HOA residents’ political speech rights get state protections
September 12, 2017
• Affects more than more than 52,000 HOAs
• "For too long homeowner association boards have infringed upon the rights of residents"
Legislation to protect the political speech rights of residents living in one of California’s more than 52,000 common interest developments (commonly called homeowners associations or HOAs) is now the law in California.
“For too long homeowner association boards have infringed upon the rights of residents to engage in the political process by preventing them from exercising basic rights that the rest of us might take for granted,” says the legislation's author, state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“SB 407 will bar HOAs from prohibiting activities such as peacefully assembling during reasonable hours to discuss common interest living, association elections, legislation, public elections or ballot measures. It also blocks the practice of requiring members to pay a fee, make a deposit, or obtain liability insurance to use the HOA’s common area. These boards serve important functions, but they should not be used to squelch people’s viewpoints,” he says.
Supporters of SB 407 point to a number of occasions where residents were fined or threatened by HOA board members for engaging in routine political activities, including inviting candidates to speak at forums and canvassing a neighborhood about state legislation affecting residents’ voting rights.
“California’s 52,000 homeowner associations aren’t country clubs or casual neighborhood groups,” says Marjorie Murray, president of the Center for California Homeowner Association Law. “The Legislature and the courts have declared they are self-governing communities with many of the powers and duties of the state's cities and counties. SB 407 re-affirms that the constitutional right to free expression is not conditioned upon where you live.”
Other organizations in support include the American Civil Liberties Union, Golden State Manufactured Homeowners League, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, and the Community Associations Institute.