And Justice For All, except for AZ homeowners filing HOA complaints

The March 30, 2007 issue of the Arizona Capitol Times contained the following story:

It now costs $2,000 for members of homeowners associations to file a complaint with the Department of Fire, Building and Life Safety in the Office of Administrative Hearings. The fee used to be $550.

“The intent of H2824 was to give homeowners an affordable way to file against an HOA without the costs of going to Superior Court. This increase completely defeats what the Legislature tried to do,” Staropoli said.

The intent according to Cliff J. Vanell, director of the Office of Administrative Hearings, was to “streamline the process to make it more accessible to homeowners, and make the hearing process work in a timelier manner.”

The problem lies in that there is no state money appropriated to pay for HOA cases heard by an administrative law judge. The program was supposed to be self-sustaining and not cost taxpayers anything, but the $550 filing fee just wasn’t covering the man hours each case was averaging,”

“I feel real bad about the increase (in the filing fee), but the bottom line was I had to do something, and it is within the powers of the director to raise the filing fee and so that is what I did,” Barger [Director of DFBLS] said.

Facts:

  1. The authority granted the Director by the enabling statute simply said, “[P]ay a nonrefundable filing fee in an amount to be established by the director.”
  2. The requirement for cost-effectiveness to be determined by the Director is not contained in any statute, but the Joint Legislative Budget Committee was to review the fee within a year with the guideline of the new adjudication to be self-supporting. Section 12 of the law states, “The joint legislative budget committee shall recommend a level of filing fee appropriate to ensure the hearing officer program is fiscally sound and self-supporting.”
  3. At the Nov. 15, 2006 JLBC meeting, the committee recommended the fee remain at $550 for 2007 pending the development of meaningful cost data.
  4. Under Arizona’s APA, fee setting is subject to rulemaking statutes that require public notice and input, neither of which occurred.

 In short, while the statute gave the Director the right to set the fee, which could be easily interpreted to mean only the initial fee, since JLBC was to review the costs, APA rulemaking statutes tells the Director how, which he violated. 

Statistics:  

  1. Over 78% of OAH cases do not pay a fee!  HOA complaints would amount to a mere 1.7% of all complaints.  Only 24 complaints were submitted before the fee was increased; last year, there were 7,360 OAH complaints filed.
  2. The average cost per case last year, for all OAH cases was only $158.41, far below what 78% paid and below the initial $550 HOA fee.
  3. The pre-increase submission ratio was 1.1 complaints per week; the post-increase ratio is .6.
  4. With 13 decisions rendered to date, homeowners won 6, the HOA 5, and two were split This result rebuts the special interest claims that HOAs are doing a great job, and its only a handful or troublemakers who don’t know how to get along who are causing these handful of problems.  Is this the reason for the outrageous fee increase, to bury the truth?

Why are homeowners in HOAs being denied their due process rights and being clearly subject to separate and unequal laws?   For more information see additional editorials:   

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Published in: on March 31, 2007 at 9:59 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I think HOA’s are a good thing. I alss think they have gotten out of hand. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think the city mandates HOA’s so they do not have to police the areas, and be burdened with the cost of play ground, and common area upkeep. If the citys mandate HOA’S they should foot the bill for controling the HOA,s. Some group to over see the HOA for the people who must join the hoa. I feel if you join a hoa, and read their rules the rules should not be able to be changed excepet by a vast majority of the home owners. If the hoa allows one of their buddys/ friend to have a varriance or do something that is phrohibed by the hoa rules it should be fair for all the homeowners to be allowed to use the same varrance. All the hoa rules should be adhered to by all the home owners and not be allowed to be changed except by a 2/3 vote by all the homeowners. Example if a home owner is allowed to build a certain size shed on his property any home owner should be able to build that exact size shed.

  2. […] even had a chance to file an Appeal. Stay tuned while we try to get to clarify this matter. See And Justice For All, except for AZ homeowners filing HOA complaints relating to Feb. 2007 fee […]


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