Court of Appeal affirms ruling prohibiting homeowners association from cutting mature trees on GMSR’s client’s property

GMSR’s client owns property within the Rolling Hills Community Association (RHCA).  The area was developed over decades, and the developers recorded a series of restrictive declarations bringing additional tracts into RHCA.  Some early declarations contained a “tree cutting covenant” allowing RHCA to enter private property within a tract and cut trees to preserve neighbors’ views, but many declarations recorded against later-developed tracts omitted that covenant.  Today, a significant minority of RHCA properties are not subject to restrictive declarations that include a tree cutting covenant.

Eventually, RHCA’s board attempted to enforce the tree cutting covenant against all RHCA properties, regardless of whether the declaration recorded against a particular property included that covenant.  To protect the many mature trees on his property, GMSR’s client sued RHCA, alleged that the declaration governing his property did not include the tree cutting covenant, and sought to prohibit RHCA from enforcing that covenant.  The trial court sustained RHCA’s demurrer, but the Court of Appeal reversed.

On remand, the trial court ruled that the governing declaration’s terms did not grant RHCA authority to cut the client’s trees, so RHCA had no such authority.  RHCA appealed the judgment and a related order awarding the client more than $1.3 million in attorney fees.

In the second appeal, the Court of Appeal held that the tree cutting covenant could not be enforced against the client’s property, rejected RHCA’s contrary construction of the governing declaration, and published its holdings on those issues.  The Court also ruled that the client could recover his attorney fees from RHCA.

To read the Court of Appeal Opinion, click here:  Colyear v. Rolling Hills Community Association of Rancho Palos Verdes (2024) 100 Cal.App.5th 110.