The HOA statistics provided by the Nevada Ombudsman Report for 2010 stands in sharp contrast to the success of the terminated Arizona OAH adjudication of HOA disputes. It shows 55% of the HOA complaints were resolved, while the Intervention Affidavit (complaint) Report reveals that a mere 4.5% had gone on to an ALJ for adjudication. The Ombudsman Report also shows that of the indicated 1,260 complaints, only 25% made it to a conference hearing, of which 55% were resolved. In total, about 14% of the complaints were resolved. (It should be noted that the number of complaints indicated on the two reports reveal a marked discrepancy of 1,260 on one and 493, or 512, on the other).
Some people would point to these numbers and say, “See, we told you so. HOAs are 95% good, but we do have these malcontents and disgruntled people.” Others would say that the Ombudsman office operates like State Bars where very few complaints make it to a judicial hearing, and only after being screened by their brethren.
Other states with an ombudsman office haven’t fared any better. In California, the Ombudsman can be vaguely discerned through the bureaucratic mist, while in Florida the outspoken homeowner rights advocate group, CyberCitzens for Justice, repeatedly criticizes the handling, or lack of handling, by Florida’s DBPR “ombudsman” agency. Both have been in existence for over four years.
In Arizona, after a brief 2 plus years, its agency that handled HOA disputes by means of the independent Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) was declared unconstitutional. In contrast to the reported Nevada 4.5% heard by an ALJ, just about 80% of the complaints were heard by an ALJ at Arizona’s OAH. In contrast to these other large states, an ALJ at OAH heard some 66 cases of which 42% were won, for the vast majority, by the Pro Per homeowner against the HOA and its attorney.
No wonder the CAI member law firm made repeated attempts to silence OAH, and after 3 shots at the apple it won in Gelb v. DFBLS, CA-CV 09-0744 (Ariz. App. Div. 1, Oct. 28, 2010). The well documented OAH adjudication had revealed the stark reality of HOA abuse, and the denial of the equal protection of the law under the corrupt HOA hearing process where the accusers judged the accused. (To say, as some have, that the homeowner openly and with full knowledge accepted this condition is incredulous!) In the two years prior to the passing of the bill granting DFBLS/OAH power to adjudicate HOA disputes, the Arizona Legislature had failed to pass bills that would ease the burden on homeowners going before the Justice of the Peace courts. It rationale was that it would create an uncertain burden on the JP courts because of a potential tidal wave outcry for justice.
The adjudication of HOA disputes by the Office of Administrative Hearings in Arizona was a landmark advance in due process protections for homeowners and should be adopted in all other states. It’s powers were limited and the parties had rights to appeal to the civil courts. It did not usurp the role of the judiciary nor violate the separation of powers doctrine, but assisted the civil courts by providing justice within reasonable costs for the individual homeowner. Case law contains many rulings that such benefits and purposes do not violate the separation of powers doctrine, and many such instances exist today. (It should be noted that all OAH petitions were brought by the homeowner).
The Arizona Legislature cannot pick and choose what portions of the Constitution it wishes to enforce and which it wishes to ignore. In order for it to acquire obedience in conscience from the people, its legitimacy rests on valid and just laws. Due process protections for HOA residents must be restored by means of an “acceptable to the courts” revision of the applicable statutes.