While the term “HOA attorney” (or for that matter, “HOA lawyer”) is neither an official designation from any governing body or organization, nor a recognized area of specialty requiring additional education, testing, and licensing (as the case with a patent or estate planning attorney), some attorneys who are intimately familiar with California’s expansive HOA laws use that term to differentiate themselves from other, more generalized “real estate attorneys.” Put simply, an HOA attorney is a lawyer whose primary practice focus is representing individual homeowners and/or HOAs (although I include the word “and” here, it’s unlikely that an HOA attorney will represent both homeowners and HOAs because of the conflicts of interest that would arise). Typically, therefore, you’ll likely see HOA attorneys represent either homeowners or HOAs, but not both. Our firm, LS Carlson Law, PC, represents homeowners in all manner of disputes involving HOAs.
Now, as I said above, describing oneself as an “HOA attorney” doesn’t require any special licensing or education. That means that any lawyer licensed to practice law in California can call him/herself an “HOA attorney.” So, because all lawyers can adopt the term for themselves, homeowners who are actually in need of an HOA attorney have to have a way of separating the wheat from the chaff. They have to be able to differentiate between true HOA attorneys—those of us with substantial knowledge and experience of the laws governing HOAs, as well as understanding of the kind of disputes that occur most frequently—and the more general practitioners who have merely adopted that moniker, but whom otherwise lack the necessary experience and expertise.
Let’s start with the governing law.