California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division
FRIARS VILLAGE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff and Respondent,
CHARLES I. HANSING, Defendant and Appellant. CHARLES I. HANSING, Plaintiff and Appellant.
FRIARS VILLAGE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, Defendant and Respondent,
Pub. Order 10/9/13
APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Ct. Nos. 37-2010-00105362- CU-CO-CTL, 37-2010-00007105-SC-SC-CTL William R. Nevitt, Jr., Judge.
Charles I. Hansing, in pro. per., for Plaintiff, Defendant and Appellant.
Community Legal Advisors Inc., Mark T. Guithues and Edward W. Burns, for Plaintiff, Defendant and Respondent.
HUFFMAN, Acting P. J.
This appeal arises from a judgment issued after a bench trial in these two consolidated cases, on a stipulated record, (1) granting declaratory relief at the request of a homeowners association of a common interest development, that an election rule it adopted is valid and enforceable; and (2) denying an owner's request in his small claims case to challenge that rule as inconsistent with the development's governing documents.
Plaintiff, defendant and appellant Charles I. Hansing is an owner of two units, together with his wife (not a party to this action), in the Friars Village common interest development, and they reside in one unit and are members of its homeowners association (Association), the plaintiff, defendant and respondent in this case. The development is subject to the provisions of the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act (the Act), which establishes standards for governance of such associations. (Civ. Code,  § 1350 et seq.) The Association operates under amended articles of incorporation and bylaws ("governing documents"), which specify that residents and members of the Association in good standing may be nominated for or nominate themselves for office on the board of directors (the Board).
Through its nine-member Board, the Association enacted an operating rule in the rules for elections and voting, that prevents a person from seeking a position on the Board, if that prospective candidate is related by blood or marriage to any current Board member, or to any current candidate for such office. (Rule 3.2.2(e) (the relationship rule).)
According to Hansing, the adoption of this relationship rule violates his right as a homeowner to nominate himself to the Board, a right to self-nomination that is arguably guaranteed by section 1363.03, subdivision (a)(3) of the Act (hereafter § 1363.03(a)(3)). In toto, § 1363.03(a)(3) requires the Association to specify the qualifications for candidates for the Board or other elected positions, and provides that such qualifications must be consistent with the governing documents. Further, it provides that "[a] nomination or election procedure shall not be deemed reasonable if it disallows any member of the Association from nominating himself or herself to the board of directors." (§ 1363.03(a)(3).)
Hansing also contends the relationship rule violates the provisions of section 1357.100 et seq., which establish standards for operating rules for associations. "Operating rules" are regulations adopted by the Board that apply to the management and operation of the development, or to the Association's business and affairs. (§ 1357.100.) Operating rules are enforceable and valid only if they are "not inconsistent" with governing law and the governing documents (here, amended articles of incorporation and bylaws). (§ 1357.110, subd. (c).) Hansing argues the minimal standards set forth in the Association's governing documents (residency and membership in the Association) cannot properly be altered by an operating rule such as the relationship rule, so that the Board exceeded its authority in enacting it. (§ 1357.110, subd. (b).)
On de novo review, we agree with the trial court that the Association's board was authorized to enact the relationship rule, in light of the language of the governing documents and the relevant statutes.
INTRODUCTION AND LITIGATION
Pursuant to its obligations under the governing documents, the Association's Board enacted operating rules for the management and operation of the development, and for the conduct of the business and affairs of the Association. (§ 1357.100, subd. (a).) These include a set of rules for elections and voting, adopted in 2006. Section 3.0 et seq. of these rules deals with the qualifications and nominations of directors and repeats the requirement that a Board director shall be a member of the Association and resident of the development, who is in good standing with respect to payment of assessments and other obligations. Nominations for the Board may be made by a nominating committee, from the floor at the annual meeting, or by self-nomination.
As relevant here, rule 3.2.2 was amended in 2009, to add the relationship rule as its subdivision (e). Hansing's wife, also an Association member and resident, was then serving as a member of the Board. In a letter dated September 3, 2010, Hansing requested that the Board place his name on the slate for Board office, and he objected to the relationship rule as setting a qualification which he believed to be illegal. The Association's counsel responded that the Board had made a policy decision to enact the rule, since the bylaws and CC&R's were silent on the issue, and that his request would be refused.
After Hansing was denied a place on the ballot, he sued the Association and some of its personnel in small claims court for damages, which he proposed to use for "properly revising and adopting ...