Additionally, a recent development in the law requires HOAs to participate in IDR in good faith if a member has requested IDR. (Civ. Code § 5910.1). Now, while this procedure is typically more effective than a cease and desist letter, it is not always the best course of action.
If your HOA is entirely unreasonable, or if you are looking to bring out the big guns, it may be best to explore alternative dispute resolution (or “ADR”). Civil Code section 5930(a) states that neither associations nor their members may file an “enforcement action” in superior court unless the parties have submitted their dispute to ADR. ADR takes two forms in California: mediation and arbitration. Arbitration is a forum in which an arbitrator acts as a finder of facts and law and ultimately makes a decision; in other words, private court. Mediation, on the other hand, is not a trial or hearing, there are no “fact finders,” and no judge, jury, or arbitrator who orders the parties to do something. Instead, it is a formal settlement conference in which the parties are able to share their story, and attempt to resolve the dispute on mutually agreeable terms. But that isn’t the sole reason it is so important. It is also when your attorney’s fees start tracking for the purposes of recovering them from the losing party. (Grossman v. Park Fort Washington Assn. (2012) 212 Cal.App.4th 1128). Participating in ADR gives you the right to recover any attorney’s fees you spend attacking your recalcitrant HOA. Like IDR, there are also procedural requirements that must be fulfilled, that come with consequences if they are not.
Finally, you can file a lawsuit against your HOA or nightmare neighbor. The process of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit is called litigation, and litigation is what you see on T.V. and in movies. It involves depositions, written discovery, motions, oral argument, and ultimately culminates in trial in front of a judge and/or jury. In other words, it is the nuclear option. While most HOA cases should involve either IDR or ADR prior to litigation, there is no one-size fits all approach to a legal dispute.
If you need help evaluating your options, the attorneys at Lubin Caplin + Pham LLP are here to help you every step of the way. Our seasoned litigators will work tirelessly to enforce or defend your rights and choose the best course of action given the unique facts and circumstances of your particular dispute.