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Some common legal issues arising with internal disputes in HOAs

Disputes with or among the members of homeowners' associations, or HOAs, sometimes require litigation. Maybe there is an internal dispute over the interpretation of governing documents, or maybe someone in the association is upset over another member's pets. Construction defects are another point of contention. In any case, members of homeowners' associations in the Los Angeles area need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities.

For example, some members of HOAs are under the impression that the association's insurance will automatically cover the cost of litigation, should another member decide to challenge the interpretation of governing documents. This false impression has been known to lead to reckless actions by association members. However, the HOA's insurance policy may not cover individual members if litigation proves their actions were unlawful. In that case, the individual member will likely have to foot the bill.

Or maybe an insurance company agrees to pay for an HOA's attorneys to settle a dispute. The insurance company may still demand to be reimbursed after the litigation is finished. Whether or not the HOA has to pay back the insurance company depends on the policy, which itself may be interpreted, and the HOA will need legal help if members want to challenge the insurance company's request.

When members of an HOA want to address a violation of governing documents, the members should air their grievance at the open meeting of the association. It's important to ensure that the complaint is well documented in the meeting minutes. It is also important to go to such a meeting with a firm grasp of the relevant legal knowledge to make a strong case.

Source: Lost Angeles Times, "Association's board members wrongly think they can't be sued," Donie Vanitzian, Jan. 20, 2013

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