So much about belonging to an HOA is about respecting your own space, as well as the space of your neighbors. But sometimes there are disputes about who owns what, who can go where, and if a “no trespassing” sign is actually allowed at the community pool. The truth is, neighborly quarrels can be easily prevented by knowing the difference between exclusive use common areas and restricted use common areas. Let’s explore these differences so next time you want to throw a party at the HOA common area community pool, it’s important to know your rights and the respective rights of your neighbors.

Exclusive Use HOA Common Area

For all intents and purposes, exclusive common areas are treated as your property. Examples would be patios, balconies, your parking space, the plumbing inside your home, etc. Exclusive use areas are reserved for you and your guests as they revolve exclusively around your home, and it is your responsibility to maintain them. Keep your patio clean, prevent your pipes from getting clogged, etc. The time when the responsibly shifts from you to the HOA is when legitimate repairs are required. If a tree falls on your balcony during a storm and damages it, the HOA is responsible for repairs. Usually, the exact definitions of exclusive use common areas are stipulated within the CC&Rs of your community board, but the Davis-Stirling Act (Civil Code §4145) provides a default definition to what qualifies as an exclusive common area. The definition is below:

(a) “Exclusive use common area” means a portion of the HOA common area designated by the declaration for the exclusive use of one or more, but fewer than all, of the owners of the separate interests and which is or will be appurtenant to the separate interest or interests.

(b) Unless the declaration otherwise provides, any shutters, awnings, window boxes, doorsteps, stoops, porches, balconies, patios, exterior doors, doorframes, and hardware incident thereto, screens and windows or other fixtures designed to serve a single separate interest, but located outside the boundaries of the separate interest, are exclusive use common area allocated exclusively to that separate interest.

(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of the declaration, internal and external telephone wiring designed to serve a single separate interest, but located outside the boundaries of the separate interest, is exclusive use common area allocated exclusively to that separate interest.

Restricted HOA Common Area

 Restricted common areas usually include community pools, parks, gazebos, or other relatively public spaces in that are located within the community, and are usually clearly identified in the CC&Rs of your organization. Their provisions are not quite as uniform as exclusive use areas, as they are owned jointly by all members of the HOA. So, unlike your back patio, where and you may host any sort of activity or function you like (within reason), hosting a function at the community pool usually requires approval from the board. In terms of maintenance and repair, that also falls on the HOA. Unfortunately, the Davis-Stirling Act does not have a specific civil code for restricted common areas, and of the bylaws are written and approved by the board. The majority of the time, they require certain paid dues for use, and all private functions intended to be held in a restricted common area need to be approved by the board. If not, the tenant may risk losing privileges.

Both exclusive common area and restricted common areas are fairly straightforward ideas, but it’s important to know your rights and responsibilities as a member of your community. Of course, if you are uncertain about any of the specific rules in your area, they should be well-defined in your community’s charter. Keep that in mind, keep an open dialogue of issues and concerns, and the whole neighborhood will benefit.