If you live in a community that has a homeowners association, you are likely to have to interact with the board eventually. This interaction might come from an enforcement letter or something else. While some of the members of your HOA’s board might be perfectly pleasant, others may seem dictatorial or even abusive.
When things do not go your way, it might be tempting to take legal action against the HOA board. Your ability to do so probably depends on both state law and the governing rules of your community. If your beef is with a single board member, though, you might wonder whether you can sue him or her individually without involving the rest of the board.
The general rule
According to California law, volunteer board members typically enjoy protection from individual lawsuits. This generally means you cannot take legal action against an individual board member, provided he or she follows the business judgment rule.
The business judgment rule shields board members who make mistakes, as long as they stay within certain guidelines. These include the following:
- Board members must behave in a disinterested and independent way.
- Board members must act in good faith.
- Board members must be reasonably diligent in understanding the facts before making decisions.
Most general rules have some exceptions, and that is certainly the case when it comes to suing an HOA board member in his or her individual capacity.
If a board member participates in or directs some wrongful or illegal activity, the business judgment rule might not apply. Likewise, no board member is likely to avoid legal liability for behaviors that fall outside the scope of their HOA duties.
Ultimately, if you want to take legal action against an individual board member, you should first understand both the law and the facts of your situation.