Reader Questions - Pressure Washing, Enlarging Yards

c c & rs h o a homefront legislation reader questions Jan 26, 2015

Dear Kelly,

The law has changed due to the drought. Because of that, California Civil code section 4736(b) puts limitations on using a pressure washing for cleaning buildings and cars/trucks, etc. If you read section (b), does that part refer to individuals using water blasters to clean their cars and trucks in the HOA?


B.D., Temescal Valley

Dear B.D.,

Civil Codes 4735 and 4736 have a high profile at present, due to the ongoing major drought. Civil Code 4736 bans an association from requiring pressure washing. It does not specifically ban voluntary pressure washing by homeowners. However, homeowners should check to see if their city has adopted water conservation ordinances – some cities have banned certain water uses.

So long as the drought emergency stays in place, associations may not discipline homeowners for allowing their yards to “go brown” (Civil 4735) and may not require pressure washing of buildings or vehicles (Civil 4736). However, the board could adopt a rule banning pressure washing, at least for now.


Hi Kelly,

I own a townhome unit in an HOA that has a good deal of ground around each unit which is currently common space. Due to how the units are situated, the HOA could slice up the common areas and give many of the units nice little back yards – if all unit owners agreed and we’d work that out first.

We believe we could do this and have the new dimensions of each owner’s yard drawn up and recorded so everyone knows the exact dimensions of their yards. There wouldn’t be any city involvement needed, we believe, or any lot line adjustments, just the HOA granting exclusive use of the areas. This change would add significant value to each unit and lower HOA costs – water, maintenance, fences, etc.

I wanted to inquire if you’ve seen any HOAs do this before and any suggestions you might have.

Thank you,

L.B., San Diego

Dear L.B.,

Your association can choose to expand or create back yards, but a member vote may be required. Civil Code 4600 addresses the grant by an association to a member of exclusive use rights over area which was previously not exclusive use common area. If it makes more sense to expand the back yards, and take them out of association responsibility, approval of 67 percent of the owners is required to approve this. There are a variety of exceptions to the voting requirement, but if you are considering a widespread expansion of yards, a membership vote is probably required. Check with your association legal counsel to make sure.

You mention surveying the boundaries and possibly recording the new yard description, but this is probably unnecessary.

You may also wish to consider amending the CC&Rs to change the easement rights and describe these areas as exclusive use common areas.

The vote required to approve this grant of exclusive use rights is required to follow the same double envelope 30 day minimum voting period process under Civil Code 5100 as you use to elect directors.

A “town hall” meeting, to discuss this, might be a great idea before the association begins. Even though it may be a “win-win” idea, consider consulting the members before setting a member vote.

Thanks for your question,

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®.