Property Management Professionals (PMP)

A Question of HOA Legitimacy

Dr. HOA,

I am trying to find out what the law requires for an HOA to be legitimate.

I live in a very small community where the HOA does practically nothing, but demands $85 per month. We are having a lot of vandalism issues, and they do nothing to help fix the problem. I don’t even think this HOA is legitimate because it is so poorly operated, so now I want the facts in order to dispute the  bill it mails me each month.

I’ve taken photos and mailed them to the management office asking “Who is minding the store?” — but the photos are ignored. In my mind, I should not have to pay the monthly dues to an HOA that may not be legally legitimate and does nothing to help the community. I plan to stop paying the $85 per month, even if it ends up in court. If you can help with some advice, I would appreciate it.


Hello Cyndi,

Associations are typically set up as nonprofit corporations, so you should be able to request a copy of the articles of incorporation from your association’s management company or board of directors supporting the fact that the association is incorporated.

You may also try to look up your association on the California secretary of state website:

This will tell you if your association is incorporated and whether the corporation is in good standing.

Please note, however, that although most associations are incorporated, it is not required, so even if you are unable to locate articles of incorporation or find your association on the secretary of state’s website, you may still reside in a legal association.

Pursuant to California Civil Code, if the following documents are recorded against the properties within the community then a legal association exists: declarations (covenants, conditions and restrictions, or CC&Rs), a condominium plan (if it is a condominium community) and a Final Map or Parcel Map (please refer to Civil Codes, Sections 1351 & 1352).

Assuming your community is a legal association, it is important to note that membership is mandatory, and governing documents are legally binding for all owners living within the community. Additionally, member assessments levied to operate and maintain the association are mandatory and lien-based.

As such, I would advise you to continue making assessment payments while you vet the legitimacy of the association. Association’s have the right and the responsibly to process liens against properties with delinquent account balances and may even foreclose on properties if delinquent balances reach $1,800 or become more than one-year delinquent, whichever comes first.

Assuming that your research proves that your community is governed by an association, my advice is to take action and get involved to help fix what ails your community.

Associations rely on strong community support and vested owners who are willing to volunteer their time and take an active role to protect their community, and their investment.

Work to elect a new board of directors that share your concerns and meet your expectations, or consider running for the board yourself.

A great resource for homeowners looking to replace their association’s current leadership is the association bylaws, which outline the association’s organizational structure and governing regulations for the administration and management of the community.

The bylaws will tell you how many members make up the board, as well as the board member terms of office.

If you not interested in running for the board of directors, you may want to consider joining a committee or working with the association’s board of directors to create a committee focused on neighborhood upkeep and safety to curb vandalism. Remember, homeowners are “the association.”  If you do not agree with the way your association is being managed, take an active role and elect new leadership.

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