Reader Questions - Condo Trapper, Wrong Insurance

board members c c & rs h o a homefront reader questions Mar 18, 2013

Dear Mr. Richardson,

I’m on the Board of a 20 year old complex. We have over 200 units. The CCR’s state that all pets in the common area must be kept on a leash, even cats.

The rule has been enforced sporadically over the years, however one of my fellow directors is very interested in setting traps and removing anything caught.

The CCR’s state that “any pet deemed a nuisance by the Association shall be removed from the Property”.

Wouldn’t that mean that before removing a pet, it should be determined whether it’s a nuisance?….If this director succeeded in setting all of these traps, could an owner challenge us if their pet was taken away without a warning?

It seems to me that if a pet is roaming, the violation should be treated as all violations:. letters, hearings and fines.

S.S., Garden Grove

Dear S.S.,

So, your Board has somebody who wants to be an urban trapper? Will the director be duly authorized to be judge and executioner, without a board meeting? When a pet is trapped, where will that animal go, and if the animal is injured in the process, who will pay the veterinary bill? You may want to ask the Orange County Animal Control Services about all this.

Yes, it’s a bad idea. If someone violates the rule, set a hearing and impose a fine. Your city probably has leash laws regarding dogs, so a complaint could also be lodged there regarding dogs.

Best (and good luck to the dangerously roaming kitties),

Dear Kelly,

I am president of a very small HOA in a gated community. One member is threatening to “withdraw from the association,” stop paying assessments, etc. unless the policy states that the coverage is for single-family homes and not condos. He claims the policy as written is illegal. He’s also upset because the insurance companies call the home a “condo,” because apparently these homes are now in some insurance database with the designation of “condos.”

Any advice you could offer would be appreciated,

J.W., Canoga Park

Dear J.W.,

In this column, I don’t have enough information (or space) to give specific advice – your HOA’s attorney should be consulted for that. Generally, it is always a bad idea for a member who disagrees with the HOA to stop paying assessments as leverage, and withdrawing is essentially impossible. That would take consent of all the owners to rewrite your subdivision map and CC&R’s.

The insurance situation is interesting, but not rare. It is hard to understand how the insurance policy could be “illegal”, which means it violates the California Insurance Code. I have clients with insurance that seems to fit the physical features of their complex, but not the legal reality. The buildings are attached lot structures (“townhouses”) but are not condominiums, yet the insurance company issued a condominium policy. In those situations, I normally work closely with the association’s broker and obtain a letter from the insurance company acknowledging and reaffirming the coverage, to make sure that later, after receiving years of premiums, the insurance company does not suddenly claim the policy is invalid because the property is not actually a condominium.

It is also a good idea for all owners to also have their own individual insurance policies, to cover what the HOA’s insurance does not.


Written by Kelly G. Richardson

Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to [email protected]. Past columns at All rights reserved®.