Pleasanton Weekly

Real Estate - September 9, 2011

Brown signs bill to stop gouging of town home buyers

Fees sometimes range up to $1,000

by Jeb Bing

The California Association of Realtors is applauding Gov. Jerry Brown for signing AB 771, a bill that prevents home buyers in a common interest development (CID), such as a condominium or town home, from being charged excess document fees.

Homeowner associations (HOAs) are required to provide specific documents to prospective purchasers of homes in a CID -- a form of real estate ownership in which each homeowner has an exclusive interest in a unit and a shared interest in the common area property. In addition to the standard residential property disclosures, purchasers of a unit within a CID must receive basic information about the structure, operation and management of the HOA that operates the CID.

Current law requires that this information come from the HOA and prohibits it from charging fees in excess of what is "reasonable," not to exceed the actual cost of processing and producing these documents. HOAs generally have provided the documents for approximately $75 to $250.

Increasingly, HOAs have been delegating document preparations to third party vendors or contractors who, under a 2007 court decision, are exempt from this fee limitation. This delegation of responsibility by HOAs sometimes resulted in home purchasers being forced to pay additional fees, as much as $1,000, for other documents which were "bundled" with the required documents.

Assembly Bill 771 (Betsy Butler, D-Torrance) addresses this situation by specifying that only fees for the required documents may be charged when such documents are provided, effectively prohibiting any "bundling" of fees for other documents with these fees.

The bill also creates a new form detailing which documents are required, and requires the provider to disclose the fees that will be charged for the documents before they are provided. The seller of a CID must complete this form and transmit it to the prospective purchaser along with the required documents. This will eliminate any uncertainty for the prospective purchaser as to exactly which documents are being provided and the precise fees being charged for those documents.

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