With election season upon us, members and residents of community associations will undoubtedly and rightfully begin to organize and participate in a number of activities related to political speech and assembly. It is crucial for community association boards of directors to understand their rights and obligations related to members’ and residents’ use of common area facilities for these events.
Effective as of January 2018, Civil Code Section 4515 protects political speech and assembly rights by nullifying any provision of an association’s governing documents, including its CC&Rs, Bylaws, and Rules & Regulations, that would prohibit the following:
• Peacefully assembling or meeting, at reasonable hours and in a reasonable manner, for purposes related to common interest development living, association elections, legislation, election to public office, or the initiative, referendum or recall process.
• Inviting public officials, candidates for public office, and representatives of homeowner organizations to meet with members and residents and speak on matters of public interest.
• Canvassing and petitioning the members and residents for purposes related to the topics listed above.
• Distributing or circulating, without prior permission, information about the topics listed above or other issues of concern to the members or residents, at reasonable hours and in a reasonable manner.
Civil Code Section 4515 also invalidates any provision requiring a member or resident to pay a fee, make a deposit, obtain liability insurance, or pay the premium or deductible on the association’s insurance policy, in order to use common area facilities for any of the meetings described above. Practically applied, this means that if a member or resident is going to utilize the Association’s common area facilities for any of the reasons set forth above, the association cannot charge a fee for such use. However, the association can still hold members responsible for any damage caused to those common area facilities.
Furthermore, under Civil Code Section 4515, while the association is not required to open the common area facilities to the general public (which may require compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act), it must allow access to not only members and residents, but their guests and invitees as well.
As set forth above, Civil Code Section 4515 protects a vast array of matters – from issues of concern to the association’s members to general matters of public interest. Associations must allow its members and residents to canvass the community, distribute leaflets and materials about these topics, and to invite guests to speak at events and meet with members in the common areas.
If your association has any questions, concerns, or would like to discuss its obligations under Civil Code Section 4515 as we enter election season, our attorneys at Roseman Law are here to help.