Is My HOA Supposed to Notify Us In Advance?

assessments board members h o a homefront hoa homefront Mar 10, 2024

By Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. CCAL, HOA Homefront Column

Dear Kelly: My question is whether it is legal to raise one's HOA fees without a prior notification of proposed increase.  I am aware that the board has the authority to raise fees, but I'd like to know if it is legal to raise the without prior notification. A.P., Escondido.

Dear A.P.: There are two ways association boards can increase monthly assessments, and in both situations, the board must notify the homeowners in advance. First, the board may in its budget, part of the Annual Budget Report, plan an assessment increase – which per Civil Code Section 5605(b) cannot be more than 20% over the prior year unless there is a vote of all members. The Annual Budget Report is required by Civil Code Section 5300 to be distributed to all members 30 to 90 days before the end of the fiscal year to inform all members in advance as to the new budget and assessment amount.

If a board increases assessments after the budget is announced, such an increase must be decided in an open board meeting. The topic should be announced in the published agenda at least four days before the meeting. Per Civil Code Section 5615, the HOA must individually notify (by mail, or by email if the member has consented) each member of the increase at least 30 but not more than 60 days before the increased assessment is due. 

Boards and managers should remember that it is always a good idea to take some time to explain to members why a major increase in assessments is necessary. Thanks for your question, Kelly 

Dear Mr. Richardson: I am an offsite owner and my HOA refuses to email any notices, including meeting notices, to me even though I have requested that they do so in writing many times. They tell me that posting within the community fulfills all their obligations. Is that correct? J.P., Lake Forest

Dear J.P.:

HOAs are required by Civil Code Section 4041(b) to annually ask homeowners to provide their address for the HOA to send notices. This notification is required to be sent at least 30 days before the Annual Budget Report (Section 5300) and Annual Policy Statement (Section 5310) go out. Homeowners are required by Section 4041(a) to annually confirm to the HOA the preferred mailing and/or email address. Members are permitted to provide a “secondary” (off-site) address which the HOA must use for individual notices.

If you provided the HOA with your preferred mailing and/or email address, then the HOA must use that address on “individual notices.” Not all HOA announcements or notifications require individual notice. Some announcements require only “general notice” which can be posted on a bulletin board or website (Section 4045(a)), such as, for example, calls for board nominations (Section 5115(a)), announcements of election results (Section 5120(b)), or announcements of board meetings (Section 4920(c)).

The HOA is not required to individually mail board meeting notices, although I see an increasing number of HOAs announcing board meetings and agendas on the “members only” portion of their website or via email “blasts” to all members.

Good communication with members is key to successful governance, and HOAs should use email as much as possible instead of postal mail.

Best regards, Kelly