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The California Court of Appeal Unanimously Agrees With S&B and Its Clients

In a long and bitter battle between a homeowner’s association and some of its homeowners, the California Court of Appeal issued a published opinion clarifying the rights of homeowners under Civil Code section 1363.03, which preserve their right to have their views published in association media during homeowner association election campaigns. S&B's clients claimed that an election was invalid because the association published articles in its newsletter, on its website, and on its bulletin board, advocating a position, but refused to publish contrary homeowner views in those media. Contrary to the language of the statute governing this issue, the association claimed that its Board had the right to use association media to communicate its consensus views to the homeowner community without triggering an obligation to allow opposing homeowners to publish contrary views using association media. It also claimed that its communications to homeowners did not "advocate" a position, and were merely informational. A trial judge agreed with the association on both counts, and found in favor of the association, but the homeowners appealed and won. In a published, unanimous opinion, the Court of Appeal held that, “[i]f the Court created [a board-member exception], it would allow those in power the advantage of using Association media to advocate a point of view to the exclusion of any opposing view. Such a construction would only further empower those individuals already in power, and would weaken those individuals not in power. Not only would such a construction be fundamentally unfair, but it would facilitate rather than cure the evils intended to remedied by the statute.” The Court of Appeal also held that the articles published by the association advocated a position in the election campaign and, therefore, homeowners had statutory right to publish contrary views in association media. If you wish to read the Court of Appeal’s opinion, click here. The Association’s petition for review to the California Supreme Court was denied, leaving this case the only citable precedent on the issue of equal access to HOA media in the state of California.

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