There is no explicit statutory requirement for an association to keep and maintain a reserve account, though such requirements are commonly contained within the provisions of an association’s CC&Rs or bylaws. Even where such provisions are absent, the requirement to keep and maintain a reserve account is generally recognized to exist by virtue of related requirements found within the Davis-Stirling Act as well as California court decisions:
- Required Special Assessments – Boards are required to “exercise prudent fiscal management in maintaining the integrity of the reserve account, and shall, if necessary, levy a special assessment to recover” funds expended from a reserve account. (Civ. Code § 5515(e).) Exercising prudent fiscal management of a reserve account would, by implication, require the establishment and maintenance of a reserve account.
- Duty to Levy Assessments – An association has an affirmative duty to “levy regular and special assessments sufficient to perform its obligations under [its] governing documents and [the Davis-Stirling Act].” (Civ. Code § 5600(a); See also “Duty to Levy Assessments.”) Setting aside a portion of assessment funds in order to perform future repairs or replacements for which the association is responsible is arguably necessary in upholding this duty. Where a board fails to do so, it could constitute a breach of the directors’ fiduciary duties:
“…since the Association’s original directors…admittedly failed to exercise their supervisory and managerial responsibilities to assess each unit for an adequate reserve fund and acted with a conflict of interest, they abdicated their obligation as initial directors of the Association to establish such a fund for the purposes of maintenance and repair. Thus, the individual initial directors are liable to the Association for breach of basic fiduciary duties of acting in good faith and exercising basic duties of good management.” (Raven’s Cove Townhomes, Inc. v. Knuppe Dev. Co. (1981) 114 Cal.App.3d 783, 800-801.)
- Not Subject to Fee Limitation Provisions – Civil Code Section 5600(b) does not allow for an association to “impose or collect an assessment or fee that exceeds the amount necessary to defray the costs for which it is levied.” In the case of Foothills Townhome Assn. v. Christiansen, a member of the association challenged a special assessment levied by the board to fund the association’s reserve account on the basis that such action violated the fee limitation contained within Civil Code Section 5600(b): the member argued that the special assessment “exceeded the amount necessary to defray the costs for which it [was] levied” because there was no explicit requirement for the reserve account to be funded in the first place. The Court rejected the member’s argument and held that restoring an association’s reserve account was a valid basis for levying the special assessment.
- Reserve Study Requirements – The requirement to establish and maintain an adequate reserve account is further supported by the provisions under Civil Code Section 5550. In sum, those provisions require the board to perform reserve studies and to develop a reserve funding plan to address future repairs or replacements of all major elements with an expected remaining life of thirty (30) years or less.
Related Case Law
- Raven’s Cove Townhomes, Inc. v. Knuppe Development Co.
(1981) 114 Cal.App.3d 783
[Fiduciary Duties; Reserve Account] A HOA board’s failure to properly fund a reserve account constituted a breach of their fiduciary duties to the HOA and its members.