Arizona’s landmark fair elections, free speech law on HOA governance

On Sept. 25, 2022, Arizona’s new HOA reform law (Session Law Ch, 125; HB2158),  bringing substantive free public speech on HOA governing issues and establishing a fair elections procedure, will become effective.

This is a major step forward to the application of Constitutional equal protection of the laws and proper due process as guaranteed to all US citizens. Under this bill, effective and meaningful opportunity for Arizona members to participate fairly and in an equal manner in the governance of an HOA.

It starts with the ability to campaign and discuss governing issues with the members on the same level playing field. All the members seeking change have to do is to get involved knowing they won’t be “fighting city hall” without legislative support. The “tools” are there for members to stand up and fight for their rights. No one else will do it for you! Especially your board of directors.

As James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers #51: “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” HOA boards for the most part have demonstrated that they are indeed not angels.

I congratulate the bill sponsor, Rep. John Kavanagh, and all advocates who supported this bill and the Arizona Legislators coming to understand the need to stop board of director’s abuse under authoritarian private agreements.

The intent and purpose of this law are highlighted below :

“‘association-specific political sign’ means a sign that supports or opposes a candidate for the board of directors or the recall of a board member or a condominium ballot measure that requires a vote of the association unit owners.

The details specify the rights of members and prohibitions on the BOD regarding these signs. Furthermore,

“association may not prohibit or unreasonably restrict a unit owner’s ability to peacefully assemble and use common elements of the condominium [or HOA];

“group of unit owners may assemble to discuss matters related to the condominium [or HOA], including board of director elections or recalls, potential or actual ballot issues or revisions to the condominium documents, property maintenance or safety issues or any other condominium matters . . . .”

Relevant sections of HB 2158

The relevant sections of the new law can be read here: HB 2158;  Ariz. Sess. Law Ch 125 (2022). An audio version on Spotify can be heard here: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/mqz2Fe4Dytb

HB 2158;  Ariz. Sess. Law Ch 125 (2022)

Reformatted for ease of comprehension. New law is shown in blue caps according to legislative rules. The law duplicates the provisions separately for Condo (ARS 33-1600 et seq.)  and Planned Community HOA (ARE 33-1800 et seq.)  statutes.

ARS 33-1261 (p. 3 – 4)

H. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY PROVISION IN THE CONDOMINIUM DOCUMENTS,

  • AN ASSOCIATION MAY NOT PROHIBIT OR UNREASONABLY RESTRICT THE INDOOR OR OUTDOOR DISPLAY OF AN ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGN
  • BY A UNIT OWNER BY PLACEMENT OF A SIGN ON THAT UNIT OWNER’S PROPERTY, INCLUDING ANY LIMITED COMMON ELEMENTS FOR THAT UNIT THAT ARE DOORS, WALLS OR PATIOS OR OTHER LIMITED COMMON ELEMENTS THAT TOUCH THE UNIT, OTHER THAN THE ROOF.
  • AN ASSOCIATION MAY ADOPT REASONABLE RULES REGARDING THE PLACEMENT, LOCATION AND MANNER OF DISPLAY OF ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGNS,
  • EXCEPT AN ASSOCIATION SHALL NOT DO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

1. PROHIBIT THE DISPLAY OF ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGNS BETWEEN THE DATE THAT THE ASSOCIATION PROVIDES WRITTEN OR ABSENTEE BALLOTS TO UNIT OWNERS AND THREE DAYS AFTER THE CONDOMINIUM ELECTION.

2. LIMIT THE NUMBER OF ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC SIGNS, EXCEPT THAT THE ASSOCIATION MAY LIMIT THE AGGREGATE TOTAL DIMENSIONS OF ALL ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC SIGNS ON A UNIT OWNER’S PROPERTY TO NOT MORE THAN NINE SQUARE FEET.

3. REQUIRE ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGNS TO BE COMMERCIALLY PRODUCED OR PROFESSIONALLY MANUFACTURED OR PROHIBIT USING BOTH SIDES OF THE SIGN.

4. REGULATE THE NUMBER OF CANDIDATES SUPPORTED OR OPPOSED OR THE NUMBER OF BOARD MEMBERS SUPPORTED OR OPPOSED IN A RECALL OR THE NUMBER OF BALLOT MEASURES SUPPORTED OR OPPOSED ON AN ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGN.

5. MAKE ANY OTHER REGULATIONS REGARDING THE CONTENT OF AN ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGN, EXCEPT THAT THE ASSOCIATION MAY PROHIBIT USING PROFANITY AND DISCRIMINATORY TEXT, IMAGES OR CONTENT BASED ON RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, SEX, FAMILIAL STATUS OR NATIONAL ORIGIN AS PRESCRIBED BY FEDERAL OR STATE FAIR HOUSING LAWS.

* * * *

J. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY PROVISION IN THE CONDOMINIUM DOCUMENTS,

AN ASSOCIATION MAY NOT PROHIBIT OR UNREASONABLY RESTRICT A UNIT OWNER’S ABILITY TO PEACEFULLY ASSEMBLE AND USE COMMON ELEMENTS OF THE CONDOMINIUM IF DONE IN COMPLIANCE WITH REASONABLE RESTRICTIONS FOR THE USE OF THAT PROPERTY ADOPTED BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS.

AN INDIVIDUAL UNIT OWNER OR GROUP OF UNIT OWNERS MAY ASSEMBLE TO DISCUSS MATTERS RELATED TO THE CONDOMINIUM,

* * *

 1. “ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGN” MEANS A SIGN THAT SUPPORTS OR OPPOSES A CANDIDATE FOR THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OR THE RECALL OF A BOARD  MEMBER OR A CONDOMINIUM BALLOT MEASURE THAT REQUIRES A VOTE OF THE ASSOCIATION UNIT OWNERS.

ARS 33-1808 (p. 7 – 8)

K. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY PROVISION IN THE COMMUNITY DOCUMENTS,

  • AN ASSOCIATION MAY NOT PROHIBIT OR UNREASONABLY RESTRICT THE INDOOR OR OUTDOOR DISPLAY OF AN ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGN BY A MEMBER BY PLACEMENT OF A SIGN ON THAT MEMBER’S PROPERTY.
  •  AN ASSOCIATION MAY ADOPT REASONABLE RULES REGARDING THE PLACEMENT, LOCATION AND MANNER OF DISPLAY OF ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGNS,
  • EXCEPT AN ASSOCIATION SHALL NOT DO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
  • PROHIBIT THE DISPLAY OF ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGNS BETWEEN THE DATE THAT THE ASSOCIATION PROVIDES WRITTEN OR ABSENTEE BALLOTS TO MEMBERS AND THREE DAYS AFTER THE PLANNED COMMUNITY ELECTION.
    • LIMIT THE NUMBER OF ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC SIGNS, EXCEPT THAT THE ASSOCIATION MAY LIMIT THE AGGREGATE TOTAL DIMENSIONS OF ALL ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC SIGNS ON A MEMBER’S PROPERTY TO NOT MORE THAN NINE SQUARE FEET.
    • REQUIRE ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGNS TO BE COMMERCIALLY PRODUCED OR PROFESSIONALLY MANUFACTURED OR PROHIBIT USING BOTH SIDES OF THE SIGN.
    • REGULATE THE NUMBER OF CANDIDATES SUPPORTED OR OPPOSED OR THE NUMBER OF BOARD MEMBERS SUPPORTED OR OPPOSED IN A RECALL OR THE NUMBER OF BALLOT MEASURES SUPPORTED OR OPPOSED ON AN ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGN.
    • MAKE ANY OTHER REGULATIONS REGARDING THE CONTENT OF AN  ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGN EXCEPT THAT THE ASSOCIATION MAY PROHIBIT USING PROFANITY AND DISCRIMINATORY TEXT, IMAGES OR CONTENT BASED ON RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, SEX, FAMILIAL STATUS OR NATIONAL ORIGIN AS PRESCRIBED BY FEDERAL OR STATE FAIR HOUSING LAWS.

* * *

M. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY PROVISION IN THE COMMUNITY DOCUMENTS,

  • AN  ASSOCIATION MAY NOT PROHIBIT OR UNREASONABLY RESTRICT A MEMBER’S ABILITY TO PEACEFULLY ASSEMBLE AND USE COMMON AREAS OF THE PLANNED COMMUNITY IF DONE IN COMPLIANCE WITH REASONABLE RESTRICTIONS FOR THE USE OF THAT PROPERTY ADOPTED BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS.
  • AN INDIVIDUAL MEMBER OR GROUP OF MEMBERS MAY ASSEMBLE TO DISCUSS MATTERS RELATED TO THE PLANNED COMMUNITY,
    • INCLUDING BOARD ELECTIONS OR RECALLS, POTENTIAL OR ACTUAL BALLOT ISSUES OR REVISIONS TO THE COMMUNITY DOCUMENTS, PROPERTY MAINTENANCE OR SAFETY ISSUES OR ANY OTHER PLANNED COMMUNITY MATTERS.
    • A MEMBER MAY INVITE ONE POLITICAL CANDIDATE OR ONE NON-MEMBER GUEST TO SPEAK TO AN ASSEMBLY OF MEMBERS ABOUT MATTERS RELATED TO THE COMMUNITY.
    • THE ASSOCIATION SHALL NOT PROHIBIT A MEMBER FROM POSTING NOTICES REGARDING THOSE ASSEMBLIES OF MEMBERS ON BULLETIN BOARDS LOCATED ON THE COMMON AREAS OR WITHIN COMMON AREA FACILITIES.
    • AN ASSEMBLY OF MEMBERS PRESCRIBED BY THIS SUBSECTION DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN OFFICIAL MEMBERS’ MEETING UNLESS THE MEETING IS NOTICED AND CONVENED AS PRESCRIBED IN THE COMMUNITY DOCUMENTS AND THIS CHAPTER.

O. For the purposes of this section: ,

1. “ASSOCIATION-SPECIFIC POLITICAL SIGN” MEANS A SIGN THAT SUPPORTS OR OPPOSES A CANDIDATE FOR THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OR THE RECALL OF A BOARD MEMBER OR A PLANNED COMMUNITY BALLOT MEASURE THAT REQUIRES A VOTE OF THE ASSOCIATION MEMBERS.

AZ court holds HOA in a representative role on behalf of the members

If your HOA was involved in a legal action and won  a substantial award, who would get the money? Who should get the money? The HOA is a legal person; its members do not have title or stock; they just have a beneficial interest. (With Condos members own a specified interest and ownership in the condominium assets, as stated in their deed,  in addition to their own unit).

Foothills Reserve[1], an HOA,  is a “first impression” for me as judges would say, having not come across the issues presented in the case before. There are two aspects in this case that warrant discussion that have not been presented in the media. It involves an eminent domain taking of property that the HOA claimed diminished the value of the HOA properties, and the court’s reasoning as to who gets to keep the award money.

Eminent Domain and property values

The State of Arizona acquired Foothills property for a major highway interchange and Foothills received $6.5 million compensation as required under the law. But the HOA

claimed damages [of] alleged diminished value of their homes as a result of factors such as noise, pollution, loss of view, and unsightliness as a result of the South Mountain Freeway., i.e., proximity damages.”

The Court added to the eminent domain’s paid  compensation an additional $12 million depending upon the outcome of the State’s appeal with respect to the “proximity damages” claim. (The brief was filed but at this time I have not been able to obtain a copy). The claim is based on ARS 12-1134(A)

If the existing rights to use, divide, sell or possess private real property are reduced by the enactment or applicability of any land use law . . . and such action reduces the fair market value of the property the owner is entitled to just compensation from this state or the political subdivision of this state that enacted the land use law.”

Court awarded damages

With respect to the treatment and handling of the award monies, the Court gave very specific orders to the HOA and to the HOA’s attorney who was to be the escrow company for the distribution of the $6.5, and if successful the additional $12.5. It held that “the HOA represented [the owners] solely in a representative capacity,” and was ordered to send the award money to its attorney’s “State Bar Trust Account.”  Furthermore,

“Because many of the homes within the Foothills Reserve subdivision have been sold and may be sold pending appeal, this Judgment does not prevent the Court from taking action to” (i) approve a plan for reasonable notice to the 589 Owners (as some of their whereabouts may not be known). Plaintiff [Arizona] will not participate in these actions”

In short, the Court said that the HOA, “pursuant to the provisions of the Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions and Easements governing the Foothills Reserve subdivision,” was required to act in accordance with the CC&Rs — and as I interpret the statement — in the best interest of the members who have beneficial interests in the HOA corporation.

The Court reaffirms, in my view,  that the HOA exists for the benefit of its members and not for the board of directors to do as they please.

Note [1]. Arizona v. Foothills Reserve, CV-2017-010359, Maricopa Superior Court (March 4, 2022).

AZ HB 2158 fair elections goes to Governor for signing

The AZ Senate passed HB 2158, the fair elections in HOAs bill sending it on to the Governor for signing. I congratulate all advocates who supported this bill and the Arizona Legislators coming to understand the need to stop board of director’s abuse under authoritarian private agreements.

This is a major step forward to the equal protection of the laws and proper due process as guaranteed to all US citizens. Under this bill, effective and meaningful opportunity for Arizona members to participate fairly and in an equal manner in the governance of an HOA.

It starts with the ability to campaign and discuss governing issues with the members on the same level playing field. All the members seeking change have to do is to get involved knowing they won’t be “fighting city hall” without legislative support.

The positive effect of this bill includes the need for a rewrite of the governing documents in many areas for many HOAs, removing covenants not complying with the new state law in.

See bill summary: AZ GOV committee hears the voice of HOA members

AZ GOV committee hears the voice of HOA members

The Arizona GOV committee meeting on HB 2158 yesterday heard the voice ot the HOA homeowners  — the HOA citizens — on the need for HOA regulation and control of rogue boards. The members heard the horror stories, and were made awareof lack of free political speech as enjoyed by non-HOA members.

The bill passed 7 – 0 with 131 owners submitting their support for the bill, using the RTS (Request to Speak) procedure, while just 3 RTS submissions were against the bill.  This procedure allows the public to submit a short statement for or against a bill, with the option of speaking at the meeting.  All submissions become part of the public record and are accessible by the public.

Here is a sample of the FOR submissions at both  the earlier House (195 FOR; 31 Against) and Senate hearings, by the owners themselves and not just board members:

  • This bill is necessary to prevent the abuse of fundamental rights or free speech and assembly. Please support it.(WD)
  • Homeowners should be able to use all the facilities of the HOA to express their concerns and ideas abou8t HOA business.  Please support this bill. (PF)
  • Please protect homeowners rights to voice their opinions without fear of retribution (KHW)
  • This bill seeks to protect homeowner’s ability to participate in the governance of their communities and to express their support or opposition for board candidates or community ballot measures in an attempt to influence the outcome. (D Legere)
  • It is criminal how HOA Boards are allowed to infringe upon one’s right to assemble/speak and impose their beliefs. (LN)
  • HB2158 will allow homeowners to engage each other over concerns for the betterment of their communities. (SP)
  • Please vote to protect the homeowners right to show support or opposition to HOA Board candidates.  The suppressive measures that our board takes is board line criminal.   (RW)
  • This bill will help empower homeowners to fight against overbearing board of directors. (KC)
  • We need to pass this legislation to protect the right of assembly and to redress the government for those who live in HOAs.  Vote yes for this bill.  (JR)
  • HOA’s should not be allowed to restrict a home owner’s freedom to assembly or free speech. Regardless of which side of the ballot the home owner votes on. (LS)
  • Homeowners are handicapped from effective political participation in HOA governance and fair elections will make a difference. (yours truly)
  • It prohibits HOAs from infringing on Constitutional rights of owners during HOA elections.  Two thumbs up!  (CS)

Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head Pretending he just doesn’t see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind The answer is blowin’ in the wind