Learn all about HOAs and SB 9.
Senate Bill 9 gives California homeowners in urban neighborhoods the right to subdivide their single-family lot and build up to two residential units on each parcel. While the text of the new law is very comprehensive, it still leaves certain questions unanswered. One of these questions is the role of HOAs in SB 9 development.
There are many homeowners who live in HOA communities and want to develop their properties using SB 9. However, nothing in the law's text addresses homeowners associations. This omission has led to confusion among HOA members who want to know how much control—if any—their local homeowners association has over their SB 9 development rights.
In the following article, we’ll explore what HOAs are, their scope and limits, and what control they have over SB 9 lot splits and duplex developments.
What's an HOA?
A homeowners association (HOA for short) is a private organization that regulates a particular residential community. HOAs establish and enforce rules and regulations that all community members must follow. These organizations are most common in planned neighborhoods, townhomes, and multi-family residential structures like apartments and condos. All residents must pay HOA fees, which are often used to maintain common areas and amenities within the community.
HOA vs SB9: Which Takes Precedence?
HOAs are subject to state and local laws, and as such they cannot directly violate them. However, there is nothing in the text of Senate Bill 9 that explicitly overrides HOA rules. Because of this, homeowners associations do have the power to veto most SB 9 developments.
Many HOAs require an approval process for extensive home renovations or additions. And although your local city government must approve qualifying SB 9 developments, your local HOA is not under the same requirement.
Even if your homeowners association doesn’t veto your project outright, it will most likely be subject to their development and design standards. HOAs tend to set restrictions on floor area ratios, building heights, and the location of structures on the property. Many HOAs have design standards as well, regulating exterior design aspects such as siding, paint color, and the slope and building material of a roof.
What to do if your HOA says no
If your HOA won’t approve a second unit or lot split, it may be tempting to ignore their decision and do it anyway. However, this course of action is ill-advised. Although homeowners associations aren’t the law, they can still get you into trouble. Violating an HOA agreement puts you at risk for substantial fines or even a lien on your home.
However, there are a couple of avenues to pursue if you don’t like your HOA's decision.
Appeal their decision
If your HOA won’t let you pursue your proposed SB 9 project and you want to fight for it, you can write a letter of complaint to your HOA board of directors or bring it up at the next board meeting. If your HOA allows, you may request a hearing.
If you feel that your proposal has ben unjustly prohibited and you really want to fight it, you can contact a real estate lawyer to see if you have grounds to sue. In the interest of maintaining harmony among neighbors, however, this action should be considered a last resort.
Build an ADU instead
Although HOAs can prohibit most SB 9 developments, they cannot prevent homeowners from building accessory dwelling units. Homeowners associations can require that ADUs and JADUs (junior accessory dwelling units) meet certain design standards, but they cannot forbid them outright.
Although they're more limited in scope than most SB 9 projects, ADUs have great potential to increase your property value. Also called in-law units or granny flats, ADUs can be ideal housing solutions for aging parents or adult children. They can also be used as rental units, providing a source of perpetual income for property owners.
We hope this blog post has answered your questions about HOAs and SB 9 development. Since every homeowners association has its own procedures and bylaws, there is no definitive answer as to whether or not HOAs will allow SB 9 development.
If you’re considering purchasing property for SB 9 development, it’s best to avoid properties in HOA communities. Homeowners who are not bound by HOAs have more freedom to develop their property as they see fit.
If you already live in an HOA neighborhood and want to utilize Senate Bill 9, it’s best to speak with your association’s board first before pursuing development.