SACRAMENTO – The state Assembly today approved a bill by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) to rein in election abuses in California’s more than 55,000 homeowner associations (HOA). Senate Bill 1265 now heads back to the Senate for a concurrence vote before being sent to Governor Brown.
“Today’s Assembly approval sends a clear signal that the Legislature recognizes not only the critical role HOA boards play, but the impact they have on millions of Californians’ homes and pocketbooks,” said Sen. Wieckowski, a member of the Senate’s Housing and Transportation Committee. “By adding safeguards to the system, SB 1265 will restore fairness and integrity to the board election process and end abuses in communities where boardmembers are more interested in maintaining power than faithfully following the association’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions.”
Homeowners have accused HOA boards of excluding and disenfranchising other residents who want to challenge them, using arbitrary, unjust rules to keep control over associations, and manipulating election outcomes by both failing to deliver ballots to residents, and failing to count all votes.
Under SB 1265 individuals or companies with an HOA conflict of interest would be prohibited from acting as election inspectors. Elections procedures would also be clearly spelled out to properly inform voters of the time, date and location where ballots can be returned. Members who have been convicted of a felony involving extortion or theft of money, a bribe, embezzlement of money, perjury or conspiracy to commit crimes would be ineligible to serve on a board. Other disqualifications, such as not being current on regular assessments, or barring joint owners of a parcel from serving, are also permitted.
“Elections in California’s 55,000 homeowner associations are no small matter,” said Marjorie Murray, president of the Center for California Homeowner Association Law. “California’s appellate courts have ruled repeatedly that associations parallel in almost every way the powers, duties, and responsibilities of local government. It is vital that association elections be governed under the democratic principles of SB 1265. Too often incumbent boards have ignored, violated, or undermined the California laws governing association elections in the same way that numerous states have undermined the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Senator Wieckowski’s bill blocks board practices interfering with a homeowner’s right to run for a board seat and the right to vote.”
SB 1265 is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, Citizens for Constitutional Local Government and a number of other organizations across California.
Sen. Wieckowski represents the 10th District, which includes southern Alameda County and parts of Santa Clara County.