Congratulations William “Bill” S. Budd, Esq., Shareholder

Effective, September 1, 2020, the Shareholders of Epsten, APC, are pleased to announce the promotion of William “Bill” S. Budd, Esq. to Shareholder.

Bill became an attorney in 2000 after being a community association manager holding the prestigious PCAM designation. Bill has been involved with the local San Diego Community Association Institute (CAI) as well as the California Association of Community Managers (CACM). His experience as a community association manager provides a unique insight to a niche industry. While a community association manager, Bill was designated as an expert witness in Superior Court cases on community association issues.

As an attorney for Epsten, APC, Bill provides transactional and civil litigation legal advice to his clients. He has successfully represented many clients in litigation, including prevailing in six cases before the Court of Appeal; three of which resulted in published opinions that are now binding authority in California. SB Liberty, LLC v. Isla Verde Assn., Inc. (2013) 217 Cal.App.4th 272, 280 (Board’s right to exclude non-members from board meetings); Trilogy at Glen Ivy Maintenance Assn. v. Shea Homes, Inc. (2015) 235 Cal.App.4th 361, 372 (Successful defeat of an Anti-Slapp motion brought by Shea Homes); and, Golden Eagle Land Investment, L.P. v. Rancho Santa Fe Assn. (2018) 19 Cal.App.5th 399 (Prevailed in an Anti-Slapp motion, resulting in Court dismissing the entire lawsuit against the Association). Clients enjoy Bill’s personality and fun demeanor along with his passion, professionalism and understanding of his clients’ needs.

In addition to continuing his existing responsibilities, Bill will also support the firm with a new leadership role as a Shareholder. The attorneys and staff at Epsten, APC look forward to Bill’s contributions to the continued success of the firm. Together, it is our mission to provide professional, quality legal services and peace of mind to our clients.

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To contact or congratulate Bill Budd, please use the following contact form:


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Is it Smoky in Here? What associations can do to address smoking in common areas and inside units.

By Rhonda R. Adato, Esq.
(As published in The Law Journal by CACM, Summer 2020)

Associations are often faced with the question of how to deal with smokers and the secondhand smoke they create. If secondhand smoke drifts from a residence or common area into a neighbor’s home, is that a nuisance? Or do residents generally have a right to enjoy a cigarette in peace? How can associations deal with this issue in a fair, even-handed way, and what legal tools do they have at their disposal?

First, the facts. According to the Center for Disease Control’s (“CDC”) website, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year. In 2018, nearly 14 of every 100 U.S. adults, aged 18 years or older, smoked cigarettes. However, cigarette smoking has significantly declined in recent years: smoking is down from 20.9% of American adults in 2005 to 13.7% in 2018.

Statistics also suggest that cigarette smoking is generational: current cigarette smoking is lowest among those aged 18 to 24 years old, at 8.4%.

So what does this mean for associations? Smoking rates are declining in the U.S. Research conducted in recent years has also brought the harmful effects of tobacco smoke to light, and local, state and federal governments have made a concerted effort to inform the public of these harmful effects. However, smokers are still out there. As a result, non-smokers appear to be increasingly less tolerant of smokers because they are more aware than ever of the harmful effects of secondhand tobacco smoke. Non-smoking residents are now demanding that association boards take action.

Is an association obligated to respond? As a general matter, associations are required to enforce nuisance provisions set forth in their CC&Rs. Secondhand tobacco smoke traveling into a residence can be reasonably interpreted to be a nuisance. Associations should enforce their CC&Rs, as appropriate, against owners when secondhand smoke from their residence constitutes a nuisance to other residents.

An association can face steep penalties for failing to enforce its CC&Rs. By way of example, in Chauncey v. Bella Palermo Homeowners Association et al, (2013) Orange County Superior Court Case No. 30-2011-00461681, the defendant association’s CC&Rs included a standard nuisance provision. Plaintiff homeowners complained to the association about their neighbors’ incessant smoking, which caused secondhand smoke to constantly enter their unit and aggravated their son’s asthma. Plaintiffs filed suit against both the neighbors and the association, alleging in part that the association failed to enforce the CC&Rs nuisance provision. The jury found that the association breached its CC&Rs. Plaintiffs were awarded damages and the association was required to pay plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.

There are challenges, however, associated with enforcing a nuisance provision. What is or is not a nuisance is a subjective standard. After all, what is a nuisance to one person may not be a nuisance to another. Further, it may be difficult for an association to determine if smoke is really transferring, or where the smoke is coming from. For that reason, an outright ban on smoking may be easier to administer, since it is an objective standard.

But do associations have authority to enact an outright ban against smoking tobacco in the community? And will a court uphold such a ban as enforceable? Unfortunately, we are not aware of a published California case regarding enacting a total smoking ban. However, in Birke v. Oakwood Worldwide et al. (2009) 169 Cal.App.4th 1540, a residential apartment complex banned smoking in all indoor common areas and indoor units, but permitted smoking in all outdoor common areas. The plaintiff, a resident with asthma, sued the apartment complex, alleging that the failure to abate the tobacco smoke in the outdoor common areas was a nuisance. The trial court granted the apartment complex’s demurrer to plaintiff’s first amended complaint without leave to amend. Plaintiff appealed. The appellate court ruled that plaintiff alleged a valid nuisance claim. Birke is helpful for California associations who wish to prohibit smoking. It underlines the concept that landlords may have an affirmative obligation to mitigate/address secondhand smoke as part of their existing “duty to take reasonable steps to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition.” Community associations are not landlords per se, but California courts have treated them like landlords in cases such as Frances T. v. Village Green Owners Assn. (1986) 42 Cal. 3d 490.

Case law from other states is also helpful, although not controlling in California. In the Colorado case Christiansen v. Heritage Hills 1 Condo. Owners Ass’n, Case No. 06CV1256 (Colo. Dist. Ct. Nov. 7, 2006), the defendant association amended its CC&Rs to ban smoking within the boundaries of the project. The court evaluated the ban under the standard of whether the association’s actions were reasonable, made in good faith, and not arbitrary or capricious (which is very similar to the California business judgment rule standard). The court found that the structure of the association’s building allowed smoke to migrate, and that residents had tried other means of mitigating the smell. The court also noted that the smoking ban was reasonably investigated and passed by 3 out

of 4 owners after trying other options to solve the issue. The court further stated that the Colorado legislature had recently passed bills regulating secondhand smoke, and that citizens do not have a fundamental right to smoke. As such, the ban neither violated public policy nor infringed on any of the owners’ fundamental rights. The court additionally held that the plaintiff smoker’s actions negatively affected the remainder of the community. Hopefully, a California court ruling on a community-wide smoking ban would apply similar reasoning as in Christiansen.

So what options does an association have to address smoking? As stated above, an association should enforce any nuisance provision set forth in its CC&Rs. We also believe associations are on firm ground to ban smoking in common areas. Associations typically have the right to control their common areas.

An association’s governing documents may additionally grant it authority to take action in the interest of protecting the health and safety of residents. The tide of public opinion is also turning against tobacco, meaning fewer homeowners may challenge such a ban.

Note that a community-wide ban on smoking is riskier than just banning smoking in common areas. While an association might be heralded for being health conscious and innovative, it also risks being a test case in the California courts regarding the enforce-ability of such a ban. However, some associations may be willing to take that risk. Associations should keep in mind that banning smoking in the entire community should most likely be done via a CC&Rs amendment, rather than an operating rule change. Adopting a ban within residences via an operating rule change might result in a challenge from a homeowner on the grounds that the rule is unreasonable and exceeds the board’s authority. Associations can also mitigate the risk of a homeowner challenge by implementing a grandfathering provision. That is, by drafting a community-wide ban to only apply to members who buy their homes in the community after the CC&Rs amendment has been recorded.

That way, all new members will be on record notice of the ban, and existing owners will be less likely to raise a challenge. However, a grandfathering provision will not resolve any nuisance claims resulting from any smoke transmission between residences, and might even make such claims more likely since all new owners will presumably be non-smokers.

In sum, associations should tread carefully and consult their legal counsel no matter which course of action they choose. Tobacco smoking may also decrease with time since younger people tend to smoke less, statistically. However, associations may face a new set of challenges in coming years. A November 6, 2019 NPR article reported that the proportion of high school students vaping nicotine has grown to 1 in 4. Young people have moved on to a newer, hipper trend: vaping and e-cigarettes. There is much less research regarding the harmful effects of these devices than traditional tobacco cigarettes, including their secondhand smoke effects, and the legislature has been slow to address the trend. Community associations’ next challenge might be regulating the negative effects of these devices rather than traditional tobacco cigarettes.

About the Author
Rhonda R. Adato is an Associate attorney at the law firm of Epsten, APC, where she handles transactional matters. She is based in Epsten’s San Diego office and joined the firm in August, 2018.

New HUD Policy: Applications to Associations for Service & Support Animals

In January 2020, HUD issued a new statement of policy regarding applications to associations for service and emotional support animals.
This new policy states that use of a mandatory form, as well as a requirement that the physician (or other health care professional) attest to the disability and the necessity of the animal under penalty of perjury are condemned by this new policy.
PLEASE NOTE that both of these items were previously included in our Senior Resource Manual (Appendix K). Therefore, if you have a copy of our Senior Resource Manual (or have a copy of this form as a standalone document), it is important to discontinue to use this form immediately and contact us for more information.
If you have a reasonable accommodation or modification policy, we suggest contacting us or your current legal counsel to review it for consistency with current law.

Epsten, APC Announces New Name Effective January 1, 2020

Epsten, APC, one of the oldest and largest Southern California Community Association Law Firms, announces it will change its name to Epsten, APC effective January 1st, 2020. The decision to shorten the firm’s name honors it’s past while acknowledging how the firm has been largely recognized by most of the firm’s clients and colleagues since its inception.

There will be no changes in leadership or attorneys as a result of this change. It will be “Same firm. Same service. Same name – just shorter.”  It has always been the firm’s goal to foster a culture based on traditional professional values and service to its clients. This will not change. The firm practices law in an industry where trust, relationships, and excellence define success for its clients and itself.  The firm will continue to provide the same continuity and stability as it has for 33 years.

Managing Shareholders, Jon H. Epsten, Esq., CCAL and Susan M. Hawks McClintic, Esq., together, with fellow shareholders Kieran J. Purcell, Esq., Anne L. Rauch, Esq., Rian W. Jones, Esq. and Dea C. Franck, Esq. agree this new name will better position the firm for its next decade of growth.

Epsten, APC, soon to be Epsten, APC, is one of the largest, strongest teams of common interest development attorneys in the industry with a team of 24 attorneys and three offices in Southern California. The firm is known for its professionalism and quality as well as the reliable legal services it provides to its more than 1,900 community association and commercial common interest development clients.

Despite the new (shorter) name, it is business as usual for the firm as their team of attorneys and staff focus on the recent changes in legislation, to ensure their clients are prepared for the complex legal requirements also taking effect January 1, 2020 and prepare for their well-known and highly regarded Annual Legal Symposium later this year – in which their attorneys will educate more than 1,000 local community association managers and board members in San Diego and the Coachella Valley.

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Election Process Timeline (Effective January 1, 2020)

Now that SB 323 has passed… What do you need to do and when?

Your election process just got a lot more complicated – and, the truth is, calculating your important dates and deadlines to adhere to the new laws effective January 1st, is like trying to hit a moving target.
To assist our clients (beyond attending our Legal Symposium), we have compiled an Election Process Timeline to help you understand the laws,identify when you need to start planning your next election and to help you set your Association’s own election deadlines.

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AB 670: Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

By Jacquelyn E. Quinn, Esq.

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In recent years, the California Legislature has enacted several laws aimed at limiting the authority of local agencies to restrict accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”) and junior ADUs and streamlining the construction of ADUs and junior ADUs.  Up until now, state law hasn’t addressed private restrictions on ADUs, such as in an association’s CC&Rs.

However, effective January 1, 2020, AB 670 adds section 4751 to the Common Interest Development Act that will prohibit associations from “unreasonably” restricting the construction of an ADU or junior ADU on a lot zoned for single-family residential use.  (An association’s governing documents may continue to prohibit the construction of an ADU on a lot zoned for multi-family residential use. )  The intent of the Legislature in passing this bill is to encourage the construction of ADUs or junior ADUs that are either owner-occupied or are used for rentals for longer than thirty (30) days.

An ADU, sometimes referred to as mother-in-law units or granny flats, is a dwelling unit designed to serve as independent living quarters for at least one person. These dwelling units can be both attached and detached from the primary dwelling unit. A junior ADU is simply a unit that is 500 square feet in size or less, attached to the home, and has entrances from within the primary dwelling unit as well as from outside.  A garage, carport or covered parking structure on the lot may also be converted to an ADU or junior ADU.

AB 670 makes any governing document void and unenforceable to the extent that it prohibits, or effectively prohibits, the construction or use of ADUs or junior ADUs.  However, AB 670 does allow an association to place “reasonable restrictions” on ADUs and junior ADUs in common interest developments, as long as the restrictions do not discourage or effectively prohibit ADU or junior ADU construction or unreasonably increase the cost to construct them.

Although the new law does not define what sort of restrictions are “reasonable,” the law does not require an association to follow the same exact standards that the city or county has adopted concerning ADUs or junior ADUs, leaving open the option for an association to adopt its own “reasonable restrictions” that may differ from those of local agencies.  Such “reasonable restrictions” may include requirements related to aesthetics and design of the new unit, submitting and receiving approval of an architectural application, size of the new unit, use of shared facilities in the community, and parking.

There are bound to be disagreements over what constitutes a “reasonable restriction.”  What constitutes a “reasonable restriction” for one association may not qualify as “reasonable” for another. Therefore, it is important for associations to conduct a diligent inquiry into what restrictions are truly reasonable for their community and members before adopting ADU guidelines for members to follow.

With respect to new provisions that local agencies must follow, sections 65852.2 and 65852.22 of the Government Code set forth specific standards that local agencies must follow in adopting local ordinances related to ADUs and junior ADUs.  For instance, local ordinances cannot establish a maximum square footage requirement for an ADU that is less than 850 square feet, or 1,000 square feet if the ADU contains more than one bedroom.  The local ordinance also cannot require a property owner who built an ADU to occupy the primary home on the property or the ADU. In addition, a local ordinance may not impose a requirement to replace lost parking spaces somewhere else on the property when converting a garage to an ADU.  While an association may adopt ADU restrictions that differ from local regulations, it is important and helpful for associations to be aware of their city’s or county’s local ordinances concerning ADUs and the ways in which the association’s restrictions vary, as residents are bound to raise comparisons.

Membership & Voter List Opt-Out Form

Civil Code section 5200 currently requires associations to disclose membership names, property addresses, and mailing addresses to other members upon request unless a member opts-out of sharing their information.

A new law mandating the disclosure of member email addresses to requesting members will go into effect on January 1, 2020. As such, we have updated our “Disclosure of Member Information Opt-Out Form” template, which is available upon request.

Associations may send updated opt-out forms to their membership now in anticipation of the change in the law. After January 1, 2020, member email addresses on file with the association must be disclosed to requesting members unless a member completes and submits a form to the association opting-out of having their information shared.

Note: Some of our clients may already provide member email addresses to requesting members. For those clients, their current opt-out form may be adequate.

Sexual Harassment Training Requirements

By Mandy D. Hexom, Esq.

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NEW UPDATE: Associations That Have Five or More Employees Must Provide Sexual Harassment Training by January 1, 2021
(Rather than January 1, 2020).

Employers with five or more employees no longer have to provide sexual harassment training by January 1, 2020 as previously required under Government Code section 12950 (Senate Bill 1343). Rather, pursuant to Government Code section 12950.1 (Senate Bill 778 signed by Governor Newsom on 8/30/19), an employer with five or more employees (which include seasonal and temporary employees, unpaid interns, unpaid volunteers, and independent contractors), must provide two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees and at least one hour of sexual harassment training to non-supervisory employees by January 1, 2021.

Subsequently, the employer must provide the training once every two years. This new law also requires an employer to provide initial training for non-supervisory employees within six months of hire.  However, if your supervisory employees received training in 2019, they need not be trained again until two years thereafter. Employers must keep the training documentation for at least two years.

More information about the training requirements, other related requirements, and resources for the required trainings can be found on the DFEH’s website at: