Board Meeting Agendas

QUESTION: Section 4930 of the Civil Code provides for an agenda to be included with notices but it does not provide a definition of agenda or what the bare bones requirements for one are. I hope your firm will be able to expound an answer.

ANSWER: There are two statutes that refer to agendas:

Notice of a board meeting shall contain the agenda for the meeting. (Civ. Code §4920(d).)

[T]he board may not discuss or take action on any item at a nonemergency meeting unless the item was placed on the agenda included in the notice that was distributed…” (Civ. Code §4930(a).)

Legislators often leave a lot unsaid when they enact laws. They either assume we know what they are talking about or they misjudged things. If nobody can agree on what a statute means, the courts sometimes weigh in. In this case, I don’t think we need a judge to tell us what an agenda means.

Definition. Black’s Law Dictionary defines “agenda” as “items of business or discussion to be brought up at a meeting.” I checked Robert’s Rules of Order but didn’t find anything useful. I then checked the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Parliamentary Procedure and found the following:

If you really want to manage your meeting, you need an agenda. With an agenda, the specific items that are expected to come up at a meeting are placed into the order of business.

How detailed should an open meeting agenda be? It needs to contain enough information so members can easily understand what will be discussed at the board meeting.

Maintenance Issues. For example, if the board intends to discuss installation of a new landscape sprinkler system, reroofing a building, and repainting the clubhouse, a generic agenda item called “Maintenance” is not enough. No one reading the posted agenda will have any idea what that means. The agenda should list each item of business. That way, members can decide if they want to attend and give their opinions during open forum. See sample agenda for open meetings.

Executive Session. Notice of executive session meetings must also contain an agenda. (Civ. Code §4920(d).) Because executive sessions are confidential and topics are generally noted in open meeting minutes (Civ. Code §4935(e)), agenda descriptions are more circumspect. See sample agenda for executive sessions.

RECOMMENDATION. To learn more about parliamentary procedure, I don’t recommend buying the unabridged Robert’s Rules of Order. All you need is a simplified version that covers the basics. has a variety of materials you can purchase.


: Our CC&Rs require that any owner who rents their unit have a signed rental agreement; that the renters provide contact information; that the lease be no less than 12 months; that the renters sign and acknowledge the rules, etc. Our property manager did not request a lease agreement from new renters because they were family members of the owner. If they admit to paying rent to their parents, are they not renters?

ANSWER: If they pay rent, they’re renters. And yes, they need to comply with your rental policies. BTW, it sounds like you have a good set of policies.


Most people know that Senator Stirling authored the Davis-Stirling Act. Few know that he is also the father of the highly successful Adopt-A-Highway program.

Twenty-five years ago, Senator Stirling authored and then championed a bill to address the problem of highway litter. His concept was simple–authorize a public/private partnership to allow individuals, organizations, and businesses to help maintain sections of California’s highways.

To date, more than 120,000 Californians have cleaned and enhanced over 15,000 miles of roadside by removing litter, planting trees and wildflowers, removing graffiti, and controlling vegetation.

In a 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Adopt-A-Highway program, Senator Stirling was honored for his work and presented with a framed copy of the original bill he authored.

We should all thank Senator Stirling for fathering a concept that has enhanced our highways at no cost to taxpayers. His legislation is so effective, it has been adopted by 21 other states across the nation. Congratulations Senator Stirling!


We are looking for an attorney for our Northern California office to service clients in San Francisco and the surrounding region.

We seek an attorney with at least 5 years experience advising HOA boards.

Please contact Adrian Adams at 800-464-2817 or by email.

Adrian J. Adams, Esq.
Adrian J. Adams, Esq.
A Professional Law Corporation

We are friendly lawyers. Boards and managers can reach us at (800) 464-2817 or

What Tenants Need To Know About Haunted Rental Properties

Haunted houses are fun when you seek them out around Halloween, but what about when the unexpected happens in your own home? Depending on where you stand on the spectrum of belief in the paranormal, it may really matter to you whether you choose a living situation where things go bump in the night. While there is no hard and fast regulation under which a potential haunting can be identified or determined, it may actually fall under a disclosure clause when a house is up for sale or rent.

Hauntings and Legal Actions

While each state differs, you may be surprised at how often the subject of haunting disclosures comes up in real estate training conferences, and even in legal rulings. Because sellers and landlords are required by law to tell potential tenants all the material facts about a property, or the information crucial to making a decision, they can face legal action if they fail to reveal a haunting or “consistent and unexplainable activity.”

In the 1990 New York case, Stambovsky v. Ackley, a tenant went to court to be released from a contract he made on a house before he learned of its haunted history. He ultimately won, mainly because the seller had publicized the history of the house and the strange events encountered there and it was decided that she owed the same duty to the buyer. While the court’s decision did not verify the existence of a spiritual presence, publicizing it interpreted it as a material fact.

Similar cases have cropped up throughout the country and while the rulings tend to differ based on the circumstances, the best practice among those in the real estate community is that disclosure is usually the best bet. It also helps that there are many potential renters that are very interested in the idea of living in a “haunted” house and advertising a home as such is likely to bring in an entirely new type of tenant. Vacation and short-term rentals with a “ghost” are also in high demand.

How Tenants Can Get Informed

So how do you protect yourself if you are not interested in sharing house space with a ghost, or even just the reputation of one? Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until you are in residence to find out.

Trust Your Gut

Your senses may be telling you more than you think they are. Whether it is the feel of the neighborhood, or just the general sense of comfort or discomfort you get from an initial walk through, you may need to investigate further or just move on.

Research the Home’s History

A little online investigation may save you a lot of time and stress, and in this media-driven age, it is easier than ever to find out the history of a potential home or building. Public records are usually revealing, or if you want to dig a little deeper, you can access websites like to get a record of any deaths in the home, suspicious or otherwise.

Talk to the Neighbors

This is always a good idea in any case, since you are most likely to get the most accurate review of the neighborhood and any rumors surrounding homes in the area. Even if you are quite certain that there is no such thing as ghosts, homes with a reputation may be a magnet for local citizens that are less skeptical and you may find the property targeted or regularly trespassed on.

Check the Paperwork

In your state, your landlord may be required to submit a self-disclosure form to reveal known issues with the house, which includes paranormal activity. In some cases, homes known to be haunted may be classified as “stigmatized homes” which can impact the sale or rental desirability.

Be Logical

Issues in houses are sometimes interpreted as hauntings, especially when the plumbing or insulation is old and the sounds and feelings associated with these things are unfamiliar to tenants used to more modern housing. If you believe in paranormal activity, you are not alone, but beware of letting your imagination run away with you.

It is also wise to keep in mind that the idea of ghosts and haunted houses are very subjective to personal interpretation and are very hard to actually qualify and prove. Some states embrace a “buyer beware” attitude in such instances where the evidence is so subjective. As a tenant or prospective tenant, a haunted rental house may change your opinion about the rental property and whether or not you want to put up with the associated stigma, for better or worse. At least, tenants can be as informed as possible before making such an important decision as to where they want to live.

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Do You Know If Your Landlord Is Breaking the Law?

Because landlord/tenant laws differ in each state, it can be difficult to know what is really allowed in your new rental location. Sometimes landlords go about breaking the law intentionally, knowing that renters may be unaware of their rights. Other times, breaking the law is completely unintentional, yet there is no excuse for ignorance when it comes to landlord/tenant relations.

Knowing what is illegal before you sign a lease can protect you in the long run and help you steer clear of shady situations during the hunt for a home. While it is important to do your own research before signing on the dotted line, the following are a few standard precautions that are common to almost every state. This way, you can avoid landlords who may or may not know they are breaking the law.

  1. Nationality, Disability, Sexuality and Race: Your landlord is not allowed to ask you about your nationality, sexuality, potential disability or race since such questions may have an ulterior motive. Because it is illegal for potential landlords to discriminate against an applicant based on these factors, she is only allowed to screen tenants based on income, credit history and a background check. Some other screening factors are allowed, such as no smoking and no pets, with the exception of service animals.
  2. Nonrefundable Deposit: A deposit is a normal thing you can expect to pay when you first move into a rental home because landlords need to be able to protect their property against unexpected damages. While some landlords charge a cleaning or pet fee that you don’t get back, the deposit itself should be refundable as long as you leave the unit damage free. If a potential landlord tells you that there is a nonrefundable deposit in addition to a security deposit, check with the laws of your state to ensure that the request isn’t illegal or shady.
  3. Entering Without Permission: The terms of your lease will probably state that she has permission to enter your home to make repairs or to show the unit to other potential renters. However, this doesn’t mean that she can’t pop in whenever she wants. Except in an emergency, like a broken water pipe when you are not home, your landlord must give you notice of a least 24 hours. Check the lease carefully to ensure that your right to privacy is protected.
  4. Rent Increase: While it is not illegal for your landlord to raise the rent, she is not allowed to do so until your lease is up unless it specifically states otherwise. Section 8 and rent controlled areas also limit how much rent can be raised in certain areas.
  5. Property is Being Sold: Properties can be sold at any time, but your lease supersedes a sale unless there is an early termination clause in it. You are entitled to proper notice and the choice to leave, or the option to live out the time in your lease agreement. In such situations, your rent should also be protected for the duration, even with a new landlord.

If you come across a situation where you discover that a landlord is breaking the law, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney to make sure you are not only right, but that you can begin the process of correcting the action if needed while preserving your own rights as well. While it may be difficult to spot situations where a landlord is breaking the law, it can be even more difficult pointing it out and taking action against it.

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5 Tips for Landlords About Halloween

Halloween is a time for fun and fantasy, but it can also bring a real fear to landlords with multi-unit properties. That’s because there are certain risks associated with celebrating Halloween that can cause a lot of time, money or stress to property owners and property managers.

Trick-or-treating and other Halloween-themed events like parties, trunk-or-treating or spook alleys can sometimes turn into safety issues that threaten resident health and wellness and jeopardize the multi-unit rental property. While landlords shouldn’t ban fun Halloween activities and practices, there are definitely ways they can help residents maximize enjoyment and minimize risk.

Here are 5 tips for landlords about Halloween that will help everyone in a multi-unit property to have a happier and healthier holiday:

1. Fire Safety

Perhaps the top scare during Halloween is the increased risk of fire due to open flames. Whether it is from jack-o-lanterns with candles or bonfires or fire pits, the risk of costumes, curtains and other flammable material catching on fire is high. Landlords can send around notices reminding tenants about not using candles indoors and recommending alternative lighting. Some landlords even go so far as to provide packs of glow sticks to multi-unit tenants for their carved pumpkins in an effort to foster good will as well as compliance.

2. Dark Spaces

Because so many people are wandering around on Halloween night, it is important that a multi-unit property is properly lit. From hallways and stairs to the building’s exterior, landlords should make sure there is plenty of light for visitors. If an area seems too dark, temporary landscape lighting like outdoor string lights, solar garden lights, or landscape flood lights can help brighten things up until a more permanent solution is implemented. Good outdoor lighting can also discourage vandalism on Halloween night.

3. Slip and Fall Accidents

Landlords should always focus on making sure that foot traffic is safe while on the rental property, but especially during Halloween. Long or dangling costumes, awkward shoes, and masks that can obscure vision all add to the risk of somebody slipping and falling while walking on uneven ground. Any areas that are cluttered, full of debris or are otherwise a high risk for tripping should be taken care of well before Halloween to keep residents and guests safe from injury.

4. Protecting Pets

If the multi-unit rental property allows for pets, then landlords can help residents keep their four-legged friends happier. With many strangers around and lots of doors opening and closing, Halloween can cause lots of pets to act abnormally and even aggressively. For the pet’s own safety, as well as the safety of others on the rental property, landlords should remind guests to keep them secure and away from the action.

5. Community Rule Enforcement

Many people host Halloween parties or similar activities and landlords should take the time to remind residents of the community rules regarding noise, parking, parties, use of common areas, guest behavior and more. These rules apply all year long, but a refresher in the form of a written letter to all tenants may just head off any problems before they happen.

Halloween can be a fun and exciting holiday that brings the residents of a multi-unit rental property together. Landlords can be proactive in getting the property ready for Halloween and in reminding residents of their responsibilities in preventing any issues so that people of all ages can enjoy themselves and stay free of injuries.

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10 Non-Permanent Ways To Upgrade Your Rental Home

One of the downsides of rental homes is that they are often decorated with only the most basic colors and serviceable but simple appliances, flooring and cabinetry. Because you probably signed a lease where you agreed not to make any permanent changes to your rental, it can be difficult to make your home feel personal, much less give it an upgraded look and feel. Fortunately, there are several ways that you can add to your home without compromising your security deposit.

1. Shower Head

A fancy shower head can make all the difference in your bathroom and changing it out is fairly simple and leaves no permanent trace. Do some research before you undertake the job and make sure you understand how to make the switch without causing leaks or issues that might end up being costly. It doesn’t take much to temporarily change out an entire shower hardware kit for someone with know-how.

2. Floor Rugs, Curtains and Throw Pillows

Few things can transform a living space more dramatically than carpets and rugs. You may not be able to do much about that old carpet or the unattractive laminate floors in the kitchen, but you can still take action to make your home more comfortable and stylish. Area rugs are an ideal way to cover unsightly floors. You can also add curtains to just about any window using a non-permanent adhesive hook and rod system. Dramatic patterns and colors around a window will really brighten up a living space. Of course, colorful throw pillows on sofas and beds will add your own flair into your home décor.

3. Update Hardware

Nothing can date your cabinetry more than old pulls and handles and changing out the hardware and putting in new ones can put fresh life into them. The cost will depend on how many you need and what type you buy. Make sure the new holes line up with the old ones already drilled into the cabinets, and never drill new holes. This semi-permanent change will only last as long as you live in the unit because you can take them all with you when you go as long as you reinstall the originals.

4. Bathroom Grout

Grout is one of those household things that needs replaced now and then. Because grout is protective as well as cosmetic, your landlord should be responsible for renewing and repairing the rubber grout that seals any water bearing vessel to the wall. But, what about the dingy concrete grout in between the tiles in the shower or on the floor? Steam and bleaching agents can help, but in some cases you may need to replace it or simply repaint it. Some hardware stores carry paint pens specifically for brightening grout and while the job can be time consuming, the end result is a cleaner, fresher looking bathroom.

5. Electric Fireplace

Space heaters are a nice way to save on your utility bill but you can get the look of a fancy fireplace when you get an electric version. Electric fireplaces can save you money during the cold winter months, and can be installed temporarily. Bring warmth and beauty to your living space with electric fireplaces. From ultra modern to classic stone or wood, the styles and designs of an electric fireplace will change the look of any home from standard to upscale.

6. Add Crown Molding to Bathroom Mirrors

In the rental world, homes are generally outfitted with only builder grade bathroom mirrors. Crown molding around the mirror can add individuality to your bathrooms and give it a more upscale look. If you don’t have the required carpentry skills to do a temporary faux mirror frame, there are many prefabricated kit options that you can easily mount using removable adhesive tabs.

7. Light Fixtures and Dimmers/Switch Plates

Light fixtures are another area in rentals where landlords usually stick with the basics, but a unique or beautiful piece can easily change the look of the room. Some light fixtures are easily switched out, but some require a little more electric know how to get them hooked up. If you have no experience in this area, it is best to hire a professional. If you aren’t feeling adventurous enough to completely replace the light fixture, installing a dimmer switch in main rooms can reduce the glare of regular lighting, increase ambiance and even help you save money on your utilities. Just be prepared to change it back when you are getting ready to move.

8. Contact Paper in the Kitchen

New appliances are a significant investment, but there is an easy and inexpensive way to update the look of the the ones that you already have. Stainless steel contact paper can be purchased at most major hardware stores and will help you match or update the look of your kitchen appliances. There’s even faux marble contact paper for the counter tops and faux brick and tile for a back splash. The changes will have a permanent look but will actually be an illusion because  contact paper can be easily removed when you leave the rental if your landlord prefers.

9. Removable Wallpaper

If you crave the intricate or bold print that you can only get from wallpaper, permanent installation isn’t your only option. Removable wallpaper has a strong adhesive backing can be cut to measure and will peel off when you leave the rental. Another option is words and images using peel and stick vinyl. From your favorite quotes to silhouettes of birds, trees and more, there are hundreds of ways to dress up walls in a rental property.

10. Paint

Updating the paint in your home is one of the easiest and cheapest ways for personalizing and updating your home. Of course, only do this with landlord permission. If you aren’t up for painting an entire room, you can paint an accent wall in a bold color and still change the look. Keep in mind that darker colors will make a small room look even smaller and that you get what you pay for in terms of paint and supplies. Check with your landlord in case he has a preference on the brand of paint that you use.

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View the Same Property Staged 3 Different Ways

By Saghar Setareh, CoContest guest contributor How can you know the best style for staging a property? After all, you’ll need to satisfy home buyers’ various style tastes as well as make sure you’re showing the property in its best light. Thanks to the power of the Internet, we wanted to see just how much […]

Adverse Possession of Common Areas

An interesting case was decided last week. Without approval, a homeowner built a retaining wall on 6,000 square feet of common area. Because of the rural nature of the development, the trespass went undiscovered for several years.

When it was discovered and demands went unheeded, the association sued. The homeowner argued he had acquired ownership of the common area through adverse position.

Under California law (Code Civ. Proc. §§318, 325, 328), a person can acquire legal ownership of another’s land without paying for it if he can prove the following:

1. Possession of the land was under claim of right or color of title;

2. Possession was actual, open, and notorious;

3. Possession was adverse and hostile to the true owner;

4. Possession was continuous for at least five years; and

5. The person paid all taxes assessed against the property during the five-year period.

Payment of Taxes. In a common interest development, payment of all taxes on disputed common area is impossible for a claimant to establish.

Although common areas have value, they are not separately assessed for taxes. Their taxable value is reflected in the increased market value of members’ properties created by common area pools, clubhouses, riding trails, parks, etc. Property taxes on common areas are, therefore, billed to and paid by all homeowners individually, not by the association. (Lake Forest CA v. County of Orange.)

For example, if there are 100 lots, a member claiming adverse possession of common area pays his 1/100 share of the taxes through the increased value of his property. The remaining 99/100 share of the tax, however, is paid by the other 99 homeowners through their own property taxes. As a result, the fifth element of adverse possession cannot be met by a claimant. Such was the ruling in Nellie Gail Ranch OA v. McMullin.

Congratulations to Fred Whitney and his team at Neuland, Whitney & Michael for winning this case for Nellie Gail Ranch.


: On your website, you provide a list of governing documents for each type of common interest development. Why do stock co-ops not have CC&Rs? Does a proprietary lease substitute for CC&Rs since they both describe the rights and obligations of the membership?

ANSWER: My website chart does not include CC&Rs for stock cooperatives because they don’t exist. The functional equivalent is the proprietary lease or occupancy agreement.

Different Approaches
. A co-op lease and condo CC&Rs both accomplish the same task but in entirely different ways. It’s like an automobile and a horse. They both carry people from one place to another but they burn different fuels, emit different exhaust, and move at different speeds.

Condominiums. In a 100-unit condominium development, members own their units. In addition, each owns a piece of the common areas. CC&Rs (equitable servitudes) are recorded against each of the 100 condominiums and binds their owners.

Stock Co-op. In a 100-unit stock cooperative, there is only one owner–the corporation. The corporation owns the entire development including the units (called apartments). Members cannot buy an apartment. Instead, they buy stock in the corporation. A proprietary lease or occupancy agreement creates a landlord-tenant relationship between the corporation and the shareholder that gives the person the right to occupy an apartment.

Enforcement Mechanism. If a shareholder breaches the occupancy agreement, he can be evicted from the property. Condo associations often wish they had that kind of authority but they don’t. They cannot evict a member because the association does not own the units. At best, an association can fine, suspend privileges, and seek judicial enforcement of its restrictions.

Conversions. Stock cooperatives are primarily an East Coast phenomenon. Very few were built in California because condominiums are a superior form of ownership when it comes to loans and refinancing. As a result, condominiums have higher market values. That is why so many co-ops have converted to condos over the years. To see the different documents for each form of ownership, see governing document chart.


30 Years of Records. Regarding the president who died, I wholeheartedly agree, serving on an HOA board can be detrimental to a director’s health. If the stress doesn’t kill you, a homeowner might. Fortunately, I saw the light and after 8 years I am no longer on my HOA board. There is a burn-out factor. It’s taken me about a year before I could attend a board meeting. -Alice O.

Is it Legal? I believe there was a typo in the Newsletter last week. You mentioned the “buck-a-coor” program but we were hoping that you meant the “buck-a-Coors” program. This sounds like a very worthwhile and valuable program, especially since we are currently paying $2.49 for a 24 ounce can of Coors. Please provide more information on the exciting “buck-a-Coors” program. -Richard W.

RESPONSE: My nimble fingers must have felt the same way. They immediately went for the buck-a-Coors program instead of CAI’s buck-a-door for their legislative advocate. One could only hope.

Adrian J. Adams, Esq.

Adrian J. Adams, Esq.
A Professional Law Corporation

We’re friendly lawyers–boards and managers can reach us at (800) 464-2817 or

5 Things to Ask a Tenant’s Landlord Reference

Whether its for a job or a rental property, collecting a previous landlord reference from applicants is a critical step. When landlords have a vacant rental unit available they are eager to collect applications from prospective tenants hoping that the information will help them make a good decision about their next renter.

Smart landlords perform tenant screening on all qualified applicants and often this includes contacting previous landlords for references. The idea is to question the previous landlord and see what their relationship was like with the applicant.

Having such a valuable resource on the other end of the phone is a rare opportunity to get an honest look at the applicant’s rental history. A previous landlord’s insights can really shine the spotlight on how the applicant might be as a tenant. When it comes to tenant screening, landlords should not waste the opportunity to check in with previous landlords.

There are 5 very important questions that current landlords should be sure to ask an applicant’s previous landlord:

1. When did the tenant’s lease begin and end?

This gives landlords a general timeline of how long the previous landlord interacted with the applicant and how recent the information is. Ideally, landlords want a previous landlord reference based on a relatively recent time frame to get the most current information. While any previous landlord reference can help a landlord make a decision, the most recent information is better.

2. What amount of rent did the tenant pay?

Asking this question helps landlords compare and contrast whether the tenant would be comfortable with the amount of rent currently being asked for in the new place. If there is a big discrepancy, landlords should take extra precautions to confirm that the tenant’s income can cover it.

3. Did the tenant pay their rent on time, and if not, how many times were they late?

Of course, this answer is a big clue into the most important part of screening a tenant. Landlords can learn a lot from a previous tenant’s records on paying rent, and get a good idea from the previous landlord about how common such incidents actually were. Punctuality with past rent payments is an excellent way to gauge how payments will be timed in the future.

4. How well did the tenant care for the rental property?

A previous landlord will be all too happy to share stories about any problems encountered with the care and treatment of their rental property. Respecting the property is a big deal to all landlords, and if there were a lot of issues with the tenant about the condition of the rental property after the tenancy, it is valuable information and can help a landlord make a decision on an applicant.

5. Would the landlord rent to the tenant again?

This is the most important question that a landlord can ask a previous landlord, because it takes the sum of all the interactions, rent payment process, interactions and more and puts it into a single word. If the previous landlord says that they would, it means that the tenant was positive and profitable enough to be considered again. If the previous landlord would not rent to the tenant again, it signals that renting to that tenant is not a good financial decision in the long run.

Landlords that are doing a reference check with previous landlords should make sure that they do a thorough job in their questioning, because what they discover about the applicant can reveal a lot more about how they will behave than even an employment background check or hearing what other references have to say.

Of course, even a glowing recommendation from a previous landlord doesn’t automatically mean that the tenant will be problem-free, but when taken into consideration with a host of other screening steps, it puts landlords in the best possible place to decide whether or not to offer a lease. Gauging renter responsibility is difficult, but a previous landlord reference is the best tool that a current landlord has in figuring it all out.

Video – What To Ask A Tenant’s Landlord Reference

The video above is one instructional video on making verification calls.

We have scripts and two more videos on how to call a tenant’s references. Learn what you should know when calling a tenant applicant’s employer as well.

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