Why HOA members fail in court – failing to know the enemy

In Nuclear Verdicts, not specifically addressing HOA cases and speaking to defense attorneys, author and defense attorney Tyson sees the failure to succeed  as a failure of the defendant to get angry.  “YOU are the solution to what has been wrong with our legal system.”  In keeping with the mission of a homeowner advocate’s cry of “fightclub,” Tyson’s Nuclear Verdicts’  mission “is about fighting individuals and groups who are attempting to take advantage of our legal system.  There are people every day who make false and exaggerated claims . . . .”   

I have applied his general statements to HOA-Land.  Tyson is quite on the mark with the many instances of HOA attorney conduct in the courtroom.  And on the failure of homeowners to appropriately and strongly respond. “Bad lawyering [on the part of the homeowner’s attorney] is much more common” than the HOA attorney’s “stretching their claims beyond what is real and verifiable.”  The homeowner attorney  “is surprised, or unprepared, or just not as good as the” HOA attorney. Tyson sums it all up with, “So how do you fight injustice? First of all you need to get angry! You need to stop complaining and do something about it.? 

. . . .

I have read dozens of trial and appellate court cases and opinions across the states, and have personally witnessed the conduct of HOA attorneys and board members in court. My research is consistent with Tyson’s position. I offer my own views for those seeking to go to court to take heed of, and to just DO IT!

My conclusions as to why homeowners lost in court fell into several causes, the chief being the failure to know the enemy, as Sun Tzu wrote in the Art of War. Other causes, as I saw them, 1) insufficient evidence and documentation provided to the court, 2) failing to state a claim, in other words, the HOA broke no laws or violated the governing documents but just exercised its discretion as was its right, 3) attorney lack of expertise and knowledge of HOA  case history, and 4) member afraid to argue the case as warranted for one reason or another.

I possess, as well as on other advocate websites including CAI’s pages on it amicus briefs and case history reviews, a wealth of information on knowing the enemy. Failing to provide this information to your attorney that will enhance your chances of success and to lessen his “learning time,” saving you money, can harm the chances of your winning in court.

YOU are the solution to what has been wrong with our legal system.”

I’d like to thank Sonia Bendt for understanding this need to cooperate and work together, and who sent me Tyson’s book realizing it would be very helpful to all homeowners going to court.

Robert F. Tyson, Jr, Nuclear Verdicts: defending justice for all, Law Dog Publishing (2020).

CAI’s early awareness of HOA constitutionality, public mini-government

It appears that CAI has adopted a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” attitude toward HOA constitutionality and public mini-government issues that are still prevalent today.  And it spread to the policy-makers.

Wayne S. Hyatt’s 1975 Emory Law Journal article, Condominium and Home Owners Associations:  Formation and Development, 2 years after the formation of CAI, presents his highly influential view on HOA constitutionality while recognizing that HOAs are mini-governments.

Wayne Hyatt “the most prominent advocate in CAI” serving as a 1975 “homeowners representative” and a former president (1978-79) (Privatopia, p. 219, 138 respectively). Hyatt  devoted his practice to working with developers of condominiums, master planned communities, resorts . . . to create community governance structures and community stewardship organizations.

While actively practicing law, he was also a member of 1) the American Law Institute (that wrote the pro-HOA Restatement of Servitudes, 2) the College of Community Association Lawyers (CAI affiliate) , the Community Associations Institute (CAI, created in 1973 by the National Association of Home Builders [grant of]  $30,000), and  3) ULI – the Urban Land Institute (sponsor of the 1964 “HOA bible,” The Homes Association Handbook) and served as a ULI Trustee.

He also served as an Advisor 1) to the Restatement of the Law (Third) Property: Servitudes, and 2)  to the Special Committees on a Uniform Condominium Act and a Uniform Planned Community Act of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (Uniform Law Commission, UCIOA and UCA).  Hyatt received several awards from CAI.

Hyatt developed many of the Dell Webb’s master planned and resort/active adult association CC&Rs over the years.

His 1975 Emory Law Journal article gives readers a good idea of constitutionality and local government concerns that seemed to have evaporated over the years as CAI’s influence increased dramatically.  A few important excerpts:

  • “The California Code provides for an association and affords it the powers and duties of the mini-government.” {T]he [Georgia] legislature has in effect provided a large measure of home rule for what is in essence a category of small municipalities, and each has established a system of officers and directors in the nature of a mayor and council to oversee the exercise of this rule.” (At 988). 
  • “‘Has the state permitted, even by inaction, a private party to exercise such power over matters of a high public interest that to render meaningful’ constitutional rights, private action must be public?”(Footnote 33 at 983). [In simple terms, private government HOAs must be subject to local government protections].
  • “The Declaration is not a contract but, as a covenant running with the land, is effectively a constitution establishing a regime to govern property held and enjoyed in common.  It further sets forth procedures to administer, operate, and maintain the property. . . . the declaration and particularly the by-laws create not only a corporate structure but also a governmental authority that requires and deserves competent, experienced persons . . .” (at 990).
  • “The power of ‘levy’ is a distinctive characteristic of the association and removes it from a mere voluntary neighborhood group. . . . The imposition of penalties, whether fines . . . or a denial of use of facilities enforced by injunction, certainly represents quasi-judicial power to affect an individual’s property rights. . . . The possession and exercise of such power has substantial consequences with clear constitutional implications.  The courts have not yet considered a direct constitutional challenge to an association’s action.” (at 983).
  • “[T]he constitutional issue is most acute in rule enforcement; however the association’s established procedures, declaration, and by-laws should insure compliance with at least rudimentary constitutional principles, and there must be a procedure to protect members’ rights.” (at 984).

Nowhere will you find any equivalent discussion of HOA constitutionality, or HOAs as mini-governments or as a form of local public government. Not in its Manifesto, Community Next 2020 and Beyond (2016);  not in its Public Policies: Private Property Protection, Government regulation of Community Associations, and Rights and Responsibilities For Better Communities (July 15, 2021).

And not in any of its anti-constitution amicus briefs: Twin Rivers NJ appellate (2004), Dublirer NJ Supreme Court (2011);  Surowiecki, WA Supreme Court (2021) (business judgment rule overrides judicial review); Turtle Rock AZ appellate (2017); Foreshee WI appellate (2017).

Preface to HOA Common Sense

PREFACE

The title of this pamphlet, “Common Sense,” was chosen to identify and relate to the aims and purposes of the original 1776 pamphlet by Thomas Paine, Common Sense. Prior to the American Revolution it was Paine who provided the reasons and justifications for overthrowing the oppression government of King George III. He raised the consciousness of the colonists as to their second-class citizenship with respect to the British Empire, and something had to be done about. It was widely read by the Founding Fathers who did do something about it.

With a similar object in regard to oppressive, authoritarian HOA regimes, I present a summary of the essential issues that must be similarly remedied to bring about substantive changes to planned community/condo private governance.

Clarifications of meanings and concepts

A nation consists of a distinct population of people that are bound together by a common culture, history, and tradition who are typically concentrated within a specific geographic region. The common, binding element of HOAs is its organic law foundation, from which flow all state laws and the declarations of CC&Rs boilerplate, is based on The Homes Association Handbook of 1964.


An HOA is the governing body of a condominium or planned unit development (PUD) functioning for all intents and purposes as a de facto local political community government, but not recognized as such by state governments.

An organic law is a law, or system of laws, that form the foundation of a government, corporation or any other organization’s body of rules. A constitution is a particular form of organic law for a sovereign state. The US has indeed a set of documents constituting its organic law.

Definition of HOA-LAND: HOA-Land is a collection of fragmented independent principalities within America, known in general as “HOAs,” that are separate local private governments not subject to the constitution, and that collectively constitute a nation within the United States.

Read the book: HOA Common Sense: rejecting private government, a summary of 6 constitutional defects.

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.

Lessons from Impeachment trial for HOA-Land

If you wondered why I have posted about the dysfunctional Washington and President, here are some lessons for HOA-Land.

1.  Words spoken and conduct before and earlier in any event or situation can be held against you, or the BOD, HOA attorney, or manager.

2.  Conduct and words over time can demonstrate a pattern of wrongful behavior by HOA and its advisors.

3.  The national pro-HOA lobbying firm has focused homeowner attention on events as isolated events of no major consequence.  In other words, they directed members to look at the trees and not see the repeated pattern of wrongful behavior — forest thru the trees.

RICO is based on a repeated pattern of wrongful behavior.