Why Homeowners Associations (HOAs) should and must be made political subdivisions

Simply stated, the following questions remain unanswered by state legislatures or HOA special interests:

1.      Can a legislature delegate its functions, not government services but functions, to private entities without oversight or compliance with the Constitution, as required of all government entities?

 2.      Can private parties enter into contractual arrangements using adhesion contracts and a constructive notice consent, which serve to regulate and control the people within a territory (an HOA), to circumvent the application of the Constitution?

Failing to address these fundamental questions has permitted HOAs to exist as de facto governments functioning as a second form of political government within the US. HOAs reject the US Constitution by their actions — forget the words.  Consider the following:

1.      “A rose by any other name is a rose.”  Taxes are HOA assessments; ordinances are rules and regulations; board is the legislature/city council; government agency is architectural control committee (ACC); citizens are members; judiciary is board/ACC; constitution is the CC&Rs; laws are the by-laws; etc.

2.      State legislatures have not enacted laws that delegate their legislative functions to the HOA private entities with oversight or constitutional compliance, as required by long standing legal doctrine. 

 [i]t is a well established theory that a legislature may not delegate its authority to private persons over whom the legislature has no supervision or control. . . .The legislature cannot abdicate its functions or subject citizens and their interests to any but lawful public agencies, and a delegation of any sovereign power of government to private citizens cannot be sustained nor their assumption of it justified.[i]

 3.      Furthermore, “Agreements violating constitutional provisions, county codes, and municipal ordinances are illegal to the same extent as agreements violating statutory enactments.”[ii]

4.      For those states with “home rule” laws that permit a wide range of independent law-making at the local level, the governing body remains subject to the constitution and laws of the state. 

5.      Attempts to enumerate the specific functions of an entity, which are unique to political governments and make them a government and not something else, like the archaic public functions test of 1946,[iii] fail as being contrary to constitutional law.  Compare these questionable definitive “public” functions to the legal requirements set forth in the laws of each state applicable to municipal governments.

6.      The unique factor that determines the broad concept of “government” is simply:  any governing body that controls and regulates the people within a territory is a de facto government. Take Cuba for instance, a de facto yet unrecognized government. Sadly, HOAs are not recognized either.

Modern states are territorial, their governments exercise control over persons and things within their frontiers. . . . A state should not be confused with the whole community of persons living on its territory [such as churches or corporations].[iv] 

7.      Several political scientists believe that HOAs should be declared as sui generis (one of a kind) private governments.  However, evidence based on existing HOA state laws have made HOAs an “arm of the government” (state actors) according to the US Supreme Court criteria:[v]   state protective statutes reflecting a cooperation with HOAs, through state support or coercion; by a symbiotic relationship, close nexus, or an entwinement between the state and the HOA.

In general, every special or private law which directly proposes to destroy or affect individual rights, or does the same thing by restricting the privileges of certain classes of citizens and not of others, when there is no public necessity for such discrimination, is unconstitutional and void.[vi]

8.      Defining HOAs as a sui generis entity without the requirement that HOAs are indeed bodies politic or state entities rejects the US Constitution. HOAs have seceded from the Union by virtue of their private contracts that do not hold the HOA governing body subject to the laws of the land. 

9.      CC&Rs are created by private parties, none being an actual member or resident of the subdivision at the time of formation, who enter into contractual arrangements that have been described by the courts as the HOA’s “constitution.”  The CC&Rs serve to regulate and control the people within a territory (an HOA), thereby circumventing the application of the Constitution and, specifically, the 14th Amendment equal application of the laws and due process protections. 

A statute infringes the constitutional guarantee of equal protection if it singles out for discriminatory legislation particular individuals not forming an appropriate class and imposes on them burdens or obligations or subjects them to rules from which others are exempt.[vii]

In order for a waiver of a constitutional right to be valid, it must be made voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly and with sufficient awareness of the relevant circumstances and likely consequences.[viii]

 10.  The persistent and profuse arguments, by the HOA special interests, that HOAs are not governments can easily be seen as attempts to avoid HOAs being subject to constitutional conditions and restrictions that protect the people.  “In the context of community associations, the unwise extension of constitutional rights to the use of private property by members . . . .”[ix]


Further readings


1.       The Legitimacy of HOA Governance

2.       AARP Amicus Curiae brief in Twin Rivers NJ constitutionality suit

3.       The Constitutionality of state protected homeowners associations

4.       Why haven’t the 1983 HOA problems of America II been resolved?

5.       HOA Case History: state actors or mini/quasi government


General reading:

1.       Beyond Privatopia: Rethinking Residential Private Government, Evan McKenzie, Urban Institute Press, 2011.

2.       Establishing the New America of Independent HOA Principalities, George K. Staropoli, Starman Publishing, 2008 (ISBN 978-0-9744488-3-1).

3.       Neighbors AT War! The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association, Ward Lucas, Hogback Publishing, 2012.

4.       Privatopia: Homeowners Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Governments, Evan McKenzie, Yale Univ. Press, 1994.

5.       Villa Appalling! Destroying the Myth of Affordable Community Living, Donie Vanitzian, Villa Appalling Publishing, 2002.


Legal Authority Notes:

[i]    Emmett McLoughlin Realty v. Pima County, 58 P.3d 39 (2002).

[ii]   17A Corpus Juris Secundum Contracts § 213.

[iii]  Marsh v. Alabama, 326 US 501 (1946); Shelly v. Kraemer, 334 US 1 (1948).

[iv]  “State,” Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th Ed.

[v]    Brentwood v. Tennessee School, 531 US 288 (2001).

[vi] 16B American Jurisprudence 2d Constitutional Law § 874.

[vii]  16B American Jurisprudence 2d Constitutional Law § 871.

[viii]  16 Corpus Juris Secundum Constitutional Law § 82.

[ix]   Community Associations Institute (CAI) amicus curiae to NJ Appellate Court in CBTR v. Twin Rivers HOA, 890 A.2d 947 (2004).


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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “There is no need for HOA’s as an additional layer of government.” Clearly you are forgetting the GOV’T’s reason for having these HOA’s: HIGHER EFFECTIVE PROPERTY TAXES TO PAY FOR SERVICES THE CITY WOULD HAVE TO PROVIDE BUT AVOIDS BY HAVING HOA’S DO THE WORK. HOA’s levy “additional” property taxes that would otherwise require ALL taxes to go up to pay for more gov’t services for newer neighborhoods. With HOA’s, the gov’t avoids the nasty “we raised your taxes” AND the double dip of having the work they normally pay for and are responsible for in older, non-HOA neighborhoods. From the gov’t’s perspective there is, indeed, a HUGE “need” for HOA’s……….. no responsibility, no authority…….. or so they try to make you believe.

  2. Or just abolish HOAs, and have the local governents do what they should have been doing in the first place.

    There is no need for HOAs as an additional layer of government.

  3. well done our good and faithful servant!

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