Can substantive HOA reform legislation happen?

The intrinsic, systemic defects of the HOA legal scheme and concept severely put a dent in any attempt to obtain a just and fair HOA government. A legitimate HOA government — “legitimacy” with respect to governance — requires fair and just laws, and the fair and just enforcement of those laws. Today, the laws are unjust and pro-HOA, and the Declaration of CC&Rs is an unconscionable adhesion contract by any standard.

As Prof. McKenzie made quite clear in Privatopia (1994), “Taken as a whole, these [HOA] powers permit the regulation of a wider range of behavior than any within the purview of a public local government.” (P. 129). So much for the argument made by homeowners in HOAs and pro-HOA supporters that they are against government interference. Apparently, more regulation and interference by HOA regimes unaccountable to state laws and state constitutions is a better deal than public government protections. I’m confused!

Please step back a moment and understand the advocate irrationality at work here. Advocates are going before the state legislatures and asking for public government protections, but claiming aloud that they do not want government interference! Am I missing something, or is this “interference” another irrational fear promoted by CAI and others? It is only the actions by your public government, under its police powers to insure domestic tranquility and to promote the general welfare, that can bring justice to homeowners in HOAs. The alternative is REVOLUTION!

Since 1992, when CAI decided to become a lobbying organization and oppose HOA reforms, CAI has controlled the playing field, yet advocates managed to achieved “token” changes from time to time. I do not say that these reforms were meaningless, but for the most part were, and are, hampered by the lack of enforcement, proper due process, fair elections statutes, etc. The structure remains oppressive.

I’ve pointed out that the Founding Fathers gave up on trying to patchwork fix the Articles of Confederation, and decided to create the entirely new Constitution of the United States of America. At least they were all basically for the new “contract,” even with the usual bickering here and there. Today, we have state legislators and a powerful national lobbying trade organization, CAI, opposed to any changes of substance to the HOA legal scheme.

I’ve also pointed out that at a meeting where the British Raj was offering token handouts for government reforms, Gandhi was adamantly opposed. The British informed Gandhi that, “India belongs to the British Empire,” to which Gandhi replied, “India belongs to the Indians.” Your homes and private property rights belong to you, the homeowner, and not to a private HOA government formed and permitted to function outside the US Constitution, making the HOA a second form of political government within this country.

There are many reasons for this state of affairs — this failure to achieve reforms of substance — that have been discussed by others elsewhere. There is the frequent attitude of advocates whose objective is actually, “Fix my HOA,” with little concern for the problems affecting all homeowners in all HOAs. Aside from these advocates, I discovered some time ago that one primary factor, and an important factor when going before state legislatures seeking reform legislation, was the belief by many that the HOA legal concept could be patchwork fixed; that almost all of the advocates and homeowners wanted their HOA to protect property values, and that they rejected hardline approaches that, through fears instilled by the opposition, they felt would “do away with” HOAs.

Prof. Fatovic wrote about homeowner acceptance of HOA restrictions in 2005,

Many home owners also insist that it is imperative to control the activities of their neighbors to maintain high property values. . . . It is also claimed that strict enforcement of the rules fosters a stable and predictable environment, which is an attractive feature to many prospective buyers seeking greater control over their environments.

In addition to these appeals to material self-interest and well-being . . . the strict enforcement of rules that curtail individual freedom is legitimate because 1) HOAs are voluntary associations formed by the consent of individuals 2) who want to maintain a particular way of life in a communal setting 3) that maximizes opportunities for participation and democratic self-government. (P. 12).

(Restricted Area: A Tocquevillean Critique of Homeowners Associations).

When going before state legislatures, most advocates in all states will continue the 20-year failed expectation that asking for token reforms will solve the problems with HOA governance. That they can “have their cake and eat it.” Time to get with it! Prof. Fatovic raised the following issues clarifying this acceptance of HOAs,

However, the history and current practice of CIDs belie this Panglossian [“all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”] view of home owners associations. As noted above, the CC&Rs are not created by prospective homeowners in a contemporary state of nature, but by builders interested in protecting their own investments and minimizing their own costs. . . . Those who will actually reside in CIDs rarely, if ever, have an opportunity to participate in the formulation of the rules that will govern their lives. The deed restrictions are non-negotiable, take-it-or-leave-it offers. . . . There is also considerable evidence that many prospective homeowners are uninformed about the specific regulations. . . . [to which] they are “consenting.” The length of CC&Rs often deters residents from reading documents that may restrict their constitutional rights. (P. 15).

This reality, over the years, sadly, has failed to arouse state legislatures to fulfill the objectives and promises of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution: to protect individual liberties, freedoms, privileges and immunities from government oppressions. State legislatures have ignored “one nation, with liberty and justice for all” in favor of special laws for special organizations that permit private governments to ignore and reject the US Constitution!

The very structure of the Declaration of CC&Rs and the HOA-protective laws prevent substantive reform legislation from happening! The very structure of the HOA concept must be changed with a loud outcry from homeowners. As I pointed out in the past, there are existing statutes dealing with special taxing districts that can be used, with some minor changes, to subject the HOA to the Constitution while retaining the benefits of the subdivision “real estate package” of special laws, special taxes, and special amenities for those living within the taxing district — the current HOA.  (See A proposal for the “Muni-zation” of HOAs; Stop developers from granting private government charters).

Until advocates stop being “bought off” by token reforms and come to accept the need for substantive HOA reform legislation, we can expect another 20 years of re-occurring HOA problems and increased dissatisfaction.  Advocates should keep in mind that the opposition is “defending the indefensible” and all that they must do is to push hard for substantive reforms.

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Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 9:56 am  Comments (3)  
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  1. […] Years from now, when Europeans come here to ask, How could this happen in America,  they will hear the same answers as given by the average German after WW II.  Americans had gone to Germany after WW II to understand how could the German people allow the Nazis to come to power. They discovered that the people accepted the benefits brought by the fascists, and they gave lame excuses as to their acceptance of the oppressive Nazi rule. (See the paperback, They Thought They Were Free, Milton Mayer, 1955 and Can substantive HOA reform legislation happen?). […]

  2. “pro-HOA supporters that they are against government interference.”

    Which explains why the CAI is lobbying for the Federal Housing Administration to subsidize HOA-burdened housing.

    • Which CAI will show up before public bodies? The one with all that propaganda that makes them look like they are supporting a better America and community? Or the one that pomotes their self-interest to make $$$ for their members?

      State legislators accept, unquestionably, that the CAI attorney lobbyists are making good faith statements to them, in support of the laws and the Constitution. Not so. Their “now you see it, now you don’t” Alice in Wonderland world is easily detected when one contrasts their pontifications in the media against their positions on individual liberties and freedoms.

      A solid example of this dual-personna, and a desperate act to re-asset themselves in Arizona, CAI proposed a minority control bill whereby only 1/3 of the members were needed to amend the CC&Rs. Talk about an about-face on democracy in HOAs and the democratic principle of majority rule.


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