Democracy Is Not Guaranteed in HOA-Land

For the past 58 years, the HOA model of local community government has been “an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” This model of government rejects democratic principles and constitutional protections, depriving members of their fundamental rights.[1]

HOAs have been permitted to operate and function as such by the support, cooperation, and promotion of state legislatures. HOAs are based on intentional misrepresentations of authoritarian private contracts to unsuspecting buyers. Even today the self-proclaimed leading educator on the  HOA model and operation will not address questions of constitutionality that have authoritative legal support.

In my earlier commentaries I wrote about the similarities between the social and political  culture on the national level and that of the HOA declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). I wrote that CC&Rs rejected democratic principles in the pursuit of enforcement in order to coerce compliance.[2]

President Biden, in his Thursday speech to the nation, reminds Americans that,[3]

“Democracy Is Not Guaranteed. “We have to defend it. Protect it. Stand up for it. Each and every one of us. . . . regardless of your ideology.”

“We just need to remember who we are. “There’s nothing more important, nothing more sacred, nothing more American”  than preserving democracy. “That’s who we truly are. And that’s who we must always be.

There is an old truism: “there cannot be change without change.” If we are to preserve democratic institutions in HOA-Land, then the members must unite across the country and organize  to preserve democracy; there’s nothing more American. Members of HOAs are citizens of America, and that’s who we truly are and that’s who we must always be.

Learn more about unconstitutional CC&Rs and the rights and freedoms as Americans unknowingly taken from you when you entered HOA-Land. Take time to read the articles provided under Notes below.

Notes:


[1] See The intent of the HOA “bible”, the Homes Association Handbook (March 2020).

 [2] See in general, George K. Staropoli, StarMan Publishing (making references to Donald Trump).

[3] Read the Full Transcript of Biden’s Speech in Philadelphia – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Did HOA-Land contribute to the national disregard for democratic America?

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind”  (Hosea 8:7)

In my 2020 Rogue Presidents post [1] I warned:

“I’ve come to the conclusion that the HOA social and political dynamics are identical as we have witnessed on the broad national scale. I am not sure as to what came first, the chicken or the egg? To what extend has the HOA independent principality mentality and legal scheme contributed to the national scene? Or are the HOA dynamics just a reflection of the broader culture in America today?”

I am not a psychologist or sociologist but a student all my life of leadership in government, corporate, and military. Based on the events over the past 2 years —and showing no signs of abating  for the next 2 years — regarding the staunch, cult follower support of Donald Trump by Republicans at the federal and state levels, I must lean toward a national, cultural change in America. It has led to a rejection of the Constitution and all its principles and values that truly made America great.

America today is no better that the banana republics and totalitarian governments that hypocritical politicians  openly criticize. The guiding rule for politicians that was “to avoid the appearance of impropriety” has become outright lying to the face of the public, redefining the traditional meaning of words, as George Orwell portrayed in his book 1984, to advance the political views of the cultists as necessary for America’s survival.

To a lessor extent, but functioning in parallel with  the national malaise, are the private government HOAs. With the members exhibiting the same cultist conduct that the HOA president and board can do no wrong.

Further reading:

  1. Rogue presidents: Trump and HOAs  (Nov. 2020).
  2. Countrywide political culture cause of HOA reform failures (Feb. 2021).

AZ SC in Kalway holds CC&Rs as “special contracts”

Author’s note:  I make extensive use of direct quotes in order to avoid my interpretations “leaking” through.

The Arizona Supreme Court in Kalway[i] threw some light on the controversy that HOA covenants and CC&Rs are valid contracts and are held as such.   The Court held that, my emphasis,

“CC&Rs form a contract between individual landowners and all the landowners bound by the restrictions, as a whole. . . . in special types of contracts, we do not enforce ‘unknown terms which are beyond the range of reasonable expectation . . . . CC&Rs are such contracts.  Because covenants originate in contract, the primary purpose of a court when interpreting a covenant is to give effect to the original intent of the parties’ with any doubts resolved against the validity of a restriction.”

With respect to the requirement for very important but ignored homeowner notice, the Court continued, my emphasis,

The notice requirement relies on a homeowner’s reasonable expectations based on the declaration in effect at the time of purchase—in this case, the original declaration.  Under general contract law principles, a majority could impose any new restrictions on the minority because the original declaration provided for amendments by majority vote. But allowing substantial, unforeseen, and unlimited amendments would alter the nature of the covenants to which the homeowners originally agreed. . . . Thus, “[t]he law will not subject a minority of landowners to unlimited and unexpected restrictions on the use of their land merely because the covenant agreement permitted a majority to make changes to existing covenants.”

One of the most egregious injustices that I’ve come across is the failure of the courts to apply the full body of contract law to HOA covenants in CC&Rs.  Opinions and dicta refer to the CC&Rs simply as a contract, or an agreement interpreted as a contract — yet in spite of the above opinion — fail to protect the homeowner under contract law 101.  The Cornell Legal Information Institute lists the basic criteria for a valid contract:

 ‘The basic elements required for the agreement to be a legally enforceable contract are: mutual assent, expressed by a valid offer and acceptance; adequate consideration; capacity; and legality.”

Added to this general description of a legal contract is the Opinion holding that the CC&Rs are special contracts that do not permit “unreasonable  expectations” and that the notice of reasonable expectations is set forth in the CC&Rs “at the time of purchase,” and the law will protect minority owners from any such expectations.   

As I have argued many times,[ii] the boilerplate  amendment process that binds non-agreeing owners solely on the basis of a majority or some super majority renders the original “contract” a meaningless piece of paper. 

Professor Barnett explains,

“A law may be ‘valid’ because it was produced in accordance with all the procedures required by a particular lawmaking system, [the HOA amendment procedure, for example] but be ‘illegitimate’ because these procedures were inadequate to provide assurances that a law is just.”[iii]

Conclusion

It should be evident to all that this constitutional issue of “signed the agreement” and are thereby bound to obey needs further thought. As it stands, homeowners in HOAs are subject to special laws, the numerous state HOA/Condo Acts, for special entities allowed to function as de facto private governments outside the protections of the US Constitution.

Notes


[i] Kalway v. Calbria Ranch, CV-20-o152-PR, ¶ 13 -16  (Ariz. March 22, 2022).

[ii] See HOA consent to agree vs. “the will of the majority”,  Contracts, the Constitution and consent to be governed and HOA Common Sense, No. 4: Consent to be governed.

[iii] Randy Barnett, Restoring the Lost Constitution, Princeton Univ. Press, (2004).

The roles of the Supreme Court vs the Legislature

At today’s Senate confirmation hearings of Judge Jackson, an intriguing dialogue took place between Jackson and Senator Lee (Utah).  The topic raised by Lee focused on the role that the Supreme Court is to say what the law is, and the role of Congress (or state legislature) is to say what the law should be creating public policy. The Court deals with the policies set by Congress.

The role of homeowner rights advocates is to say  to the legislatures what the law should be with respect to HOA-Land.  It is not to say that this happened to me and it’s wrong, or my HOA does so and so, which does not rise to the level of setting policy for all HOAs/condos  — no special laws for special entities.

And that’s another area where reform legislation often fails — too local.  Reforms must be broad as to have general concern for the state; as the courts have held from time to time, “This case Involves legal issues of statewide importance.”   And it must be explicitly stated or  implied.

Public policy today is harmful to the private property rights of HOA owners, and to a denial of due process protections and violations of the equal protection of the laws, treating HOAs as if they were independent principalities.  These policies and attitudes have created unjust, bad laws enforced by the courts, and used as precedent for more bad laws.

The cycle ends by advocates addressing the root cause of pro-HOA laws that treat HOA members as second-class citizens, which they are not!

Donie Vanitzian’s murderer  still waiting trial after 4 years

Three days after Xmas on Dec. 28, 2017, L A. columnist and strident homeowner rights activist Donie Vanitzian died at the hands of her husband of 35 years, Tom Foster. She was 67. It was a murder-suicide incident according to the police. Foster was charged with murder and plead “Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity.” The case is still pending with a series of pretrial conferences scheduled for a number of years now, which I believe must be related to his insanity plea.

Please note that criminal court records are accessible by the public either at the courtroom or remotely by means of computers at the courthouse.  This April 22 another pretrial conference is scheduled and I am hoping someone can drop by the courthouse and access the minute/orders and bring us up to date.

The January 2018 British Daily Mail article, describing Foster as “a former British nightclub tycoon,” depicts their relationship.

Many long-time advocates will remember Donie Vanitzian (1950 – 2017) and her strident, outspoken activism displayed in her emails, in her L. A. Times column, Associations, and in her texts: Villa Appalling!: Destroying the Myth of Affordable Community Living, Vanitzian and Glassman (Villa Appalling Publishing 2002); California Common Interest Development — Homeowner’s Guide,  D. Vanitzian (Thomson-West Legal Publishers, Series: The Expert Series (2006).

* * * *

I worked with Donie from 2006 – 2016 on CLRC ‘s rewrite of the Davis-Stirling Act and in defending her, when she called from time to time at wits end,  against attacks by the Evil Empire attempting to remove were LA Times column and to discredit her in general. We fought like hell, along with Elizabeth McMahon (AHRC), to get a member’s bill of rights included in the rewrite but failed. I admired her and had respect for her knowledge and energizer bunny activism.  We chatted in private. She had a JD but kept on failing the Bar exam and I understood why. She did not accept the establishment’s version of justice and the judicial process.  She had those to-the-point views and criticisms of the Evil Empire and its loyal followers.

In 2006 with her help pretending to be doing research as an adjunct professor,  I was able to get a copy of the 400+ page, 8 ½ x 11 The Homes Association Handbook, TB #50 at a cost of $180.  We split the cost. You will not find this document anywhere, not even on Amazon.

You can read the Jan. 7, 2018 L.A. Times tribute to Donie by Andrew Khouri.  Champion of Homeowners’ Rights

In memory of Donie’s dedication to justice, fair play, and to protecting homeowner rights, I would like to list a number of events that I had recorded as a Commentary over the years, and  revealing a number of incidents that I had occasion to record.

·         Realtors: Are they protecting buyers or the HOA? (May 2006)

·         Common Interest Developments – Homeowner’s Guide (Thomson-West) (Oct. 2006)

·         Homes in HOAs are Lifetime Collateral for HOA Survival (Oct. 2006)

·         AB 1921: The CLRC recommended HOA special interest bill (Jan 2009)

·         Why is CAI member firm of Adams Kessler allowing criticism of LA Times HOA column? (Oct. 2011)

·         Is there a CAI game plan to rewrite HOA CC&Rs to restrict member voting powers?  (Feb. 2012)

·         LA Times column: protecting your HOA property (Nov. 2016)