Reader Questions – Renting to Criminals, Move in Fees, and What is “Single Family”?

h o a homefront reader questions Mar 01, 2021

By Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. CCAL


Dear Kelly: My HOA made a change in the CC&Rs. Renters must be approved by the board and nobody with a criminal record shall be approved. Can they make these demands for just rental units and not units being sold? Wouldn’t criminal records be just as important about potential buyers? J.S., San Pedro


Dear J.S.:

The state Fair Housing regulations which took effect in 2020 do not permit a blanket housing discrimination against persons based upon criminal history. Under Title 2 Section 12266, there must be some connection between the criminal history and the HOA’s safety concerns. So, for example, someone who had been convicted of arson or a violent crime might be a reasonable concern, unlike someone who had committed loan fraud. Hopefully your HOA had the benefit of legal advice when the members amended the CC&Rs to require prospective tenants to be approved by the board. Ask counsel to review the criminal history issue and make sure the HOA’s policy does not violate the regulations. 

Best, Kelly


Hi Kelly, our association requires that owners notify management before moving occupants in or out of their unit, and management arranges for a representative to observe the moving of belongings and to document the impact upon any common areas. Deposits and the observer cost also must be paid. Furniture or appliances or other large items cannot be moved in or out of a unit except when purchasing new furniture. Owners who ignore this rule may be fined. I would like your opinion on this policy. Thank you. C.R., Imperial Beach.


Dear C.R.:

The association is responsible to protect the common areas and can take reasonable steps to protect hallways, elevators, and other common elements against damage from moving activities. Associations with more rentals may have greater incidence of resident changes and therefore a higher probability of damage. Association charges related to moving must be reasonable per the 2015 appellate decision in Watts v. Oak Shores, meaning they can be supported by a good faith explanation approximating the HOA’s actual incurred costs from move-ins/outs.

Sincerely, Kelly


Mr. Richardson, our HOA says military renters cannot live together in their community if they are not a “family” and they define family as an “integrated economic unit.” However, the CC&Rs define family as “natural individuals, related or unrelated, who live as a single household.” Is requiring an “integrated economic unit” discriminating based upon source of income? Do the HOA’s guidelines discriminate against military personnel? Sincerely, R.Z., Oceanside.


Dear R.Z.:

Many cities do not have a clear definition of “family,” but the California Supreme Court in its 1980 opinion in City of Santa Barbara vs. Adamson endorsed a broader definition of the term. In that opinion, the Court stated that members of a “family” need not necessarily be related or have a head of household. Some cities have adopted the definition of “family” to be a group of persons sharing a residence’s common facilities. Renters, military or not, need not be a “family” in the traditional sense of the word to be considered “single family” occupancy. Also, treating residents differently because of their military service may violate Fair Housing laws, since veteran or military status is now a protected class in California. Thanks, Kelly.