HB 1720 seeks to correct the deficiencies in existing law in a very limited manner. All it allows — read the bill carefully and compare it to the misinformation and fear mongering by CAI – is for the attendance of any attorney at a board meeting. It does not make any changes with respect to participating in discussions or voting as CAI asserts would happen. The HOA still controls all other aspects of attendance at board meetings.
CAI’s Call To Action urges opposition to the bill.
“In sum, AB 1720 is an unwarranted disruption to proper and orderly board discussions, causes unnecessary expenditures to associations, and will intimidate volunteer board members”. CALL TO ACTION: NO on AB 1720 Attorneys at Board Meetings (April 15, 2016).
In its Blog, an active CAI attorney wrote, “While some may think this is a “common sense approach” to allowing members to protect their rights, it ignores the reality of how associations operate.” Attorneys for Association Members at Every Board Meeting? In his blog, CAI stalwart attorney Swedelson posted several calls to oppose HB 1720. “Let me conclude by saying that I believe that AB 1720 will cause an unwarranted interference to proper and orderly board discussions.” Oppose California Assembly Bill 1720 (April 13, 2106).
Why is CAI so worried? Let’s ignore CIA’s hype, half-truths, and fear mongering statements and deal with the issues.
HB 1720, in the short subsection (c) amendment to Civil Code 4925, simply reads:
The board shall permit an attorney who represents a member to attend any board meeting that the member is permitted to attend, regardless of whether the member attends. Where possible, the member shall give the board at least 48 hours advance written notice that his or her attorney will attend the board meeting.
What is the problem with allowing a member’s attorney from attending a meeting that the member could attend? It is accepted practice to allow for proxy voting whereby a member is not present and another appointed person votes in place of the non-attending member. What’s the problem? There is none if the board is acting in good faith, and has nothing to hide, which CAI seems to have implicitly acknowledged in its opposition to the bill. “ignores the reality of how boards operate,” and “disruption to proper and orderly discussion.”
We know how boards operate, and it ain’t like what is written in the laws or governing documents, where the common defense by the board is, “this is what our attorney told us” without any written evidence or confirmation from the attorney.
Swedelson did a good job by reminding his readers that the laws are pro-HOA and that the CC&Rs are adhesion contracts, both which lack true opposing party, the homeowner party to the CC&Rs and the absence of homeowners in the stakeholder sponsored HOA bills. He points out, quoting from SB Liberty v. Isla Verde (2013), that 1) the CC&Rs only allow members to participate or attend, and are silent on “or his representative,” 2) attorneys cannot attend, 3) the board decides who may attend meetings, 3) and that the California statutes basically state the same restrictions as the governing documents.
Now any rational, objective person does not need any argument as to the lack of fair treatment and the injustice fostered upon the owner by “the law,” deriving him of his private property rights. These property rights would be protected under the Bill of Rights if the HOA were treated as a public entity.
What the bill would do, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, is to allow the non-lawyer member to have an advisor present to hear and see, and have his client raise his questions. What’s wrong with that? If this is a serious problem for CAI and the board, then it is definitely a serious problem for the members.
Based on CAI’s strong opposition, they fear being held accountable to questioning by competent attorneys.