Halloween usually brings two things for sure: trick-or-treaters and Halloween parties. As a member of a condominium or homeowner’s association, you can almost be certain that either your association or one or more of your neighbors will be hosting a Halloween party. If you or someone you know is planning a party, try to make sure that the party doesn’t go so far as to violate any of the association’s rules, as one California homeowner’s party did in Jones Ranch Homeowners Ass’n v. Degnan, A118584, 2008 WL 5049757 (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 25, 2008, A118584).

The Degnan homeowner’s association Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R) contained the following provisions:

(1) restricting a member or member’s guest from parking more than 10 vehicles in the common area at any given time, without board permission; (2) prohibiting the use of helicopters and light aircraft in Jones Ranch except for emergencies; (3) requiring a member desiring to host a gathering attended at any one time by more than 100 persons to submit an application to the HOA board 45 days in advance the event; and (4) permitting the HOA to levy reimbursement assessments to be enforced by lien with power of sale, and increasing the upper limit on fines that can be levied against a member from $50 to $25,000.

Dr. Degnan owned a secluded residence on which he regularly entertained large groups with lavish parties. One such Halloween party invitation included the following language:

DR DEGNANS HALLOWEEN PARTY. THIS IS A HALLOWEEN/PAJAMA PARTY, SEXY COSTUMES ARE ENCOURAGED FOR WOMEN…. Gentlemen will be expected to bring at least two ladies or you will not get in-NO EXCEPTIONS.

Dr. Degnan’s parties were known to include up to as many as 500 guests “in various stages of dress and undress,” loud music, public drinking, parking that obstructed traffic, and widespread littering. On at least one occasion, a private helicopter landed in Dr. Degnan’s yard to deliver guests. After several of such parties, the homeowner’s association filed suit to enforce its restrictions against Dr. Degnan. The court ruled that the first three of the four provisions cited above were enforceable, but the liens and fines of the fourth provision were excessive.

As a result of this litigation, Dr. Degnan was required to submit an application to the HOA board for large-scale gatherings of more than 100 people. The application required information such as the number of guests, date and time of the party, security measures, and cleanup arrangements. Dr. Degnan was also required to submit a deposit to cover HOA expenses that may be incurred as a result of the parties and to obtain insurance to cover the HOA for any liabilities that might arise from his parties.

If you are planning a party, make sure it falls in line with your association’s rules. With that caveat, be sure to have a good time.

Merlin Law Group wishes you a safe and happy Halloween!