In Sierra Palms Homeowners Ass'n v. Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Const. Auth., No. B275241 (Jan. 29, 2018), a condomimium homeowners' association sued a municipal transit authority and its private-entity partner, claiming that they built and maintained the Gold Line railway in such a way that it interfered with the association's quiet enjoyment of their condo. They alleged inverse condemnation. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend (dismissed the complaint, for you non-Californians) for lack of standing because the homeowners' association didn't actually own the condo.
The Court of Appeal reversed, in part, concluding the association might be able to amend the complaint to show standing. Although the usual rule in inverse cases is that the plaintiff must have an actual ownership interest in the property alleged to be taken, "multidwelling condominium projects present a special concern. Frequently, the common areas of the complex are owned, as they are alleged to be in this case, in fractional shares by the unit owners, making ordinary standing requirements an obstacle to recovering damage to common areas." Slip op. at 8.
The court noted a statute which, recognizing this, grants standing to homeowners' associations to sue for damages to common areas. The court rejected the private partner's argument that the statute only applies to government entities:
Seizing on a specific phrase in the discussion in Windham of the public policy reasons for affording standing to homeowners associations—the costs of suit to individual owners would greatly increase the difficulty of seeking redress “against a corporate defendant” (Windham, supra, 109 Cal.App.4th at p. 1174)—Metro contends section 5980’s authorization to homeowner associations is limited to property damage claims asserted against private entities and does not include inverse condemnation claims against a government entity. However, nothing in the language of section 5980 supports that cramped interpretation of the statute, which confers standing on homeowners associations to litigate regarding certain matters without using the term “corporate defendants” or distinguishing in any other way between actions involving public or private defendants.
Slip op. at 10. The court also rejected Metro's claim that the California Constitution's reference to "owner" of private property means that the legislature could not expand that phrase to include homeowners's associations (in effect arguing the statute was unconstitutional):
Section 5980 does not confer on a homeowners association an additional substantive right to recover in inverse condemnation along with the property owners. It merely makes it easier (and, in many situations, possible) for owners of fractional property interests in common areas to obtain redress by permitting their homeowners association in limited circumstances to bring the action on their behalf in a representative capacity.
Slip op. at 11.
Finally, the court noted that the claim against the private partner had been forfeited by the plaintiff. It didn't make any arguments on appeal that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the motion.