Small Claims Court
Merced County Courthouse Cupola (1875)
Small claims court -- "The People's Court" -- can be a valuable enforcement tool for the homeowner. It is inexpensive, readily available, and cases can often be heard in a matter of weeks instead of years (which is often the case if the homeowner sues in Superior Court.)
Recent legislation (AB 1098 / Jones / D-Sacramento) sponsored by the California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA), lets homeowners sue in small claims court if the association refuses to comply with the access-to-records requirements of AB 1098.
Other legislation -- AB 104/Lowenthal/D-Long Beach, also dealing with access to records, and SB 61 and SB 1560/Battin/R-Riverside (on association elections) -- have similar provisions.
In 2008, Mike Feuer [D-Los Angeles] carried AB 2846 that lets homeowners pay disputed charges under protest and then set the dispute before a small claims court judge.
Though AB 104 and AB 1098 are relatively new, homeowners throughout the state already have a high rate of success in small claims court getting the association to open up its records. Judges have provided injunctive relief to homeowners -- meaning, they ordered the association to open up the books -- and they have also awarded homeowners damages. [All three laws let the judge fine the association and award damages to the homeowner.]
Homeowners have also filed in small claims court in order to challenge election procedures and election results. The homeowner's right to file in small claims in order to clean up elections was created through SB 61 and SB 1560, two bills carried by Senator Jim Battin [R-Riverside.] Sample small claims court lawsuits, filed by homeowners, to challenge elections are posted on this website under COURTCASES/SMALLCLAIMSCOURT.
Among the filings are Yu v Villagio [Elections]; Cooke v The Ranch [Elections]; Chaney v Sun City Roseville [Records]; and Kochaver v Atchison Village [Records]; and Santaella v The Bridges HOA and Angius & Terry Collections [Assessments.]
The court filings are available as a benefit to Contributing Members of the Center. Not a Contributing Member yet? You can become a Contributing Member here on the website by clicking on www.calhomelaw.org/membership.asp. There you will find a list of membership benefits, including access to successful small claims suits posted on this website. You can make your contribution to CCHAL either by check or by credit card. All contributions are tax-deductible.
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