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.

The Two Americas: Constitutional America and HOA-Land

On this Memorial Day, May 30, 2016, America is fighting battles in a number of countries where our sons and daughter and our brothers and sisters have paid the ultimate price defending the United States of America, and the democratic values and beliefs of justice and equality for which it stands.

Yet, we have those in America firmly believing that the Constitution protects free speech, but not when private contracts are involved. And they support private agreements called Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that cross over the line between purely property restrictions to establishing unregulated and authoritarian private governments. Florida attorney Ryan Poliakoff (brother of the late CAI activist attorney Gary Poliakoff) is one of them. These HOAs (an all-inclusive term) operate outside our constitutional system of government.

In his May 28th column on Florida Today, he asks and answers the title question, “Did you sign away your free speech with HOA?[1]  with a firm YES.   Why and for what system of government are our troops fighting and dying for?  For the America of our Founding Fathers or for the misguided special interests who have a financial interest in HOA-Land, and who act and function as an oppressive oligarchy. (It is estimated that 20% – 23% of Americans live under HOA private governments). In our case, it means rule by the few special interests who lobby nationwide for pro-HOA legislation to protect the status quo.

I’m shocked at Mr. Poliakoff’s biased and simplified explanation and justification for HOA private governments; after all, he is a lawyer and dares speak of The Bill of Rights. He writes,

Private entities have no obligation to respect your right to say whatever you want, no matter how offensive it may be. . . . So if the rights and obligations of a mandatory membership community are contractual, and not municipal, shouldn’t they be allowed to restrict speech?

The most blatant misrepresentation of the facts occurs when he argues (emphasis added),

Personally, I agree with the majority position. I see no reason that persons who voluntarily bind themselves by, knowingly, buying property subject to restrictions should not be bound by those restrictions (unless the state passes laws that expressly limit the association’s power, such as the condominium laws that protect owners’ right to assemble, or the federal laws that guarantee every person the right to fly an American flag.)

Otherwise, I view deed-restricted communities as guided and governed by contracts, and I believe they should be treated, generally, the same as any private contract between individuals.

I vehemently object to these misleading statements by an attorney!  Apparently he has failed to read, or refuses to rebut, arguments that I raise with respect to 1) alleged agreement to a contract,[2] 2) HOAs as de facto governments hiding behind the privacy of the questionable CC&Rs contract,[3] and 3) the application of US Supreme Court criteria for a bona fide surrender/waiver of constitutional rights, including due process and the equal protection of the laws, which the HOA legal scheme fails miserably.

Furthermore, he should well know that the alleged contract is not between individuals or other HOA members, but between the HOA and the individual owner. Yet, he admits, by implication, that all HOA reform legislation is an attempt to restore lost rights, rights that belong to all Americans.

Mr. Poliakoff also informs his readers that he co-authored the 2009 book, New Neighborhoods[4] that contains the very same attitude and view towards independent HOA principalities as professed in this article.  In my Amazon book review I wrote (emphasis added),

Ellen Hirsch de Haan, former CAI president, acknowledges that the biggest problem for the successful operations of these associations “is the lack of education among the consumers who are buying homes and units . . . . And the authors inform their readers that, “These neighborhoods could not operate without . . . the owners, who give up certain traditional homeowner rights for the good of the community.” “This is good”.

“The Poliakoff’s continue, informing their readers that “out of anarchy came utopia“, and quote an appellate court dicta that “each owner must give up a certain degree of freedom of choice which he might otherwise enjoy living in a separate, privately owned property.” The authors define the purpose of this book as, explaining “the workings of these communities — these New Neighborhoods — . . . and to let purchasers know just what they are getting into.”

I believe that Mr. Polikoff has failed miserably to fully educate the legislators, the media and the home buyers in both his book and in his recent article, both of which present the special interest “party line” and not the facts, the whole facts, and nothing but the facts.

This is not new or unique to Mr. Poliakoff.  CAI has recently released a series of white papers, which I collectively refer to as the CAI Manifesto.[5]    Kelly Richardson, national CAI Trustee and Realtor wrote about socialistic housing and submitting to the will of the community because, allegedly, that buyers had openly agreed to the surrender of their rights.

That’s the root of so many of the HOA horror stories we’ve all heard, as owners normally do not realize that their submission to the will of their new community is accomplished by the automatic application of covenants running with the residence. . . . The most caustic critics of HOAs in general are actually opposed to the concept of joint ownership. This is a completely unrealistic position . . .[6]

 

 

The positions taken in support of HOA-Land, as evidenced above, constitute a political movement — as any other recognized movement — that consists of separate and disparate collection of private governments not subject to the constitution because of a “verboten,” hands-off attitude, and have created 2 Americas.   The divide is just a  dangerous as a country divided over political philosophy as witnessed in our current political campaign.  It must not be allowed to continue regardless of what party or person will sit in the White House.

References

[1] Did you sign away your free speech with HOA, FloridaToday (USA Today), Ryan Poliakoff , May 28, 2016.

[2] Consent to be governed, No. 4 of HOA Common Sense: rejecting private government.

[3] HOA Governments in fact, No. 9, Id. See also, CC&Rs are a devise for de facto HOA governments to escape constitutional government.

[4] New Neighborhoods—The Consumer’s Guide to Condominium, Co-Op and HOA Living.

[5]  CAI manifesto: CAI’s plan for HOA-Land in America;  See also, Deborah Goonan’s  critique in “HOA laws and Free Speech, Right to Know”.

[6] Realtor magazine publishes HOA socialism by CAI Trustee, quoting A Note of Caution About HOAs, RealtorMag, Official Magazine of the National Association of Realtors, February 2015.

CAI maintains HOAs are protected by and do not violate the Constitution — not so!

Much to my surprise and astonishment I stumbled upon CAI’s press release on its website.[1] It informs the reader that all is well with the HOA legal scheme and there are no waivers of constitutional rights or other constitutionality problems. In fact, CAI claims that the Constitution protects the CC&Rs’ contract.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Americans do not waive their constitutional rights when they move into a community association. In fact, courts have found that community association residents, by enacting reasonable rules for their own communities, are actually exercising their constitutional rights of association, contract, expression and assembly. . . . By purchasing homes in association-governed communities, buyers enter into constitutionally protected agreements with their neighbors.

The U.S. Constitution gives community association residents the right to govern their own communities without the need to get government’s permission to adopt rules. This prerogative is at the core of individual property rights and is a tradition that dates to the very founding of our nation.

I am not surprised at CAI’s failure to mention yours truly by name, the only outspoken advocate on HOA constitutional violations[2] that emphatically objects to and challenges CAI’s simplified arguments that misrepresent the law.

 

First paragraph fallacies:

Apparently agreeing to  free speech restrictions on displaying signs or flying the flag and due process protections are not considered a waiver or surrender of rights by CAI. CAI’s position that the right to associate and to enter into private contracts is protected by the Constitution is a false and naïve argument. Can you and I privately agree to violate the Constitution, and to associate in community where its government is not subject to the same restrictions as public government?

There are conditions for a voluntary waiver and surrender of constitutional rights that the CC&Rs agreement fails to meet, especially when it comes to implied waivers — those not specifically stated. But somehow the courts enforce the CC&Rs as if they met the requirements for constitutional waivers, like the Twin Rivers[3] case that CAI is relying on. CAI doesn’t mention its amicus curiae that argued In the context of community associations, the unwise extension of constitutional rights to the use of private property by members (as opposed to the public) raises the likelihood that judicial intervention will become the norm . . . .” If no rights were waived, why then is CAI so concerned about restoring them?

I have raised the valid argument of misrepresentation in the selling process and that the buyer was misled and not fully informed as to the consequences of his entering HOA-Land. No one, who firmly believes that HOAs are good for America, has stepped forward and publically signed the Homeowner Association Consent to be Governed Agreement: A Model Act[4] that a sign-off of explicit waivers and surrenders of constitutional rights (in paragraph 3), including a waiver of the equal protection of the laws.

Second paragraph fallacies

I explain in “HOAs violate local home rule doctrine” (see note 2 below) that HOAs are allowed operate far beyond state laws relating to home rule statutes, granting HOAs independent political government powers are denied to legitimate home rule communities. Consequently, HOAs are being treated with special laws for special entities in violation of the Constitution, federal and state.

The question that I have raised, and ignored by CAI in its release and in other communications, is summed up in the following statement: “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.” In essence, HOAs have been allowed to operate outside the Constitution as authoritarian independent principalities, violating the fundamental principles and values underlying our American way of life.

While CAI publicizes its claims to be working for productive, healthy and desirable communities, it is apparent that these communities are not part the American system of democratic government. It advertises that it is an educational organization, yet conducts surveys to promote its view of what is good for HOA-Land.

References

[1] https://www.caionline.org/PressReleases/_layouts/15/WopiFrame.aspx? sourcedoc=/PressReleases/Media%20Statements/Homeowners%20and%20Constitutional%20Rights.doc&action=default. October 7, 2015. (I don’t know how long this has been there, but CAI has revised its website recently.)

[2] See in general, CC&Rs are a devise for de facto HOA governments to escape constitutional government; Unconstitutional delegation of power to HOAs; HOAs violate local home rule doctrine and are outlaw governments.

[3] CBTW v. Twin Rivers, 929 A.2d 1060 (2007).

[4] An example: “d). I understand that the association, as a private entity and not an arm of the state, is not subject to the restrictions and prohibitions of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution that otherwise protects the rights of the people against actions by public government entities; (g) that there are no equivalent clean or fair elections procedures to protect the integrity of the HOA election process as found in public government elections.http://pvtgov.org/pvtgov/agree-disclose-license.pdf.

CC&Rs are a devise for de facto HOA governments to escape constitutional government

This commentary takes a long look at the validity of HOA covenants and the need for judicial enforcement in order to invoke state action with respect to fundamental rights and freedoms.   It informs the reader that such enforcement depends upon the member’s voluntary agreement to be bound by the declaration, and raises issues of the lack of genuine agreement.  The agreement requirement is not analyzed under contract law, but under HOA law that has been designed to protect the HOA and position the declaration as the supreme law of the HOA community.

Long ago in 1994 Professor McKenzie wrote, “HOAs currently engage in many activities that would be prohibited if they were viewed by the courts as the equivalent of local governments.[i]

Two years after Marsh v. Alabama[ii] — the 1946 Supreme Court opinion setting the misguided “public functions” test for a municipality — the Court specifically dealt with the question of the constitutionality of restrictive covenants.  The issue in Shelly v. Kraemer[iii] was “that judicial enforcement of the restrictive agreements in these cases has violated rights guaranteed to petitioners by the Fourteenth Amendment.”

With respect to restrictive covenant enforcement the Shelly court said:  “That the action of state courts and of judicial officers in their official capacities is to be regarded as action of the State [‘state action’] within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, is a proposition which has long been established by decisions of this Court. . . . The federal guaranty of due process extends to state action through its judicial as well as through its legislative, executive, or administrative branch of government.”   The Court held “that in granting judicial enforcement of the restrictive agreements in these cases, the States have denied petitioners the equal protection of the laws and that, therefore, the action of the state courts cannot stand” (my emphasis).

Unfortunately, the Court chose a narrow view of this issue limiting it to that involving racial discrimination.  A more expansive application of the 14th Amendment can easily be applied to any covenant that violates a member’s rights, freedoms or privileges and immunities as a citizen, but that has not been the case.

The 1976 Florida case, Brock v. Watergate Mobile Home,[iv] directly addressed the question of an HOA declaration and its actions under the Declaration.  It used the Marsh “public functions” test and the additional “close nexus” test (HOA action is closely resembles government action). No state action was found.  The HOA was not like a company town and the state’s involvement, as occurred in the limited context of the case, was not a close nexus.

Please understand that CC&RS and covenants are not automatically invalid or unconstitutional.  It requires a court to declare them so, at the expense of a homeowner lawsuit.  

Also, it is important to note that the court question was not about the validity of a restrictive covenant itself, but the court enforcement of that covenant. (This requires a lawsuit in which the court upholds the covenant and a subsequent lawsuit charging a violation of the 14th Amendment.)  The Shelly court’s view was that as the 14th Amendment applied “only to governmental action, as contrasted to action of private individuals, there was no showing that the covenants, which were simply agreements between private property owners, were invalid.”   Furthermore, “[The 14th] Amendment erects no shield against merely private conduct, however discriminatory or wrongful” (my emphasis).  In Arizona, today, the appellate court is to decide whether a CAI attorney amendment to Terravita’s CC&Rs that directly contradicts state law will be held valid.[v]  Behold the power of private contracts!

In view of the above we can ask, what makes a valid agreement?  Fortunately, a condition was attached to this view, which is never ever mentioned by pro-HOA supporters including those renowned CAI attorneys: “So long as the purposes of those agreements are effectuated by voluntary adherence to their terms. Sadly the courts have unquestionably accepted the validity of the CC&Rs as a voluntary agreement and this consent to be bound has become legal doctrine. For example, in Midlake v. Cappuccio the PA appellate court upheld a valid consent to agree by the buyer at time of purchase: “The Cappuccios contractually agreed to abide by the provisions in the Declaration at the time of purchase, thereby relinquishing their freedom of speech concerns regarding placing signs on this property.”[vi]   There have been numerous other cases where the court has upheld a valid consent to agree per se and a waiver/surrender of constitutional rights under said holding.

But, is there a genuine consent to agree?  I have written several commentaries about the lack of a genuine consent to agree as a result of misrepresentation, fraud, half-truths and hidden factors not fully disclosed to homebuyers.[vii]  Certainly not according to contract law 101 with its requirements for full disclosure, a meeting of the minds, and absence of fraud.

Unfortunately, once again, HOA declarations and covenants are seen as a law unto themselves that is based on a cutting and pasting of various laws, including constitutionality law, to provide for the protection and survival of HOAs.  We have pro-HOA statutes in every state and a Restatement of Servitudes[viii] (covenants) that was written to promote and protect HOAs. “Therefore this Restatement is enabling toward private government, so long as there is full disclosure[ix] (my emphasis).

The Restatement advises judges — and is regarded as precedent — that its collection of laws known as HOA law dominates all others.   Section 6.13, comment a, states: “The question whether a servitude unreasonably burdens a fundamental constitutional right is determined as a matter of property law, and not constitutional law”. Section 3.1, comment h, states: “in the event of a conflict between servitudes law and the law applicable to the association form, servitudes law should control.”

And we have CAI, the national HOA lobbying organization, repeatedly making it clear that the HOA is a city-state, an independent principality, and the decisions of the HOA are the supreme law of the community.[x]  It is easily concluded why CAI has vehemently denied and opposed any reference or declaration that HOAs are de facto governments — mini or quasi-governments — and argue that HOAs remain free from constitutional restrictions on government entities.

HOAs have been institutionalized under this state of affairs, this public policy, and unquestionably accepted as this is the way it is.  Nothing will improve the conditions to which HOA residents are subject unless HOA public policy changes. Public policy today rejects constitutional government for HOAs and allows HOAs to operate outside the law of the land.

The policy makers fail to understand that the terms and conditions of the HOA CC&Rs cross over the line between purely property restrictions to establishing unregulated and authoritarian private governments.

 

References

[i] Evan McKenzie, Privatopia: Homeowners Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Governments, Yale Univ. Press, 1994.

[ii] Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501 (1946). The holding was that a company town was no different from a municipal town.

[iii] Shelly v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948).

[iv] Brock v. Watergate Mobile Home, 502 So. 2d 1380 (Fla. 4th Dist. App. 1987). This case was a civil rights violations case based on 42 US 1983 as a result of various acts by the HOA.

[v] Brown v. Terravita, 1 CA-CV 14-455. See Will Arizona allow HOA covenants to dominate state laws? and  Does the Constitution support the will of the HOA no matter what?

[vi] Midlake  v. Cappuccio, 673 A.2d 340 (Pa.Super. 1996) (PA appellate court). .

[vii] See “Consent to be governed, No. 4,HOA Common Sense: rejecting private governmentProposed “consent to be governed” statute, the “Truth in HOAs” bill; and court examines consent and surrender of rights in HOA CC&Rs.

[viii] Restatement Third, Property: Servitudes (American Law Institute 2000).

[ix] Id., From the Forward: “Professor Susan French [Reporter (chief editor/contributor) for this Restatement] begins with the assumption . . . that we are willing to pay for private government because we believe it is more efficient than [public] government  . . . . Therefore this Restatement is enabling toward private government, so long as there is full disclosure . . . .”

[x] See CAI: the HOA form of government is independent of the US Constitution;  Misrepresentation: CAI comes with unclean hands and Will the real CAI standup: its contradictory beliefs, pronouncements and goals.

Evan McKenzie on HOA consent, disclosure and realtors

The typical homeowner has no idea what he is getting into — or what kind of HOA leadership he will be dealing with — when he signs a binding contract to move into an HOA-governed subdivision.”

So spoke internationally recognized and outspoken advocate for HOA reforms, Professor Evan McKenzie (author of Privatopia: Homeowners Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government (1994) and Beyond Privatopia (2012)) in an interview for the Evansville Courier and Press (“Woman says HOA demanded microchip in her dog”).  And with respect to consent and the inadequacy of state mandated disclosure documents, McKenzie calls them “hopelessly inadequate.”  He is quoted as saying, “If (realtors) cared about this, which they don’t, they would be establishing policies.”

I’ve written on the topic of why people choose to live under HOA regimes and who remain silent. As a sample, there is the  oppressive structure of the HOA (Why do people harm others in HOAs?), the “unspoken alliance of no negatives about HOAs” (Good night and very good luck – the unspoken media HOA alliance, CA court upholds HOA suit against real estate agents), and the failure of state legislatures to uphold constitutional rights (Proposed “consent to be governed” statute, the “Truth in HOAs” bill).  One can conclude that the HOA institution is basically corrupt (as defined: impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle; perversion of integrity).

I have repeatedly argued for the education — the enlightenment — of the public, the media and state legislators as to the truth of the matter, understanding that the unspoken alliance is still at work.  Where there is a lack of understanding, actual or pretended, then educate as to the truth. Help others to understand.  And this enlightenment requires that advocates challenge, confront and expose the non-truths being continuously aired by pro-HOA special interests (Path to Victory at the Legislature).

Thank you Evan for your effort to enlighten others as to the reality of the HOA concept and its defects.

 

Read this highly informative article at CourierPress.com.