business matters between the meetings, and always keep information confidential.

All new Board members are encouraged to attend an orientation-training course, which may be offered by the association’s legal counsel, or professional organizations such as California Association of Community Managers (CACM) or CAI. Most importantly, Board members should exercise good judgment and prudency when voting on business decisions. Individual Board members should recuse themselves when the matter of personal conflict, actual or perceived, is in question. Following the above guidelines will protect the volunteer homeowners from personal liability and guarantee the protection of the D&O insurance coverage at all times.

Each homeowner should volunteer to serve on the association Board at least for one term, in order to gain the insight and understanding of the inner workings of the community. Serving on the Board of Directors can be a challenging task, and may require a considerable time commitment, but it also provides an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other, and work together to make their community a better place to live!


-by Vlady Dmytrenko
Property Management Tips

FB Live Summary: Vendor Contracts with Joel Kriger

Vendor Contracts: How HOA’s Can Protect Themselves

 Summary from our Facebook Live conversation with Joel Kriger

The easiest way that HOA’s can protect themselves from the issues with vendor contracts is to start by examining the contract during its formation. Before entering into a contract with a vendor, whether it is for a one-time project or a long-term service, boards should make sure the following points are covered:


  1. License – HOA boards should verify that the contractor is licensed with the state licensing board.
  2. Insurance – HOA boards should make sure the contractor is fully insured and that their insurance coverage does not contain a multi-family or condo exclusion. Insurance should include workers’ compensation if there is more than one contractor on site and liability insurance for injury or fire. HOA is held responsible for damage or injury if contractor does not hold proper insurance.
  3. Governing Documents – HOA boards should consult their CC&R’s and other governing documents to make sure that contracts do not violate any limitations. Often, limitations include limits of one year and a dollar amount threshold before needing board approval. Check the governing documents for a description of what is considered capital improvements as these expenses often need board approval.
  4. Legal Review – Always have legal counsel review all contracts, regardless of size, with attention to particular contract clauses.


Contract Clauses for Review


Parties – The contract should never name any of the board members as a party. Instead you HOA boards should use the HOA corporate name as the contracting party. This protects the directors from being named in any litigation that might result from a breach in contract.


Scope of Work – The scope of work must be clearly defined and outlined. Any ambiguity or incomplete description of the project gives rise to disagreements and makes it difficult to hold the vendor accountable for his work. This also saves the HOA from costly change orders to the contract.


Payment Schedule – Define the payment schedule. Generally, payments should be phased so that contractors are paid as work is completed. Lump sums are not advisable because up front payment exposes the HOA to risk or loss if the contractor does not complete work. Normally a percentage is paid up front so the contractor can purchase materials and begin work. A percentage, usually 10%, is retained by the association at the conclusion until work is completed and everything is signed off/inspected.


Insurance – Define the types of insurance and minimum limits the vendor must carry and whether the association is named as additionally insured on their policy.


Indemnity Provision – HOA is not liable if the vendor get sued due to some act of negligence or omission by the vendor/contractor.


Completion Date – If performance dates and times are important, they should be put in the contract. Additionally, it may be good practice to place penalties on vendor if not done on due date.


Permits and Licenses – Vendors must be licensed and pull permits whenever appropriate and provide the association with copies of both. Contracts should clearly outline who will be responsible for the cost of permits. If the cost of permits are not included in the cost given by the vendor the association will be responsible for the cost.


Warranties – This should be a two step process as labor warranties and manufacturer warranties are in play. If the vendor promises to stand behind his/her work, be sure to put it in the contract. For manufacturer warranties make sure you get work signed off by the manufacturer as properly installed so that the warranty becomes valid.


Mechanics Liens Releases – Mechanics lien release provisions should protect the association in the event the vendor fails to pay his subcontractors or material suppliers. The mechanics liens release will allow you to know that the subcontractor has been taken care of.


Termination – A termination clause is a good point to include as they allow the HOA to terminate the agreement if the job being performed is not satisfactory. Although, these will release you from the agreement monies for work already completed should be paid.


Evergreen – These contracts are lifetime agreements; evergreen contracts automatically renew if notice is not given to the vendor of the association’s intentions to not renew the agreement. Be careful with these clauses; if they are in your contract, make sure the duration for the automatic renewal is not more than a year maximum.


Escalator – The association’s payments to the vendor automatically increase in a given time, usually annually. The increase in payments may be predetermined or may be linked to the CPI.


Alternative Dispute Resolution – An ADR provision is often included in contracts so as to keep litigation costs to a minimum and to speed resolution of any disputes.


Attorney’s Fees – Without an attorney’s fee provision, typically each side bears their own fees and costs.


RECOMMENDATION: Boards of HOAs should have the association’s legal counsel review all contracts before they are signed by the board. Contact us for assistance in preparing and enforcing contracts.

Property Management Tips

FB Live Summary: Legislation & Hot Topics with Jon Epsten

Hot Topics with Jon Epsten

Some legislation concerning Associations have changed in the state of California; as an association manager it is important to stay up-to-date and understand the current legislation affecting the properties you manage. Jon Epsten shared what the hot topics are surrounding new laws and took time to discuss what they mean for Associations.


Maintenance and Repair of Exclusive Use Common Areas

New legislation tries to define where the obligation and responsibility lies to maintain and repair exclusive use common areas in a common interest development. In some cases your community CC&Rs can help define the responsibilities. If the CC&R says that homeowners are responsible for maintenance, then the Association may become obligated to take on any repairs to exclusive use common areas. Association managers should carefully review their CC&Rs so that the responsibilities are properly distributed and guidelines are clearly defined.


Pesticide Use

SB 328 outlines new regulations for Associations and the use of pesticides on the property. The new regulations state that unless the application of pesticides is done by a licensed pest control company, the association is obligated to meet a set of requirements to notify homeowners. Those requirements include:

  • Anyone impacted by that application should be notified of:
    • Pest or pests to be controlled
    • Name and brand of pesticide
    • Approximate date, time and frequency of application


  • Notice must be given at least 48 hours before application


Some instances of application, such as a landscaper using products to get rid of snails can cause an association to give required notice of its pesticide use. An association is better off getting out of the business of pest control and avoid issues by hiring a licensed pest control company and leaving it to them to handle any regulation requirements.


Annual Disclosures

A new statute requires managers to solicit information thirty (30) days prior to annual disclosures from the homeowners. If owner does not respond, property address is deemed as the contact address for CC&R violations, rules and regulation notices, notice of delinquent assessments, and any billing.


Gated Communities

Any common interest development with a fully staffed gate should become aware of the changes to access. As the regulation stood before the change, anyone with a driver’s license and a sheriff or marshal badge or a registered private investigator/process server can gain access to community as long as they offered the aforementioned. What is new this year is the added access to anyone that can provide a driver’s license and is employed by office of the Attorney General, City Attorney, District Attorney, or public defender


Transient Occupancy

Current FHA restrictions prohibit renting inside an HOA community to anyone for less than thirty days. Some contest the validity and legality of these restrictions, but Associations that want to get ahead of this issue should amend their CC&Rs to include transient occupancy restrictions; CC&Rs always prevail in matters of restriction validity because they are the rules that the homeowner agreed to in order to be a community member.


Associations that choose to participate or allow transient occupancy risk:

  • Losing non-profit status
  • Becoming subject to ADA requirements as community has been opened up to public accommodations
  • Consideration as a condominium hotel
  • CC&R and nuisance violations


Association managers that want to get ahead of this issue should:

  • Monitor the Airbnb site or sites similar to it
  • Investigate if someone is paying transient tax to the city


Insurance Certifications (Proof of Insurance)

Insurance certificates provided by contractors as proof of insurance and to name an association as additionally insured under their policy had provided ease of mind in the past, but now that piece of paper is not worth much to an association manager today. Insurance certificates shouldn’t be taken at face value because there are many caveats to contractor insurance.

  • Insurance companies are not required to notify the Association of a cancelled or non-renewed policy.
  • They do not outline the details of what the coverage is for an association
  • No waiver of subrogation for workmans comp
  • Many have condominium exclusions that policyholder may be unaware of


Some ways that an association manager can confirm or verify that the insurance information is up-to-date and adequate for work on an HOA property are:

  • Send insurance certificate or policy to your own insurance agent for review
  • Obtain a letter from the contractor’s insurance broker verifying the coverage outlined in the policy.


Association managers who are unclear on new laws or regulations should always consult with their legal counsel to understand how they will affect their properties. Building a relationship with your lawyer is a good practice to avoid violations and to better manage your HOAs.

Property Management Tips

To Airbnb or not to Airbnb

As an Association Manager, part of the job is being able to present a Devil’s Advocate view to the Board Members; to allow them to see all options, not just the best recommended option. The California Association of Community Managers (CACM) had a luncheon and invited Joey Bosworth of Airbnb as a Guest Speaker.

As Bosworth was introduced to the audience, I can only imagine that the tension, for him, must have been intense. Many community associations have had to deal with the fallout of short term rentals. To many of those associations, Airbnb is the equivalent of the fox coming into the hen house. The hens are the off-site homeowners who want to make more money than what a 30-day rental would provide. Because vacation rentals in a city like San Diego, attract visitors from all over the world who are willing to pay any price for a taste of San Diego living, homeowners are tempted by the opportunity to cash in.

Some associations allow short term rentals which makes it less difficult for Airbnb to work its magic. They provide off-site owners the opportunity to increase their income by renting their units for days instead of months at a time. The vacation rates vary depending on the location of the unit and what the market will bear, but rates are set by the owners. For example, a unit paying $420 in assessments per month plus mortgage could collect $186 per day for 30 days or $5,580.

There are many associations that do not allow short term rentals. Owners are required to rent for 30 days or longer. The desire to make more money is stronger than the legal agreements between the association and the owners. Airbnb promotes changing the CCRs to allow for short term rentals. In some cases, if it is cost effective for Airbnb, they are willing to pay for the cost of putting it to a vote of the members, according to Bosworth.

There are incentives available for associations that are willing to enter into an agreement with Airbnb. Insurance coverage for damages caused by guests is available and they provide for a percentage of the owners profits to go to the association. Airbnb would conceivably provide the association with a weekly report of each owners earnings and the association would collect a commission for those earnings.


(FB Live with Laurie Poole)


Airbnb is seeking a partnership with associations that allows them to hold contracts with association members without the legal roadblocks that CCRs currently present. Airbnb has created a program called Friendly Buildings Implementation which is designed to persuade associations that this growth industry of vacation rentals is the future and associations need to get on board with it.

There was no preventative solution offered by Airbnb or Bosworth to mitigate the negative reports from residents in the community having to deal with guests who have no intention of following the rules of the community; they are there to vacation. I am reminded of the TV Series, Westworld, where people pay to go to places where rules do not exist for them as the visitor. This is what Airbnb is offering at the expense of the people who live in these communities.

Property Management Tips

FB Live Summary: Short Term Rental Restrictions

Takeaways from our conversation with Laurie Poole regarding short-term rentals.

Regulating Short-term Rentals- Laurie Poole

Short-term rentals have become a big business allowing many people to supplement their income or quit a job altogether. It may be a positive for the homeowner, but for HOA communities it has begun to plague neighbors and the association managers alike.


The Nuisance Factor

Short-term renters are there for just that, a short period of time. Often, they are there on vacation and to let loose or party. This commonly presents itself with ignorance or complete disregard for the rules set in place by the HOAs leading to potential damage to common areas. Short-term renters also create parking issues as they caravan in and preventing community members from using their own spots. Ultimately, short-term renters cause more issues to HOA communities than any benefit they could bring.


How to Address Short-term Renter Issues

  • Language in Governing Documents (CC&Rs): Require lease minimums of 30 or more days and include a prohibition of transient use.
  • Policy Enforcement (strict but flexible): Create a policy that allows you to skip ahead of usual protocol so you can nip it in the bud. Raise fines for transient violations including those homeowners that are using the home as a business. Create a nuisance clause in your policy.


Excuses Are Hard to Prove False

Excuses are endless and getting caught violating the CC&Rs will bring out every excuse in the book typically ranging from claims that tenant was a family member to claiming the person was there to watch over the dog while the usual tenant was on vacation. Unfortunately, it is hard to prove that the homeowner is being untruthful about their excuse. What is important to do in these situations is to always follow protocol and due process.


Who is Responsible?

Homeowner is always the responsible party. If they lease their home to someone they need to make sure they understand the community rules and verify that they are following them. If their long-term renter are listing the home on short-term renting sites like Airbnb, then the homeowner is responsible for the short-term renter violation. Always.


What Are Your Options?

Other than following through with protocol and policy enforcement, you can monitor the homes in your community through the help of neighbors and by checking websites that list properties for short-term renters.


  • Cities that ban short-term renting usually have a hotline number to report short-term renting violations
  • Monitor websites for a listing in your community.
  • CC&Rs should include a minimum lease term and a no business clause
  • Include fines in your rules and regulations
  • A flexible policy enforcement will allow you to go straight to a cease and desist


Enforcement Policy Sample

  1. Letter
  2. Hold a hearing and apply a fine
  3. 2nd hearing and a larger fine
  4. Take to legal- cease and desist letter, internal dispute resolution, alternative dispute resolution, and lawsuit.


When a Lawsuit Happens

The greatest hope for an HOA or a property manager is to avoid taking legal action against any of their community members, but sometimes we have no other option. The question then moves to, what are the best things to have on your side when a dispute goes to legal?


What to Have:

  • Get copies of listings and reviews. When people write reviews they typically disclose how much time they spent at the property and what common areas were used during their stay. Always print listings and reviews before you send any letters to the homeowners.
  • Get witness testimony from neighbors; they are your biggest allies when handling a dispute. A witness that comes forward to you should be advised to keep a log of activity and, if they feel comfortable, take non-invasive photos. Often these witnesses will want their names kept out of the dispute, but needs to be informed that they might need to testify if the case goes to trial.
  • Short-term renters can become witnesses in these cases too. If a witness/neighbor wants to get involved, they can ask for contact information from these renters. However, this can get a little dicey.


Short-term renting is an evolving market in travel but can become an issue for HOAs and property managers. Adjusting the CC&Rs and the rules & regulations to support your efforts in properly managing and regulating this issue. Your governing documents will be the rule of the land when it comes to stopping homeowners from engaging in these activities. Contact your legal representatives to consult on what is the best way to handle short-term renter issues for your community.


Case Study: Sunburst HOA – Rain Harvest System



Sunburst Homeowners Association, a property managed by Castle Breckenridge Management (CBM), faced a challenge in finding a solution to flooding in an area of the apartment complex. The raised platform located in between the property’s buildings would flood and dump water at the foot of the buildings, affecting 10-15 units with water issues upon each rainfall. Sunburst HOA was using too many resources to remedy the flood situation and needed to find a more permanent solution. It needed to find a way to drain the water from the raised platform and away from the units affected by the flooding.


Space was the biggest challenge faced when finding a solution to the flooding issue for two reasons. First, CBM needed to find a water storage system that would fit underneath the flood area, yet still be large enough to effectively drain the area. Second, because the area was located in between buildings, the workspace was limited (about 192 square feet of workable space) and could not accommodate large machinery to lift the system into the area. This challenge forced the team to look for a system that was easy to move and install in the space they had, while being large enough so that they wouldn’t have to worry about flooding in the future.


CBM found a harvest and storage system that fit the needs of the property and would solve the flooding issue for good. Three RainHarvest System 1,700 gallon tanks were installed in the space and are expected to never need replacing. They are self-cleaning, but the property has implemented a maintenance schedule to ensure the life of the system. The tanks are designed to collect 5,100 gallons of water which will then be piped into irrigation channels, allowing the property to save water and solve the flooding issue it had.


  • At tank capacity, rainwater replaces potable water for irrigation by 100% for seven months out of the year
  • Full tanks would save the property up to $150 per week
  • Potential annual savings are estimated at $4,200



The Importance of an HOA Attorney

When is it appropriate to use an attorney, and how often? Let’s start with the obvious:

  1. When the board is engaged in a legal dispute
  2. When a lawsuit has been brought against the association or the board
  3. When the association brings a lawsuit against an individual or company

What do all of the above items have in common? They all represent conflict between the association and others. In my humble opinion, the greatest role of an attorney is to create a path for the association to avoid these conflicts in the first place.

Often, financial concerns delay consulting legal counsel but I would argue the scenarios above could have been avoided if legal advice was sought sooner. Notice the key word here: legal advice. Boards should approach legal representation from the standpoint of conflict avoidance, with the understanding that should a conflict arise they will be better situated to justify their position and succeed in court.

Find a Balance

The most effective boards find a balance between when to seek legal advice and when not to. Legal should not be used to manage the day-to-day operations of an HOA. However, legal should always be brought in to review contracts because when a contract is presented, it always favors the presenting party.

The primary purpose of the HOA attorney is to protect the interest of its client. Their eagle eyes can quickly single out any provisions in the contract that could have a negative impact. A reputable attorney will also identify protections that are missing from the contract.

How Attorneys Help

Attorneys also help to prevent conflict by ensuring that HOAs have and are utilizing the legal interpretation of their governing documents. Most HOA documents are old and confusing, with provisions that have been prohibited or invalidated by statute. Boards should seek a legal opinion on the application of these areas of concern within the documents themselves.

For example, can a board remove an elected member? (And if so, under what circumstances?) The answer varies depending upon the documents and legal statues. The same goes for areas of responsibility, such as who is responsible for maintenance of an area and if maintenance includes repair and replacement.

An attorney should be able to answer questions like these to help the board make an appropriate decision. Remember, the name of the game is conflict avoidance. The board should not be afraid to use an attorney and should not use cost as the benchmark. After all, good attorney will save the association a lot of time and money in the long run.

-by Harold Palmer

As a senior HOA manager with more than 14 years in the field, it’s been my experience that boards should clearly define when to seek legal services (including legal opinions) to solve or avoid a dispute. Sometimes, board members rely too heavily upon their past experience or personal opinions. These factors shouldn’t be discounted or ignored; however, they will not hold up in a court of law. Managers can also be a great resource and a good manager will offer their professional opinion based on past experience in similar situations, but they should always remind the board to consult their legal counsel.


Rainwater Collection & Water Storage System

Collecting Rainwater for HOAs

With the California statewide drought and a general increase in environmental awareness, HOAs and association managers are turning to creative and modern solutions such as rain barrels and water collection systems to adapt to new regulations and better serve their communities. Implementing water storage systems has a number of important benefits for homes and properties.

Rainwater Collection Benefits


Recycle & Reuse Water

First and foremost, collected rainwater can be recycled and reused to cut water costs by reducing a property’s potable water consumption. Planning how collected water will be used is important when considering a storage system. For example, a three-phase electric motor component can be implemented to adjust water pressure based on use across a property. Filtration systems can filter sediment and debris to ensure outgoing water is clean.

Move Water Off Property

Water collection systems can also help facilitate the flow of water off property to prevent flooding from overflow. Storage tanks, pumps, and controllers can be installed inline with existing water drainage systems to collect and route the water. Sensors inside of water tanks monitor levels and backflow regulators provide controlled flood protection.

Considerations & Planning

A key factor to consider when planning a water collection & storage system is space and location. It’s important to understand where water falls and flows on a property to help determine efficient placement. Available space can also be an important factor when deciding on the size, capacity, and material of storage tanks. Heavier storage tanks, such as those made of concrete, may require a crane to install (and the space required to operate a crane). However, heavier duty tanks can allow for creative placement such as beneath parking areas.

Price & Logistics

Castle Breckenridge recently completed planning and installing a 5,100 gallon capacity system at one of our managed properties. The system consisted of 3x 1,700 gallon tanks, a pressure tank, motors (with three-phase electric power), pumps, backup regulators, and a controller. The system had a reasonable cost of roughly $13,000. While a system like this can typically be installed in about six days, major space constraints and a large amount of soil that had to be moved extended installation time to three weeks.


To hear more about CBM’s recent case study, listen to our podcast episode discussing the experience and tips for implementing your own water collection & storage system:


Water collection & storage systems are a smart and effective solution for modern properties. Not only do they effectively combat the California drought and cut water costs, they are popular and welcomed by homeowners as a step towards better living and a more responsible, smarter community.


FB Live Summary: Solar Rights with Bradley Schuber

Summary of our Facebook Live conversation with Bradley Schuber of Kriger Law Firm

Restrictions on Solar Energy Systems in Common Interest Developments: A Summary

In California there is a big push for solar energy and will likely see an increase in the state’s use of solar energy systems in the near future; California’s seemingly unlimited supply of sunlight gave way to its strong policy commitment to solar energy. The state’s commitment to solar policy led to the adoption of the Solar Rights Act. The Act prohibits CC&Rs from restricting the installation of solar energy systems in a common interest development with certain exceptions considered to be reasonable restrictions by the Association including:

• Cost and performance
• Alternative comparable systems
• Common area installation
• Maintenance and repairs
• Indemnification and reimbursement

Associations should review its governing documents to make sure that it provides members an approval process for an approval for installing solar energy systems. Make sure to review all requests for solar energy systems promptly and give a written response of receipt and review of application to the applicant. Always consult counsel and a solar energy professional when questions arise.


Smart Irrigation: A New Way To Save Money and Water

California’s water supply is drastically decreasing faster than it ever has before. The current dry weather patterns have put the state in its most severe drought in history. As residents of the state, there are many things homeowners can do to reduce their water consumption. The largest change homeowner’s can make to conserve water is decreasing the amount of water used on outdoor landscaping. New irrigation techniques have been developed that allow homeowners to keep their green, lush lawn while still reducing their overall consumption of water.

Smart Irrigation Control systems are a new breakthrough in irrigation technology, and provide a great way to save water in sunnier areas like San Diego. The Smart Controller is an efficient system that uses an installed sensor to determine the sprinkler run time based on local weather conditions. More specifically, the sensor measures solar radiation and temperatures. It also has the ability to access online weather data. This smart controller can save homeowners anywhere from 30%-70% in overall water usage as well as reduce water bills.

Another innovative home irrigation technique is using reclaimed water. Reclaimed water is former wastewater that has been treated to standards that allow for safe reuse. It’s a great method for sustainable landscaping irrigation and is safe for most uses except human consumption. Reclaimed water costs less than most other water sources, and even reduces the need for fertilizers, as some nutrients remain in the water.

Castle Breckenridge has worked with Pacific Green Landscape and the Westview Neighborhood Homeowners Association in installing both reclaimed water systems and Smart Controller Irrigation systems. The overall results seen were astounding. Westview HOA was able to cut their water costs in half and reduce their water consumption by about 40%. These great savings allowed the HOA to replace older landscape with water-friendly plants without raising monthly homeowner’s dues. You can find out more about this successful project at:

Contact Castle Breckenridge today to find out more about installing water friendly irrigation systems into your property. We are a leader in sustainability and are here to help you make the change towards a sustainable future.

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