This Commentary is a position paper on the need to restructure the HOA model of government. It is not light reading and requires serious consideration and understanding of the underlying issues.
I have stepped outside the box to offer the boards of directors (BOD) a fresh view of the nature and legalities of the HOA legal scheme. StarMan Group HOA Management Consulting believes that the HOA legal model of government must be restructured to
establish the climate and culture of the HOA enabling the restoration of the lost constitutional principles of democratic government — individual rights, justice and fair play — for its members within the confines of a private contractual government,
In my activist 20 years of HOA reforms, irrational fears have been inculcated in the general public and are the primary elements for the failure to resolve 54 years of endemic HOA issues: fear of loss of home, fear of financial and emotional stress, fear of legal actions and lawsuits, fear of social isolation, and fear of property devaluation. These have been advanced by pro-HOA forces.
The current embodiment of a utopian society (HOAs) was formulated in 1964 (The Home Association Handbook) and CAI was created in 1973 to address the growing dissatisfaction with HOAs. In 1993 it dropped being a tax-exempt educational nonprofit to become a business trade group in order to more effectively lobby state legislatures to protect the status quo of the HOA model of governance.
The HOA model of local government is a fourth type of local government in addition to the public domains of commission, council-manager and council-mayor forms. I ask: Is there a legitimate, bona fide reason and justification for the HOA to function outside public government? No, there is none!
BOD Reorientation to review the HOA mission
The restructuring of HOAs starts with the education and reorientation of the BOD to better achieve its primary, broad purpose which is to provide quality services to its members. The only statements or covenants relating to the intent or purpose of the HOA focus on the interests of and benefits to the members, and neither to investments nor to social welfare services. The BOD must face the question as to how the best interests of the members can be accomplished by a rejection of the US and state constitutions.
“Maintaining property values” cannot be taken as an investment in your home. The CAI model focuses on punishment and enforcement of violators of the governing documents or those who fail to timely pay their assessments. The governing documents (CC&RS and bylaws) contain restrictions and limitations and any rights or privileges that the members possess under the CC&Rs are laughable when compared to the Bill of Rights or state Declaration of Rights.
I firmly believe that the BOD must undertake a serious, in-depth review of the original intent of HOAs and where it is today and where it’s going. For example, surely an HOA is not a social welfare organization but a private membership nonprofit regardless of any misguided ruling by the IRS. This review must be conducted in an open and unbiased manner free from the years of CAI indoctrination by the CAI School of HOA Governance (my appellation), to which far too many BODs have long been a willing and obedient adherent. Being under the spell of the CAI doctrine, the BOD has lost its freedom of mind, has neglected principles of local government, and functions outside constitutional application.
BODs, in general, resort to CAI not for legal advice on how to run the HOA government but as a crutch to allow them to dodge their obligations to govern the people — their residents — living in the territorial subdivision of the planned community or condo. Why would CAI speak of or admit to the Bill of Rights or to state Declaration of Rights and lose control of the industry? Why haven’t they?
In addressing the management of nonprofit organizations, eminent management consultant Peter F. Drucker wrote: “The first job of the leader is to think through and define the mission of the institution.” He makes the point that the worthiness of a mission statement lies not in its beauty but in leading to “right action.” It has to be operational, otherwise it’s just good intentions. “One of the most common mistakes is to make the statement [a series] of good intentions.”
CC&Rs are a devise to circumvent the Constitution
The recourse to the real estate laws of equitable servitudes giving legitimacy to the declaration of covenants, conditions and restriction has gone afoul with respect to HOA governments. “The policy makers have failed to understand that the HOA CC&Rs have crossed over the line between purely property restrictions to establishing unregulated and authoritarian private governments.” The governing documents reflect the undue influence of the CAI School of HOA Governance, and the failure to accept the reality that the HOA is a de facto form of local government that functions outside the US Constitution.
The Homes Association Handbook model set the tone, the character, and the culture of the HOA “community” from which the boilerplate declarations flowed with the help of CAI lawyers. There are no public disclosures of the loss of individual property rights, or the legislative immunity granted to BODs, or the unjust elections procedures, or the absence of constitutional due process protections, or court rulings of implied waivers and surrenders of individual rights, just to mention a few.
It goes without saying that private HOA governments must be restructured to return to the Union and restore member rights, freedom, privileges and immunities. It can be done and must be done. Plessy v. Ferguson (163 US 537 (1896)) was overturned by the US Supreme Court fifty-eight years later in 1954 by Brown v. Bd of Educ. (347 U.S. 483 (1954)). So can years of unjust HOA Acts and statutes be overturned in the light of today’s knowledge and conditions.
And so, it starts with the review and restructuring of the purpose and intents of the HOA to establish a climate and culture of the HOA conforming to the principles of democratic government as required of all local government by the Constitution.
- Evan McKenzie, Privatopia: Homeowners Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Governments, Yale Univ. Press, 1994.
- Donald R. Stabile, Community Associations: The Emergence and Acceptance of a Quiet Innovation in Housing, 2000 (funded by CAI and ULI)
- George K. Staropoli, “HOAs are in need of a major restructuring,” HOA Constitutional Government”, 2020.
- George K. Staropoli, The HOA-Land Nation Within America, p. 22 (StarMan Press 2019).
- George K. Staropoli, HOA Common Sense: rejecting private government (StarMan Press 2013).
- George K. Staropoli, Establishing the New America of Independent HOA Principalities (StarMan Press 2008).
- George K. Staropoli,“Analysis of The Homes Association Handbook,” HOA Constitutional Government (2006).