The unjust HOA statutes on the books in almost all states were written with the help and guidance of the national pro-HOA lobbying organization known as Community Associations Institute – CAI. Many of these laws, in addition to a narrow reading for questionable Rule 11(a) litigation, use phraseology leading the reader to believe that HOAs are fair, just and democratic governments. But, when the uniformed read and apply them, like in the case of many HOA managers and boards, they adopt an unjust strict and narrow, “black and white” reading of the words.
A few examples, as commonly found in both the CC&Rs and statutes, are: 1) with respect to violations alleged by the HOA before it may fine a member, “after an opportunity to be heard”; and 2) with respect to homeowner access to HOA corporation records, “privileged communication” or “attorney – client privilege,” and “contemplated” or “pending” litigation. The attorneys well know the legal concepts behind these terms and how they are unjustly used by the unknowing to the detriment of the homeowner.
First, with respect to HOA violation hearings, a narrow reading of the law simply says that the HOA hold a meeting to allow the member to speak before it finds him guilty of violations. It does not have to meet the legal doctrine of due process protections of a hearing by an independent tribunal where the accused can confront the evidence and witnesses, and may bring witnesses and present his evidence. The law neither requires any adherence to minimal hearing procedures for a fair trial, such as mediation rules, or the rules as set forth in the state’s APA laws regarding hearings before administrative law judges (ALJ). The law and the CC&Rs don’t require them to! But the HOA defenders offer these covenants as just procedures.
Second, “attorney – client” privilege or “privileged” communications is another “half-truth” misapplied by the unknowing to prevent access to legitimate corporate records, such as detailed financials; contracts, including management firm and attorney contracts; monies paid to the HOA attorney in pursuit of litigation, etc. Privilege is raised not by the attorney, or at the attorney’s insistence, but by the board.
The meaning of “privileged attorney communications” is well established legal doctrine pertaining to attorney work product – the notes, communications pertaining to strategy and tactics in regard to litigation. It is well established that attorney-client privilege does not apply to corporate records. But the uninformed use it to refuse the homeowner’s legal request, which leaves the homeowner to indeed consider litigation to obtain what is legally valid.
And when is “pending litigation” a fact? Wouldn’t one think that it would require that the HOA was informed by a reliable person, like an attoreny, that if so-and-so doesn’t occur he will sue? Or, is it simply that the board raises this in any context where it refuses to provide the business documents by saying, “I think the homeowner is going to sue”, or “Let’s sue him”? That is pure and simple “abuse of process.”
Why would a board refuse to proved HOA business records? Wouldn’t that be an indication that they have something to hide? Isn’t that a violation of the board’s duty to the HOA nonprofit corporation to act 1) in good faith , 2) as a prudent person would in similar circumstances (as if it had to spend its own money), and 3) for the benefit of the HOA? And not to protect their activities.
Apparently the board is unaware, or hasn’t been properly informed by its attorney, that “A director is not acting in good faith if the director has knowledge concerning the matter in question that makes reliance [on competent legal advice] unwarranted.” Like, maybe, the allegations of a violation are false and contrived, or the “facts” are not true, or that “Mr. X is lying. (The quote is taken from an Arizona statute, but the point is that his good faith reliance cannot be claimed as a defense when the director had other knowledge.)
One would think that the HOA attorneys, especially those “illustrious” members of CAI’s College of Community Associations Lawyers, would know all this. And that these CAI lawyer – lobbyists would be at the forefront of HOA reform legislation to correct these injustices. Doesn’t CAI promote the message (see its web site) that they are “Building Better Communities” and “dedicated to fostering vibrant, competent, harmonious community associations.” Yet, they work against these simple reforms. How can CAI make such statements and not work to create a just and legitimate form of community government?