January 17, 2012Mr. Ed Stiles Committee Assistant NC House Select Committee on HOAs
Statement to the NC House Select Committee on HOAs
Dear Committee Members,
I am submitting this email statement for inclusion into the record for the January 23, 2012 hearing on homeowners associations. I am a nationally recognized homeowner rights advocate who believes in “supporting principles of democratic government.”
Over my 13 years of involvement in HOA reform legislation across this country, I have witnessed a slow, but steady, change in the perception of homeowner associations from “the next best thing to Mom’s apple pie” to the realization of that there are “worts” all over the HOA legal concept and statutes. The reason for this has been the extensive use of the internet by advocates, and the inability of the pro-HOA forces and national lobbyists in every state to stifle their voices. For over 48 years, since the introduction of the “HOA “bible”, the Homes Association Handbook, these forces held sway and shaped the attitudes of the public, the media, the policy makers, and state legislators. They exclaimed the virtues and benefits of the HOA scheme, and hid the worts, the serious defects, among the most egregious being the denial that HOAs are authoritarian, private, de facto governments that function as independent principalities. As such, HOAs are illegitimate local governments.
I am not rejecting the freedom of choice, if indeed that is a fact, in selecting the perceived benefits of a planned community by buyers, but the mass merchandising of these HOAs under highly questionable sales and advertising methods – misrepresentation, fraud, half-truths, false truths. As an example, no state has adopted anything close to the “Truth in HOAs Disclosure Agreement” that serves as a notice and warning of what HOA life is really about. (See, Appendix A, Model Consent to be Governed Disclosure Bill). I am not objecting to that real estate “package” of benefits, but to the form and nature of the governing body of the subdivision, commonly known as the Homeowners Association, and the adhesive CC&Rs “contract” that denies constitutional protections of due process and the equal application of the law.
HOAs are unaccountable to the state government. The statutes are unconstitutional special laws for special organizations, that reject contract law and constitutional law for the common law of equitable servitudes. As long-time advocate Evan McKenzie wrote in Privatopia (1994),
In a variety of ways, these private governments are illiberal and undemocratic. Most significantly boards of directors operate outside constitutional restrictions because the law views them as business entities rather than governments. . . . [They] are inconsistent not only with political theories of legitimacy but with the normal process by which governments are created. . . . Thus these ‘private governments’ may violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Chapter 6).
There is no justification for the non-application of the laws of the land, and the denial of fundamental rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities for homeowners with such weak arguments as: “better landscapes make better communities,” or the shifting of residential development costs from the local municipality to the homeowners, or “they agreed to be bound.” The last of which is a mockery of justice and our system of government as it allows the waiver and surrender of rights and freedoms by the mere posting of a Declaration of CC&RS to the county clerk, sight unseen by those who will be bound by the CC&Rs, by a profit seeking developer adhesion contract.
This Committee has the opportunity to begin to set things right, to restore this country to “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” and to remove this second form of local government that has seceded from and rejects the Constitution. The Committee will hear from HOA supporters and from self-interest groups who should, by this time, understand that they, too, are rejecting the Constitution and the principles of democratic government. And more importantly, it will hear “petitions for redress” from homeowners. Do not fail the citizens of North Carolina. Do not cause them to have to say, “Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.”
I ask that the Committee to do justice by paying heed to those petitions by homeowners and taking on the long overdue HOA reforms being asked.
My HOA profile, Appendix B, is provided for your convenience.
Respectfully submitted,George K. Staropoli President