Proposed US Constitution amendments will help HOA reforms

I have cautioned my followers about the ‘games’ that lawyers play with the precise wording and grammar used in bills and, eventually, the resultant laws.  They love to parse the sentences and apply interpretations that have a plausible relationship to a valid legal issue.  When they seek a ‘loophole’ in the law the plausible becomes unreasonable, yet the courts will go through the exercise and entertain a challenge to the law.

What is needed is a tightening up of the laws and bills as a result of an analysis of how their wording can be used to get around the intent of the bill.  With respect to HOAs this is an unlikely task when state legislatures favor the HOA legal scheme currently adopted as public policy. But there is hope stemming from the very top, from retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens who has proposed Six Amendments[i] to the US Constitution.  Below are 2 of the 6 proposed amendments that are particularly important to HOA reform legislation.

 

The “Anti-Commandeering Rule” (Amend the Supremacy Clause of Article VI) — This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges and other public officials in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

Sovereign Immunity – Neither the Tenth Amendment, the Eleventh Amendment, nor any other provision of this Constitution, shall be construed to provide any state, state agency, or state officer with an immunity from liability for violating any act of Congress, or any provision of this Constitution. [New amendment].

In the “Anti-Commandeering Rule” Justice Stevens found it necessary to add “and other public officials” to explicitly bind government officials to obey the Constitution and laws of the land.  I am sure that the Founding Fathers did not think such an explicit statement would or should be necessary.  But, it’s obvious that our elected officials have forgotten their duties and obligations to the Union in favor of their political party dogma and their concern for their legacies. Just review recent state supreme court HOA decisions and the numerous pro-HOA state laws to understand the need for this constitutional amendment.

In the “Sovereign Immunity” amendment Justice Stevens found it necessary to hold elected officials on the federal and state levels to their obligation not to violate the Constitution.  The common example can be found in every state’s support of de facto HOA private governments unanswerable to, and circumventing, the US Constitution.   Again, one would not think that this would be necessary to state.

Both of the proposed amendments to the Constitution are the result of how lawyers examine the precise wording of the laws and Constitution, and raise “and, if, or buts” to get around the intent of the laws. Or, even to question the intent of the drafters of the bills.  With respect to HOA legal scheme, must we add such specifics to state constitutions and HOA/condo acts?

Bob Frank, a Nevada Commissioner, raised this very question; “Should HOA/Condo Associations Implement US Constitutional Protections For Residents In CC&Rs?  in the HOA Common Sense LinkedIn group (must be a LinkedIn member).  It’s a must read!

 

Reference

[i] Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, Justice (ret.) John Paul Stevens (Little, Brown and Company, April 22, 2014). (Available on April 22th).

Getting the Feds involved in HOA reforms

As apparent from the Illinois Supreme Court opinion[i] favoring HOAs, the Feds need to get involved. However, the Feds, like state attorney generals, have no specific authority to get involved – HOA/condo states are state laws, except for those federal laws like the American Disabilities Act and Fair Housing.

A broader approach is necessary in order to wake up the Feds, and that can come about by an appellate or US Supreme Court case decision on 1) violations of a homeowner’s constitutional rights, or 2) a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause brought under federal law § 42 U.S.C. 1983, Civil action for deprivation of rights. This approach would be similar to the whistle blower law suits of Erin Brockovich or Jeffrey Wigand (tobacco nicotine is addictive).

Read the paper at constitutional rights . . . .

 

[i] See IL Supreme Court holds HOAs “are a creature of statute,” and not contractual.

IL Supreme Court holds HOAs “are a creature of statute,” and not contractual

Last month the IL Supreme Court opinion in Spanish Court[1] reversed the right of an owner to withhold assessments in view of the HOA’s failure to fix and maintain.[2] In its argument, frequently making use of pro-HOA activist and CAI CCAL attorney in Florida, Gary Poliakoff, the Court stated,

 

Although contract principles have sometimes been applied to the relationship between a condominium association and its unit owners based on the condominium’s declaration, bylaws, and rules and regulations . . . the relationship is largely a creature of statute, defined by the provisions of the Condominium Act. . . . Although these duties may also be reflected in the condominium declaration and bylaws, as they are in this case, they are imposed by statute and exist independent of the association’s governing documents. Accordingly, a unit owner’s obligation to pay assessments is not akin to a tenant’s purely contractual obligation to pay rent, which may be excused or nullified because the other party failed to perform. ¶ 21.

So much for the sanctity of the CC&Rs contract! The Court, guided not only by Poliakoff, but by a CAI amicus curiae brief,[3] rolls with the punches and chooses when and when not to uphold the contractual nature of the governing documents.

The Court avoided dealing with the equitable aspects of withholding assessments just like withholding rent, rejecting the favorable appellate decision that held,

[T]he obligation to pay assessments, and the obligation to repair and maintain the common elements, as mutually exchanged promises, and concluded that under principles of contract law, a material breach of the repair obligation could warrant nonpayment of assessments. ¶ 7.

Adding fuel to the fire, the Illinois Supreme Court followed the CAI propaganda that the HOA’s survival depends on assessments being paid immediately and without question.

This section [of the IL condo act] was adopted to provide a constitutionally permissible, quick method for collection of assessment arrearages. . . . The necessity of a “quick method” for collection of past due assessments, unencumbered by extraneous matters, is manifest when we consider the manner in which condominium associations operate . . . . the condominium form of property ownership only works if each unit owner faithfully pays his or her share of the common expenses. When a unit owner defaults in the payment of his or her assessments, the resulting forcible entry and detainer action is thus brought “for the benefit of all the other unit owners.” ¶¶ 29 -30.

Permitting a unit owner’s duty to pay assessments to be nullified would thus threaten the financial stability of condominium associations throughout this state. . . . For the same reason that taxpayers may not lawfully decline to pay lawfully assessed taxes because of some grievance or claim against the taxing governmental unit, a condominium unit owner may not decline to pay lawful assessments. Trustees of the Prince Condominium Trust v. Prosser, 592 N.E.2d 1301.” ¶ 32.

 

Here we have the alleged dicta [non-supported court opinions], and becoming part of the Illinois public policy, that the survival of the HOA/condo is first and foremost. The HOA rises to the same level as a public entity, with the questionable governing documents now having contractual validity and court support to deny homeowner rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities.

 

Welcome to the New America of HOA-Land.

References

 

[1] http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/SupremeCourt/2014/115342.pdf.

[2] See appellate decision Court decisions: HOA Enlightenment Movement vs. the Dark Ages.

[3]Spanish Court Condominium Association II vs. Carlson (Illinois),” CAI Amicus Curiae Activity 2013.

AZ legislature fails to remove invalid statutes from its ARS web page

“Because the [right] to rule is rather the appearance of justice rather than justice itself, the appearance of injustice defeats every [right] to rule.”[1]

While the SB 1454/HB 2371 redux bills SB 1482 and HB 2695 appear to be dead this session, there is still no bill to repeal the amended statutes in Sess. L. Ch. 254 (2013);[2] those declared unconstitutional and invalid by the Arizona court, and agreed to in a settlement agreement with the Arizona Legislature.[3] The Legislature is intentionally misleading the public as to the legitimacy of the Arizona Revised Statutes in what appears to be a slap at the separation of powers doctrine – we will ignore the ruling of the court.

The following was sent to the Arizona legislative leaders (March 19, 2014 email).

“Dear Legislators,

 “I cannot understand why the SB 1454 statutes declared invalid, and agreed to in a settlement agreement, are not being repealed?  ARS show them as valid laws, without any annotation, which misrepresents their validity to the public.

 “I cannot understand why the HOA HB 2371 redux bills this year, HB 2695 and SB 1482, provide for their repeal contingent on the passing of these omnibus bills?  There is no ‘standalone’ bill to set the record straight.   These invalid statutes cannot remain on the books for another year!”

 

The following was sent to Secretary of State Bennett.  (March 21, 2014 SOS form).

 “Sess. Laws Ch. 254 (2013) was declared unconstitutional in court and certain statutes were found to be invalid. See Staropoli v. State of AZ, CV2013-009991.  An agreement with the AG representing the Legislature was signed and accepted by the court.

“Yet Ch. 254 shows the invalid statutes and there is no annotation that certain statutes are invalid. THIS MISLEADS THE GENERAL PUBLIC!

 “I believe Session Laws and ARS must be corrected to reflect the true status of the statutes.”

 

In HOA SB 1454 progeny: passing SB 1482/HB 2695 would be an act of tyranny by the AZ Legislature (February 25, 2014), I wrote:

“No choice to repeal statutes found unconstitutional

“These statutes were declared unconstitutional by agreement with the AG, representing the Legislature, and an order by the court accepting the settlement agreement.  However, the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) still shows these statutes as if they were valid and enforceable laws, which is deceptive to the public accessing the official Legislature’s website, ALIS. There are no annotations to advise the public otherwise.

“The repeal of these unconstitutional statutes is conditioned upon bill approval. A failure to pass both bills will still leave these statutes on the books. There is no stand-alone bill that repeals these unconstitutional statutes as would be expected by a legitimate legislature acting with integrity as representatives of the people, and not as representatives of the special interests. Apparently the defiant eight-hundred pound gorilla, the special interest HOA stakeholders (CAI, AAR, AACM and AHBA),  has flexed its muscle, and the sponsors have reacted accordingly.”

This is incredulous! It is unthinkable that legislative leaders would succumb to the shadow government of the HOA stakeholder special interests, and openly mislead and misinform the public! Furthermore, after being given sufficient notice, the failure to correct ARS can only be viewed as intentional.

What other rational explanation can there be? Perhaps the participating legislator – special interest organization ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) was involved? People for the American Way[4] describes ALEC as,

The American Legislative Exchange Council, is a one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify and cultivate friendly state legislators and then work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced and passed.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, serves as a voice for corporate special interests in state legislatures across the country. Its corporate executives, lawyers and lobbyists, along with member legislators, draft, lobby for, and secure passage of a wide array of bills designed to promote corporate interests.

For more information about ALEC see United States of ALEC. (Bill Moyers 30 minute video in 2012 on ALEC. AZ is right up front.)

References

[1] W. B. Allen, “Machiavelli and Modernity,” The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli, p. 108.

[2] http://www.azleg.gov//FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/51leg/1R/laws/0254.htm&Session_ID=110.

[3] http://pvtgov.org/pvtgov/downloads/order-final.pdf.

[4] http://www.pfaw.org/media-center/publications/alec-arizona-voice-corporate-special-interests-halls-arizonas-legislature.

Defending the Constitution: VA, yes; AZ, no

With the removal of the statutory imposed right of an HOA to fine members from Virginia’s  HB 791, the VA legislature demonstrated that it stood behind the separation of powers doctrine of the US and VA constitutions.

I had written VA Rep. Suorvell and Senator Petersen, who opposed the bill as it was written, about the Virginia Supreme Court’s findings in Gillman v. Unit Owners, which said HOA fines were unconstitutional.

In Gillman the Virginia Supreme Court held,

We do not agree that it was ever the intent of the General Assembly of Virginia that the owners of units in a condominium be a completely autonomous body, or that such would be permitted under the federal and state constitutions. Admittedly, the Act is designed to and does permit the exercise of wide powers by an association of unit owners. However, these powers are limited by general law and by the Condominium Act itself.

The imposition of a fine is a governmental power. The sovereign cannot be preempted of this power, and the power cannot be delegated or exercised other than in accordance with the provisions of the Constitutions of the United States and of Virginia. Neither can a fine be imposed disguised as an assessment. . . . We think it clear that the Gillmans were being punished, not assessed, and hold the action of the Association to have been impermissible.

 And very importantly from a constitutional point of view (my emphasis), “A condominium restriction or limitation, reasonably related to a legitimate purpose, does not inherently violate a fundamental right and may be enforced if it serves a legitimate purpose and is reasonably applied.”

Sadly, the Arizona Legislature is still trying to pass for a 4th and 5th time (two versions of last year’s trice defeated HB 2371/SB 1454).  It would allow unlicensed and untrained HOA property managers to represent HOAs in small claims court and in administrative hearings;  but not allow the homeowner a third-party representative, violating the equal application of the laws and no special laws for special groups provisions of the US and AZ  constitutions.

What is the legitimate AZ government purpose to selectively deny homeowner equal representation?  Does it reasonably promote good public policy?

Published in: on March 7, 2014 at 3:35 pm  Comments (7)  
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