Topic: Homeowners Association Law
Prior to 2013, this was a disputed and unresolved issue. In 2013, this changed with the decision of SB Liberty LLC v. Isle Verde Association (2013) 217 Cal.App.4th 272. The California Court of Appeal held that an association may prevent an attorney from attending or speaking at a board of directors meeting of the association, or any other meeting of an association. There are two reasons given for the decision. First, the attorney is not a member of the association; the association can limit attendance to its members. Second, based on the Rules of Professional Conduct, the attorney for the property owner cannot speak to the association without the consent ofthe association’s attorney.
There are many reasons why an attorney should be allowed to represent a property owner at a board of directors meeting of the association, none of which were considered in SB Liberty. The property owner may have a language barrier. The property owner may reside a long distance from the association. There may be legal issues to present. The property owner may fear public speaking. The attorney may be more articulate. The Association may have its attorney at the meeting, even though the property owner may not have his or her attorney at the meeting.
After SB Liberty was decided, I worked with the Resolutions Committee ofthe OCBA to introduce legislation to overturn SB Liberty. The measure was approved by the State Bar and introduced to the Legislative and died in Committee. This project remains on my “to do” list. In the interim, I am hoping SB Liberty will be limited by subsequent court decisions.