AZ Senate protects HOA misconduct rejecting HB 2052

The Arizona Senate is still sitting on HB 2052 since a month ago, March 1st,  a bill providing for member participation in HOA governance.  The bill  explicitly states, since the CC&Rs is seen as a contract, what the HOA cannot do and must allow for fair elections and meaningful  participation in HOA governance.

In the past I’ve addressed this constitutional question of fair elections in the HOA model of an authoritarian,  business form of governance.  I’ve provided examples of incidents and court cases reflecting this denial of fair elections, which exist in the public domain, as if the HOA is afraid of the democratic voice of its members.

In this writing I will call to your attention how an upscale, over 1,000 member HOA board — as a representative example of such HOAs — refuses to accept the facts laid before it that provide valid cause to conduct a due diligence examination; and to validate its positions in regard to its fiduciary obligations of good faith conduct and obedience to the governing documents.

Below I’ve copied parts of its application package provided to all candidates for  a director’s position. The package material clearly shows the BOD’s awareness of its fiduciary obligations and its required treatment with respect to the membership.

Obligations  and liabilities of directors

“Directors have a fiduciary duty to the Association and to each member.

“The duty of loyalty requires that:   Directors act in good faith  pursuant to a free, honest exercise of judgment not influenced by considerations other than the best interest of the Association.

“Failure to discharge the fiduciary duty can subject the Association to liability and subject the Director to personal liability. A Director can also be liable for illegal or tortuous acts of the Board of the Association if he/she participates in the decision to authorize the acts or knowingly fails to take steps to avoid the action. “[Emphasis added].

HOA control of the candidate process and campaigning

Getting down to the specific application of HB 2052, the relevant HOA’s candidacy procedures follow, with the opening line stating: “The Campaign and Election Policies have been carefully developed to provide a fair and clean process for candidates and all members.

While the specific policies are not clearly stated as whether prohibited or permitted, the overall tone is definitely of a prohibitive nature. The 14 points are shown as Exhibit 1 below. In sum, they include not using email listings; association facilities or agencies, clubs, etc. websites; no right to hold Q & A sessions independent of HOA;  no right to campaign through social media —  Facebook, Instagram, etc.; all advertising must be HOA approved; distributing flyers outside restaurants, presumably those within the HOA, or on common areas.

The policies of this HOA, and many other large-scale HOA are similar but not so detailed, demonstrate the failure of the board directors to act in good faith and as a fiduciary for the members.  For the HOA to argue that “The ends justify the means and we determine what’s good for the members, but the HOA entity comes first” is unsatisfactory and irrelevant. These policies reflect an authoritarian government that accepts the rejection of fundamental member democratic rights and privileges because they can hide behind the questionable legality of the CC&Rs.

There can be no excuse for HOA directors not being aware of the voluminous materials available for conducting their due diligence with respect to democratic, fair elections and member participation in HOA governance. They have been given plenty of notice, which subjects them to personal liabilities and prevents them from hiding behind “my attorney said it was OK,” or from acts of omission – doing nothing. 

This representative HOA’s policy so informs them of their liability. Yet, nothing is done to correct these violations of good faith. And still the directors, officers, and managers all demand respect! It’s shameless!

What is going on, you may ask?  Well, the board is setting policy for the acceptance of candidates without a vote of the membership. In other words, unless the proposed candidates are accepted by the BOD, the members have lost a candidate of their choosing. They have lost a meaningful participation in the governing of the HOA; they cannot disagree with the establishment!  So, if you thought your HOA was democratic, forget about it! 

Also, the BOD controls how candidates acceptable to them can campaign, placing severe restrictions not found in the fair public elections procedures.  See Exhibit 1 below. Again, members have lost their right to fair and free elections in HOA matters.

AZ Senate’s rejection of HB 2052

It is easily seen that  the AZ Senate supports these undemocratic polices as represented by this HOA’s practices. 

I have maintained that,

“Public policy today rejects constitutional government for HOAs allowing them to operate outside the law of the land. 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.”

See, CC&Rs are a devise for de facto HOA governments to escape Constitutional government; Reorienting the HOA board – fair elections; HOA Common Sense, No. 6: Fair and just hearings

And furthermore, “CIDS [HOAs] currently engage in many activities that would be prohibited  if they were viewed  by the courts as the equivalent of local federal amd Arizona governments.”  … Privatopia (1994), Evan McKenzie.

It is not too late for the Senators to meet their obligations to uphold the federal and Arizona Constitutions by passing HB 2052 into law.

Exhibit 1. HOA BOD campaign policies.

  1. Using email listings, electronic or websites of Neighborhood Representatives and Alternates, Charter Clubs, Interest Groups, community and specialty groups.
  2. Addressing a formal . . . Group (e.g., Neighborhood Representative, Charter Club, Interest Group, specialty group meetings, sports venues, etc.). However, a person’s right to free speech in casual conversations shall not be restrained.
  3. Participating in formal Q&A sessions and programs other than those sponsored by the . . . Election Team.
  4. Using Association facilities for campaign events for individual candidates.
  5. Removing other candidates’ campaign flyers from approved locations.
  6. Using the official . . . website, Facebook or Instagram social media accounts to promote your campaign or to use your personal social media accounts to defame or incite defamation of candidates, engaging in unkind innuendoes / slander / harassment at any time or in any setting.
  7. Posting campaign flyers on street signs, trees, light poles, motor vehicles, golf cars, lawns, windows, auto windshields, or in commercial buildings.
  8. Defacing approved campaign flyers.
  9. Using balloons, buttons, t-shirts, marked-up election ballot, etc. as campaign tools.
  10. Using advertising of any type (other than approved campaign statement and/or approved personal correspondence).
  11. Using multiple versions of campaign flyers at the same time.
  12. Placing flyers in mailboxes (against the law).
  13. Distributing campaign flyers outside the entrance of or in the restaurants.
  14. Distributing campaign flyers in common areas except as noted.

Why isn’t your HOA board supporting AZ HB 2052?

HB 2052 is a big step forward for HOA homeowners in AZ as it restores lost constitutional rights. Why then, isn’t your board supporting this important bill that is unquestionably in the best interests of the members?  If you read your CC&Rs, almost all but not everyone contain a statement of intent and purpose directed toward the members, you will find wording similar to: “shall inure [take effect] to the benefit of the member and be mutually beneficial.” 

Upholding constitutional protections provided by the US Constitution would seem to fit a board’s obligation. However,

“The political and social changes in our society brought about by the adoption and acceptance of the HOA legal scheme has created a new America of authoritarian, private governments known as HOAs. They function as independent principalities.  The values, beliefs, principles, ethics, and morality of today’s America would shock the Founding Fathers.”[1] 

HB 2052 follows in the footsteps of California’s SB 323 and several court opinions upholding HOAs as public forums that provide for protective free public speech on HOA governing matters.[2]  

AZ Senate Rules committee must place  HB 2052 on the COW agenda. This important bill extends constitutional protections to HOA members.  It is awaiting a hearing by the Senate Rules Committee; time is running out! It was not heard on the 15th and today, the 17th. Bills have been killed by being held by Rules, which is a mandatory committee for all bills.

The public in general does not understand the functioning of their state legislature when it comes to its lawmaking powers under our democracy.  Our Declaration of Independence, our ‘social contract’ between the government and the people,  states quite clearly

That to secure these rights [‘among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness] governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

However, in many ways your legislature operates as the sovereign that can do no wrong. Take, for instance, the question of passing laws that are of questioned constitutionality.  Long standing legal doctrine holds that all laws passed by Congress or your state legislature are presumed constitutional.  This doctrine makes the primary function of legislative Rules Committees for checking constitutionality, among a minor formality issue, perfunctory and meaningless.

With the assistance of the Rules attorneys, the committees review the proposed legislation’s consistency with the United States and Arizona Constitutions and Arizona and federal law”[3]

In all my 20+ years I cannot recall any HOA bill being found unconstitutional by a Rules committee, even for one in 2013— by the same sponsor of HB 2052 — that was challenged in court and found unconstitutional.[4]

Members should be urging their boards to speak out.  Members would be protected and enjoy such constitutional freedoms to openly discuss issues of public HOA governance with their fellow members if  HB 2052  becomes law.  Make it a law – write the rules Committee and demand passing on the bill for a debate and a final vote by all Senators.

References


[1] George K. Staropoli, HOA Common Sense: rejecting private government, StarMan Press, 2013.

[2] See Substantive HOA member rights advances in Arizona.

[3] As an example, from the Arizona Legislative Manual.

[4] See AZ Attorney General admits SB 1454 HOA to be invalid and without effect.

CA’s SB 407 is another law providing constitutional rights

I was reminded of  my oversight in not mentioning California’s SB 407 (law in 2018) when referring to California’s constitutional rights legislation.[1]  SB 407 dealt directly with free speech issues while SB 323 dealt with extensions to fair elections.

Thanks to Marjorie Murray, President of the very active homeowner rights organization, Center for California Homeowner Association Law (CCHAL).[2] CCHAL has long fought CAI-CLAC, the voice of the collective CAI legislative action committees in California. (CAI-CLAC opposed SB 407).

CAI-CLAC is very slick in presenting a positive face to naïve homeowners and those seeking info on HOAs in California, known as CIDs. The title of its CAI Government Affairs Blog email release of March 2, 2021 reads, “Grassroots Advocacy Initiatives Are More Essential Than Ever.”  But many readers may miss the important appeal as stated in the email:

“Each year, CAI advocacy leaders engage with and encourage members across the country to connect with their elected officials and advocate on behalf of the 73.9 million Americans currently living in community associations.”.

This is a misrepresentation and a misleading assertion that CAI speaks for all persons living in an HOA in California. NOT SO!  (See HOA homeowner membership in CAI is a mere 36%).  As I’ve repeatedly urged others to do, such statements must be challenged and rebutted.

Notes


[1] See Substantive HOA member rights advances in Arizona.

[2] Murray commented: The California legislation that re-affirmed the First Amendment rights of association owners was SB407, sponsored by the Center for California Homeowner Association Law and carried by Senator Bob Wieckowski. 

Now law, it affirms the rights of homeowners to assemble peacefully, to communicate freely with their neighbors on matters of mutual concern, and to invite others onto the association campus.  It was signed into law in 2018.  CCHAL organized a public forum on the bill after it became law and videotaped the forum. Here’s the link to the text: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB407;

Substantive HOA member rights advances in Arizona

A big step forward for HOA homeowners in AZ, that restores lost constitutional rights, as the Senate GOV committee passed the bill, HB 2052, in a 7-0 vote with 1 no-vote.  On its way to a full Senate vote and then Final vote.

It should also be seen by HOA BODs as treating their members as first-class citizens.  It follows in the footsteps of California’s SB 323 —  passed into law in 2019 — and several court opinions upholding HOAs are public forums that provide free public speech on governing matters.

Read the summary carefully for it spells out your rights to be heard on an equal basis to the BOD’s actions and views. FACT SHEET FOR H.B. 2052.  Here are some important excerpts:

“Prohibits an HOA from prohibiting door-to-door community activity on property normally open to visitors within an HOA.

Prohibits an HOA from prohibiting or unreasonably restricting an owner’s ability to peacefully assemble and use private or common elements of the community, if done in compliance with reasonable restrictions for the property adopted by the HOA’s board of directors.

“Allows an owner or group of owners to organize to discuss or address condominium or planned community business, including a) HOA board of directors elections or recalls; b) potential or actual ballot issues or revisions to the HOA documents . . .  or d) any other community business or action.  

“Allows an owner to invite a political candidate or other non-owner guest to speak to an assembly of owners.”

Now of course, your BOD will turn to its legal advisors to get an opinion.  If you’ve read my commentaries here you got a good idea of what many of the national lobbying member attorneys will probably telling your BOD.  Under the bill, when it becomes law, members will have a better chance to challenge BOD decisions and get to the facts of who really runs your BOD.  You might say, the bill will Make HOAs Great Again!

CAI Manifesto – white paper

{Originally published in 2016].

This CAI ‘white paper’ cements the position that CAI is the sole competent voice for HOA matters. For those who took the time to read all four of these papers, [note 1] what should stand out is the absence of any discussion of HOAs as de facto private governments, as de facto political entities, or as quasi or mini governments both of which imply a political entity.  The reason why the authors of these papers, the elitist would be Philosopher Kings, cannot address the question of violations of the Constitution is that they would be “Defending the Indefensible.”

So, as expected of politically motivated actors, ignoring the controversy makes it go away, especially when there’s only one voice of any merit and strength.  Facts that are inconsistent with the views of CAI are dogmatically dismissed and ignored. And to this end CAI has been very successful with respect to state legislatures and the cooperating media.

“For more than 40 years, CAI has educated, advocated, published and informed people living and working in common-interest communities. Thanks to those ongoing efforts, we have a strong and valuable understanding of community associations today.[note 2]

CAI will use these papers to further indoctrinate the legislators, the media and the public that CAI is the only competent, informed, knowledgeable, educational and credentialed organization with 40 years’ experience to conduct HOA affairs and to deal with HOA issues.  “Homeowner rights advocates” are ignored and dismissed as an opposition movement.  Instead, following the lead of Arizona Rep. Ugenti who in 2013 made the following statement to the Arizona Government Committee:

Ugenti stated that each year there was “a plethora of personal HOA legislation” and tried “to spare the [committee] members the constant agony of many personal pieces of HOA legislation,” as contrasted to the industry legislation. (See video of Ugenti speech here https://youtu.be/REt_TJD-6UQ).

CAI speaks only of “individual constituents” and “isolate incidents” that do not measure up to a policy that the legislature could act on[note 3] (my emphasis):

“Lawmakers have been, and will continue to be, called upon to address concerns expressed by individual constituents who share an isolated incident that has made them unhappy with their community associations. In an effort to help constituents, lawmakers may introduce legislation addressing association governance that may increase and undermine the well-established and proven model of community association governance.

“This trend is expected to continue as long as a legislative response is considered necessary to respond to negative perceptions produced by media out of lone circumstances. Legislative responses to individual constituents contribute to community associations being perceived as over-restrictive micro-governments focused on covenant enforcement. This perception may accelerate legislative efforts aimed at greater oversight of community association governance and require greater transparency.”

They make an accurate assessment of conditions. This failure to present a unified national voice backed by credential authorities will continue to persist into the future.  If you stop CAI Central, you destroy all local CAI state chapters’ reason for being. They become just another self-serving special interest.

These papers also contain CAI attempts to influence other dominant organizations like AARP and NAR (National Assoc. of Realtors).[note 4]  Furthermore, CAI calls for not only influencing legislatures, but the judges, too.[note 5]

References


[1] Links to these papers can be found on the CAI web page, Community Next: 2020 and Beyond(May 5, 2016).

[2] Id

[3] Supra, public policy link, p. 6.

[4] Supra. n. 1, external influences link, p. 4-5.

[5] Id, p. 13-14.