George Orwell’s 1984 is alive and well in HOA-Land

thought-policeIn 1949 George Orwell published 1984 where the fictional Oceania (formerly known as England) is a totalitarian state that has instituted a new society designed for the survival of the country.  Oceania had introduced methods and techniques designed to protect the government at all costs:  Big Brother is Watching You; Thought Police (don’t speak out or question, or else); Doublethink, creating the ability of the people to hold and accept two contradictory thoughts at the same time; Newspeak, the official language, replacing English, that redefines words and concepts; Ministry of Truth, the agency of propaganda and historic revisionism; and the Ministry of Love, the agency of regulations and enforcement.

Many can see the parallels and extensions of Orwell’s 1984 in the real 1984, and current world, of homeowner associations (HOAs) — authoritarian private governments.  Let’s take a look.

The principles of 1984 can be identified within the HOA regime: Ministries of Love, the boards and HOA managers, coerce compliance with outrageous fines and claims of violations.  The Thought Police, through1984_big brother the HOA vender organizations and lobbyists, use Doublethink and Newspeak to redefine everyday usage and meanings of words. Newspeak, or simply propaganda — lies and half-truths — to advance one’s interests, is extensively employed to defend the HOA regime. And, of course, there is the ever present all seeing eyes of the HOA — Big Brother is Watching You.

Of course, there are benefits to the state, the community and the residents, including the alleviation of irrational fears of the loss of property values.  But at what price?  At what cost?  At the cost of leaving the American Zone (as expressed by Shu Bartholomew in On the commons.com) and the loss of member rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities protected by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The influence and acceptance of Doublethink has people believing that HOAs are democratic and not authoritarian regimes, because residents can vote – like in Cuba and China. That de facto HOA governments are businesses and not quasi-governments, because it is so declared.  That it’s the members’ fault for not making desired reforms to the HOA legal structure, which contains a very high bar to effective member participation in HOA governance. That the members’ are expressing their individual rights and freedoms by surrendering them and accepting that the authoritarian board speaks for them. However, the board is legally responsible to speak for the HOA corporation in accordance with the CC&Rs that do not recognize the rights of individuals as set forth in the Preamble to the US Constitution.

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Read the complete paper at 1984

The continuing saga of Brown vs Terravita HOA. Can CC&Rs amendments violate state law?

Summary

The AZ appellate court is deciding whether or not to permit an attorney fees award resulting from an ALJ decision not involving a contract. The law says no, but Terravita’s HOA attorneys think differently and managed to get a CC&Rs amendment passed that permits just such a violation of state law.  Brown, the homeowner/plaintiff, had filed a complaint against state statutes and not against the CC&Rs. Furthermore, the amendment does not represent a majority or supermajority vote, but a minority vote based on a 2010 “minority control” CC&Rs amendment.  In other words, Terravita has become an oligarchy in fact.  Will this influence the court’s decision?

Case history

Terravita is a1300 resident, more or less, HOA in Scottsdale, AZ, with country club and golf included.  William Brown is a long-time resident who has been active in challenging the Terravita board for some time, winning cases.  In fact, Terravita’s insurance company has specifically set a $75,000 deductible for suits filed by Brown, just for him alone. Can you guess why?[1]

The ongoing case from 2012, filed with the OAH was decided against Brown on a question of failing to hold an evidentiary hearing for Brown’s position (regarding evidence that an executive meeting was not an executive meeting and Brown was entitled to the records). The ALJ felt the hearing was not necessary and granted summary judgment against Brown.

 The Court’s Order upheld the Administrative Law Judge’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Terravita. Thus, Terravita is entitled to its attorneys’ fees and costs as the prevailing party under A.R.S. §§ 12-341.01 and 12-341 as well as under the Amended and Restated Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions for Terravita, as amended . . . .[2]

The HOA filed for attorney fees for the OAH hearing and for appellate costs. Uncertain that, in this ongoing case, Terravita will prevail under 12-341.01 and case history, which supports nonpayment of attorney fees in ALJ cases, Ekmark (The law firm of Ekmark & Ekmark) first argues that Brown is none other than “Bad, bad [Bill] Brown, meanest guy in the whole damned town”[3] (my words).  The application for fees, in my view, character assassinates and libels Brown using Uyleman v. D.S. Rentco to defend its claim for a discretionary fee award. Brown is described as:

This lawsuit was both unfounded and trifling. It was nothing more than an attempt to harass and burden the Terravita community . . . Plaintiff proceeded to waste the resources of the Court and Terravita by appealing this meritless case. . . . The burden of defending these spurious claims should not fall on innocent homeowners. Rather, it should fall on the Plaintiff who filed this action and appeal with no legal basis and with no reason other than to harass Terravita.

Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

In my view, this argument is a weak one designed to attack Brown. The second, but questionable, argument advanced by Terravita relates to the 2013 amended CC&Rs that permit such attorney fees in contradiction to state law.  (It raises questions of, who’s in charge?  The state? The municipality? The HOA? The HOA lawyers? Who??)  But in order to do so, Ekmark must claim that the OAH issue pertained contract and fees are payable under ARS  12-341.01.

Brown filed for a review and a superior court appeal of the decision, and then filed the ongoing appeal in the appellate court against the attorney fee award, CA-CV2014-000455.  He counters with, “The claim for attorneys’ fees under TCA’ s amended and restated declaration, in addition to defying credulity, is a misplaced transparent ex post facto attempt to trump well-settled Arizona law.”[4]

Brown presents his argument that the case is not a contract case but a violation of state law, having filed the OAH petition as a violation of state law, not of the CC&Rs.  (This is the question that should be before the courts, not one advanced after the fact by the attorneys in order to claim fees.) Apparently Brown’s wording was intentional, anticipating the HOA’s recourse to the 2013 amended CC&Rs.

Can CC&Rs covenants violate the Constitution or state law?

Under The Restatement (3rd) Servitudes, section 3.1,[5] the answer to the above question is NO!  As I wrote in 2005,[6]

When did “whatever the people privately contract” dominate the protections of the U.S. Constitution?

At the heart of the matter is the continued replacement of democratic local government, governments subject to the U.S. Constitution and 14th Amendment prohibitions, with contractual, authoritarian private governments that are not subject to the prohibitions of the 14th Amendment.

Can you and I contract to not pay income taxes?  Heavens no! But, can the HOA contract via amendments or rules to lower speed limits on public streets within its community? The courts would probably uphold the HOA’s position under 1) a validly adopted amendment, 2) members agreed to be bound by the governing documents, and 3) if the amendment is more restrictive than state law or ordinance.

What gives? Why the difference?  I’ve seen court decisions based on the business judgment rule,   (the board knows best), the amendment is in the best interests of the entire membership, and it’s the voice of the majority of the members.  But, this is not the case with Terravita and the attorney fees amendment.

Let’s go back to the 2010 Terravita amendment that was approved by the members allowing amendments to be passed by a minority of the membership,[7] contravening prevailing doctrine that supermajority approval was necessary for amending constitutions or charter.

Think for a moment.  If a minority can control the amendment process, it can control the HOA by enacting amendments that further strengthen the powers of the incumbent board.  Given the fact that the rogue boards are dominated by their HOA attorneys, minority control solidifies the political machines as the power elite.[8]

Consequently, as best as can be determined, the Terravita attorney fee amendment of 2013 passed with only 38% of the membership, although the board announced a misleading 90% approval. Based on Terravita’s email that 571 ballots were received, 90% would mean just 514 members approved the amendments or 38% overall membership approval.  Not even a majority!

OMG, the minority can speak for the majority, binding all of them to the amendments. So much for the board speaks for the majority of members. So much for HOAs being democratic.  Members who do not vote cannot be considered as approving the amendments.  Another democratic principal fallen by the wayside.

All brought to you under the advice and supervision of Ekmark, a CAI CCAL attorney.

Fortunately, a year later an Arizona bill, HB 2441, with similar provisions was put forth by another CAI CCAL member, Scott Carpenter, and failed. Carpenter characterized the bill as, “This change would enable community association to change their documents without onerous approval requirements that count a failure to participate as a ‘no’ vote.”[9]  In other words, create an oligarchy like Terravita with control by the few, and guided by attorneys, the HOA philosopher-kings.

In conclusion, how will the Arizona appellate court decide this case against Terravita?  For the survival of the defective  HOA regardless of the harm to the principals of our system of government, or will the court stand up and be counted, saying enough is enough?

References

[1] It would seem that the insurance company was going to pull its E & O insurance, but settled for this arrangement.

[2] Terravita’s application for attorneys’ fees  for (Ekmark & Ekmark)

[3] Jim Croce lyrics from Bad, Bad Leroy Brown:

“And it’s bad, bad Leroy Brown The baddest man in the whole damned town Badder than old King Kong And meaner than a junkyard dog.”

[4] See Brown’s 22 page opening brief, 1 CA-CV2014-000455, 9-16-2015. In addition, the amendment to § 17.08 only grants attorney fees to the HOA if it wins; the homeowner gets nothing.

[5] “A servitude . . . is valid unless it is illegal or unconstitutional or violates public policy [being]  a servitude that is arbitrary, spiteful, or capricious.”

[6] HOA reforms needed to guarantee U.S. Constitutional protections.

[7] Section 17.02 of the 2-10-2010 amended CC&Rs: “This Declaration may be amended by the affirmative vote or written consent, or any combination thereof, of the Owners holding not less than two-thirds (2/3) of the votes cast, provided that the total vote equals or exceeds Quorum.” A quorum being 1/3 of the membership.  Thus 1/3 of 2/3 = 307 affirmative votes out of 1380 members.

[8] See Beware the folly of eliminating supermajority voting for amending the HOA CC&Rs; HOA democracy at work: dysfunctional adoption of amendments by minority vote.

[9] Carpenter Hazlewood Delgado & Wood blog of Jan. 18, 2011, written by Scott Carpenter, “HB2441 – CC&R Amendments.”

CAI concerned about growing strength of advocate arguments for HOA reforms?

Please understand that the proactive efforts by advocates across the country, especially the new reform legislation, are making CAI very nervous.  Look what CAI has done to get more $$$ to fight advocate legislation.

Issues Advancement Fund (IAF) 

What is the Issues Advancement Fund? CAI’s Board of Trustees established the Issues Advancement Fund to help support and advance CAI’s legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy efforts and programs. It was established to provide a resource base to enable CAI to respond to challenges, which, if unmet, could undermine community associations, their residents and member professionals. The Issues Advancement Fund works to support efforts at both the state and federal levels.

Who can contribute to the IAF? The Issues Advancement Fund accepts voluntary contributions from individuals, associations and businesses that wish to directly support CAI’s government affairs initiatives.

The very powerful CAI California LAC (CLAC) admits to the need for its top-line – CAI’s view – lawyers in CCAL to defend the HOA legal concept that flies in the face of our constitutional system of government (my emphasis).

How CLAC Benefits from CCAL Attorneys

“CCAL attorneys have played a significant role in CAI-CLAC and provided countless volunteer hours and dedication since the formation of this organization,” says current CLAC Chair Darren Bevan. “These attorneys offer their expertise and real world experiences as this organization works towards smart legislation that preserves community.

CCAL lawyers commit themselves to raising the bar of professional and ethical conduct in representing community associations in such areas as education, advocacy, governance, and career mentorship.

Being recognized as a CCAL Fellow is the pinnacle of the legal profession for the community association lawyer.”

(http://www.caionline.org/govt/advocacy/Pages/IssuesAdvancementFund%28IAF%29.aspx).

Earlier this year in Arizona, 2013 CCAL President Scott Carpenter hit the nail on its head when he cautioned his audience in Top 10 For 2015 (Arizona Carpenter Hazlewood online seminar).

“What we are seeing is that the [homeowner] attorneys are becoming more sophisticated and making more sophisticated arguments, and the litigation is becoming more and more challenging in the sense they are raising arguments that are harder for us to beat back . . . .” (7:31 – 8:10)

CAI can be beat easily with fundamental constitutional arguments and avoiding CAI’s narrow real property approach to community government. CAI still speaks of community associations while arguing HOAs are businesses. Doesn’t make common sense, does it?  Just demand CAI answer this obvious contradiction, reminding them that advocates are not stupid.

Published in: on March 17, 2015 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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The unconstitutional delegation of implied rulemaking powers to HOAs

Here I present evidence of the explicit and implicit delegation of rulemaking powers to HOAs, which, if not unconstitutional, would alone establish HOAs as state actors.

In an earlier Commentary[1] I discussed the implied delegation of legislative functions to HOA private governments. Putting the issue in simple terms, I quoted Stephen Wermiel’s comments on a constitutional delegation case before the US Supreme Court,

The dispute before the [Supreme] Court . . . [involves] the even less well-known principle that Congress may not delegate legislative authority to private entities. . . . [T]he Justices must decide if the authority given to Amtrak by federal law is legislative in nature, and whether Amtrak is a private corporation or a public entity.[2]

“Rulemaking” is a term that deals with the grant of legislative powers to state agencies and, in a more restrictive mode, to private entities. It is the authority to adopt rules that have the effect of law, which can be found in the federal and state Administrative Procedures Acts (APA)[3]. The point is that the term “rulemaking” is a state agency process and is not found in the nonprofit corporation law even though these nonprofits have rules.

However, it has been applied to the supposedly nongovernmental, private nonprofit HOA corporation. In Tierra Rancho [4]  the court quoted The Restatement (3rd) Servitudes (the common law legal authority in the absence of statutory law) § 6.13(1)(b) and (c) in paragraph 25, “[the HOA has] the duty to ‘act reasonably in the exercise of its discretionary powers including rulemaking, enforcement, and design-control powers.’”  The HOA rulemaking powers are set forth in detail in § 6.7.

Ҥ 6.7 Power to Adopt Rules Governing Use of Property [my emphasis],

(1)        Except as limited by statute or the governing documents, a common-interest community has an implied power to adopt reasonable rules to

(b)        govern the use of individually owned property to protect the common property.”

Comment “b” to 6.7 (p. 141, second paragraph) goes even further,

Even in the absence of an express grant of authority, an association enjoys an implied power to make rules in furtherance of its power over the common property.  The association has no inherent power to regulate use of individually owned properties, however, except as implied by its responsibility for management of the common property.

And finally, examples of implied delegation of rulemaking powers can be found in state statutes.[5]

It is quite evident that the public policy of every state contains an implied delegation of legislative rulemaking powers to private HOA corporations.

Stephen Wermiel explained the non-delegation doctrine in Amtrak (my emphasis),

“[I]n theory delegation to the private sector can never be constitutional. . . . The Solicitor General argues that there is no unconstitutional delegation to a private entity because government officials retained control . . . . The Association of American Railroads (AAR) argues that the delegation to Amtrak is for actual rule-making authority and that Amtrak is . . . a private entity for purposes of the nondelegation doctrine.[6]

In regard to the Solicitor General’s argument, we know this is not true with HOA statutes.  As there is no oversight, no enforcement, and no effective penalties against HOAs that violate the law, there is no government control.[7]  Having the homeowner enforce the HOA laws does not constitute government control or oversight.  In regard to AAR’s argument, the above evidence supports an unconstitutional delegation of legislative rulemaking powers to private HOA entities.

No matter how you view the private entity non-delegation doctrine, HOA rulemaking is unconstitutional and the covenants are thereby invalid. (The Restatement, § 3.1, Validity of Servitudes, General Comments.)

 

References

[1] Unconstitutional delegation of power to HOAs.

[2] Stephen Wermiel, SCOTUS for Law Students: Non-delegation doctrine returns after long hiatus.  (SCOTUSblog Dec. 4, 2014)

[3]See federal Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. Subchapter II, § 551(4) and § 553).

[4] Tierra Ranchos HOA v. Kitchukov, 165 P.3d 173 (Ariz. App. Div. 1 2007).

[5] A sample of implied rulemaking statutes by state.  Arizona: ARS 33-1803(A) and (B) for HOAs; 33-1242(A)(1) for condos. California: Civil Code §§ 4340-4370 (Part 5, Chapter 3, Article 5, Operating Rules). Florida HOAs:  Title XL, § 720 et seq. do not explicitly address rules per se, but speak to enforceable “guidelines” and “standards”; Florida Condos:  Title XL, § 718 et seq. (in particular, § 718.1035, the general statement on “association rules”). Nevada: “NRS 116.31065  Rules.  The rules adopted by an association” (with 5 “musts” imposed on the HOA).

[6] Supra, note 2.

[7] In regard to the delegation of legislative powers to private entities, a review of the fuzzy case history of the Non-delegation doctrine indicates a constitutional requirement for governmental control or oversight of the private entity’s decisions and rules.  See “ A New Private Delegation Doctrine?”.

Published in: on March 10, 2015 at 7:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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the role of homeowners is simply to provide corporate HOA revenues

On today’s This Week on ABC, the host described Ferguson’s policy, based on the DOJ’s report, as “taxing those in poverty for revenues rather than treating them as citizens.” I believe, as fellow activist Donie Vanitzian has repeatedly stated in Villa Appalling! [1], the purpose and function of homeowners in HOAs is to provide revenue for the HOA government [2] rather than treating them as citizens of the HOA.

I don’t think that the HOA Stakeholders, led by the self-anointed national lobbyist educational organization, would dare now argue that homeowners are indeed citizens of the corporate HOA business.  It would be an oxymoron.  I don’t think homeowners realized that their purchase solidified them as guarantors of the HOA’s survival in that their homes were pledged as collateral for their continued payment of assessments.  This pledge is implicitly contained in the CC&Rs, which they supposedly agreed to with full knowledge.

Notes:

  1. Villa Appalling!: Destroying the Myth of Affordable Community Living, Vanitzian and Glassman (Villa Appalling Publishing 2002).
  2. Numerous court cases have upheld a “pay until you die” doctrine found in state statutes and HOA CC&Rs. Homeowners are denied the legal protection of FDCPA, by simply filing a certified letter, of no payments until disputes are clarified.  Homeowners are not even allowed to place disputed amounts into an escrow account.  Numerous court cases have defended this special application of the law as a matter of the HOA’s survival.
Published in: on March 8, 2015 at 9:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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