Homeowner Associations and the Obligations of the Media

A review of recent media reporting on HOA incidents and developments reveals a noticeable, favorable trend in attitudes.  In the past, going back to just the 2000 – 2001 time frame, the media only interviewed HOA attorneys, many of whom were CAI members, but this important fact was not revealed to the readers/viewers.  They portrayed a just and rightful HOA board having to deal with troublesome, disgruntled homeowners who just didn’t know how to get along in an HOA.

Now, the media is reflecting the actions and decisions of these boards, including defensive answers and their justifications for their actions in spite of new state laws created to protect homeowner rights.  For example, in spite of new laws protecting the rights of homeowners to fly the American flag, homeowners are still being denied the right to fly the American flag.  What is finally being reported to the public is the legal, but unfair and unjust nature of the governing documents and state laws that create homeowners living in HOAs as second-class citizens. 

While the HOA boards and supporters, led by the national lobbying trade group, CAI, are still there attempting to defend this state of affairs that has produced a New America, they are finding it harder to convince the public of the righteousness of their arguments.  The media are beginning to expose the CAI view that HOAs are really businesses, which is shocking to many homeowners. And the fact that these private governments are protected from the application of the Bill of Rights because the courts have held the covenants to be binding contracts, yet the homeowner has not signed any such governing documents. The media are also exposing the fact that these governing documents, the CC&Rs and by-laws, do not explicitly contain wording to alert the homeowner that he is “willingly, and with full knowledge, surrendering his rights and freedoms” as claimed by HOA supporters.  (What is very disturbingly is that the state legislatures do not seem to see any problems in supporting and mandating HOAs that deny their citizens many rights and freedoms that other homeowners still enjoy).

In an earlier Commentary, Continued national HOA problems and the failure of the media, July 2007, contained a quote from a NY Times Executive Editor who spoke of the role of the media,

 

Our job is not to ’support’ our leaders, not to buy in to any administration . . . but our job should be to figure out what they believe and why, and how all of that shapes the policies they make. We are obliged to get past the labels and slogans.

 

This role of the media, and the special status granted to it by the First Amendment to the US Constitution as protector of the people, and not of  any government whether federal, state or private HOA government, was well stated by US Supreme Court Justices Black and Douglas.

In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protections it must have to fulfill its essential role in a democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governing . . . The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.

NY Times v. U.S., 403 U.S. 713 (1971).

While so many clamor about the interference of big government and their fight to protect individual rights and freedoms, the media had failed to inform the people, the public policy nonprofits and the legislatures under its obligation to protect the people in a democracy.  Today, the public is getting to see the first glimpses of the full story about the emergency and quiet acceptance of homeowner associations. 

More needs to be revealed.  There is no national security issue with HOAs.    

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Published in: on October 7, 2007 at 8:54 am  Leave a Comment  

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