I congratulate California Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett for sponsoring SB 561. This bill asserts California’s rightful authority to impose and restore law and order over this second form of political local governments known as HOAs. This is still America, a land under the rule of law. The disintegration and fragmentation of government and society must be stopped before anarchy reigns, right here in America.
The law firm of Swedelson & Gottlieb (S & G) argues on its Blog that they know of no one losing their home just because they waiver their rights to have their payments applied first to assessment reduction rather than to collection costs. There are good, equitable and just reasons for paying down the debt first: paying the costs first prolongs the collection agency income stream, not the HOA’s, as the amount of debt goes on forever and may never decrease. Under these circumstances, like “being under water” in today’s housing market, why pay at all?
HOAs are required to apply payments to debt reduction, just like your credit card companies. With a straight face S & G states, “We are aware of no homeowners who have ever lost their homes in an association’s foreclosure simply because of unpaid fees and costs of collection.” So, I guess all is well and right with this use of the payment waiver.
This attitude, used by other proponents favoring the survival of the HOA and their incomes streams, portrays all members of an HOA as being so enamored with their HOA that they place their well being and financial conditions in the hands of the HOA board. They are portrayed as being true believers seeing no wrong with the HOA, much as one sees with many religious cults. They are portrayed as openly and eagerly waiving their rights in favor of the HOA no matter how disastrous to them. How insulting to all Americans: your obligation to the “state”, the HOA, is to make timely payments, and any rights, freedoms, privileges or immunities are notwithstanding.
In its argument for payment plans, created by the HOA’s agent, but “the board dictates the terms of the agreement,” S & G seems to contradict its argument that the “pay costs first” is for the benefit of the HOA, not the collection agency (emphasis added).
There is good reason for this– boards know from experience that many homeowners pay the assessment portion of the payment plan agreement but do not pay the costs of collection, knowing full well that the association cannot foreclose for costs of collection only.
Say what? The debtors will pay their assessments to the HOA, making the effort for the benefit of the HOA, not the collection agency? Why would a board give up its first claim to $$$ for the benefit of the collection agency? That doesn’t make sense at all, does it? Why are HOA boards allowing their right to first $$$ go to a “hired-hand” vendor, in violation of their duties to the HOA? Why?
It makes sense if the whole purpose of S & G’s position is not to benefit the HOA but its own pocketbook. Furthermore, S& G continues to whine about the debt owed to them that the HOA cannot pay since all the money is going to the HOA first. Boo hoo! I guess they know all about “You can’t get blood from a turnip.”
Isn’t that a business decision all businesses face? The loss against the cost of collecting? What about contingency collection agency arrangements? Don’t let S & G slip past this point! If they are so good, the HOA should insist on this type of an arrangement rather than the punitive arrangement now commonly used.
And when all else fails, we hear the familiar mantra, “But really, is it fair for the paying/current homeowners to have to subsidize delinquent homeowners?” Well, you see, that “contract S & G says binds all homeowners may not be fair to some homeowners, but that’s what the legal structure of an HOA imposes on members. Is it fair not to tell home buyers about this, and about some other waivers and surrenders of rights unbeknownst to them? Take a look at “The Truth in HOAs Disclosure Agreement” for some eye-openers.
Cleverly, S & G avoids the question of a violation of public policy, which as stated in the Restatement (3rd) of Property:Servitudes, Sec. 3.1, makes any covenant invalid. The argument against SB 561 is simply: How dare the California Legislature prohibit a homeowner, exercising his write to contract, without any duress, from surrendering his right to the ethical and fair procedure of debt reduction before costs. How dare the legislature!