Q: I live in a town house. My neighbor had termites and my neighbor on the other side suspects them as I do. We have been told by the club that it is our responsibility to take care of them. It just seems to me that termites come in from the outside and should be the responsibility of the association. Could you shed some light on this for me? – MN, San Clemente
Q: Is the association responsible for solving a termite problem resulting from trestles (wooden terrace overhangs) originally installed by the client and part of the architectural design of the townhouses? Termites invade the home due to dry rot and termite infestation in these structures. – RM, Coto De Caza
A: Termite infestation in adjacent residential buildings affects not just residents of the affected buildings, but potentially all contributing members if the damage requires expensive repairs to the framework of the common area. The assignment of responsibility is governed by Section 4780 (a) of the Civil Code, which states that in condominiums, joint-stock cooperatives, or communal housing, the association is responsible for repairing and maintaining termite problems in communal areas, unless the CC&Rs say otherwise.
You all describe your homes as “townhouses,” but that describes the architectural configuration of the homes, not the type of property you own. A townhouse can be a planned condominium, condominium, stock corporation, or community apartment. If the CC & Rs are silent and your association owns a condominium (you own a “unit”), a joint-stock cooperative (you own an equity stake), or a communal apartment (you own an undivided, equal stake in the entire project) then under this treatment and repair of Termites in the common area is the responsibility of the HOA.
Many clubs are built in the townhouse style, which are planned developments and owner deeds state that they own “a lot”. In such Civil Code Section 4780 (b) associations, the owners are responsible for resolving their own termite prevention and repair problems (again, unless the CC & Rs dictate otherwise).
Connected planned developments such as townhouses pose a problem for individual owners as they cannot decorate their entire building without the permission of each individual owner in that building. This can make it difficult to do anything other than spot treatment.
Pursuant to Section 4780 (b) of the Civil Code, a majority of all members can vote to assign this responsibility to the association, or the association members may well vote to change their CC & Rs to achieve the same.
Q: My HOA is not very scrupulous about termite prevention. I had subterranean termites that penetrated through a crack in the slab foundation and ruined my wooden floor. The HOA declines any responsibility for my floor as it is on the other side of the plate. They drilled holes in the board and filled the cracks with epoxy. Am I entitled to the amount that was used to repair my floor? – TM, Rancho Bernardo
A: Your association may not recognize the fact that the termites entered through a crack in the plate. The same rift that the association apparently agreed to is the responsibility of the HOA. Remind them that the problem comes from a common problem, and hopefully you can solve all of the things.
Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a partner of Richardson Ober DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for advising community associations. Send questions to Kelly@rodllp.com.