AARP asked a California court to uphold the rights of condo owners when homeowner associations do not follow the letter of foreclosure law. An appeals court agreed.
California’s Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act gives homeowners who live in condominiums, cooperatives and planned unit development communities enhanced protections – especially the right to notice -- when their homeowner associations attempt to initiate foreclosure. AARP California supported and fought hard for these protections since approximately half of all condominium owners are over the age of 50.
In Diamond v. Superior Court, a condominium owner argued that homeowner associations that initiate foreclosure proceedings for failure to pay homeowner fees must strictly comply with the notice provisions in the state law. Mere “substantial compliance,” as the trial court found, is not sufficient argued the plaintiff. An appeals court agreed and dismissed the foreclosure action.
AARP Foundation Litigation attorneys filed AARP’s friend-of-the-court brief supporting a homeowner who had difficulty paying approximately $9,000 for a common roof repair noting that the use of foreclosure as an enforcement tool on those having difficulty paying homeowner special assessments can be devastating particularly for older homeowners. Older people have a harder time adjusting to unexpected assessments because they face higher healthcare costs and often live on fixed incomes. Frequently these homeowners, like the homeowner in this case, are current on their mortgage and the only threat of foreclosure comes from the homeowner association in which they live.
Favorably noting AARP’s brief, and carefully parsing both statute and the intent of the law, the appeals court agreed that the homeowner association had not complied with the law and dismissed the foreclosure proceeding. “The Legislature intended the notice requirements to be strictly construed,” ruled the court.
California has the second highest foreclosure rate in the country, second only to Nevada. Since 2008, an estimated 1.2 million homeowners in California have lost their homes to foreclosure and another 800,000 are estimated to receive foreclosure notices soon. It is particularly important to ensure that protections are honored.
What’s at Stake
Foreclosure is particularly devastating for older people, who are frequently on fixed incomes Foreclosure for condo owners can be particularly severe for those age 50 and older, whose homes typically represent their single largest asset and whose homes may be central to their hopes of aging in place.
Diamond v. Superior Court was decided by the California Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District.