HOA boards are not required to uphold member fundamental rights

Folks, time for a reality check. You know I’ve repeatedly argued for constitutional protections and getting only slip-service.  As Prof. Evan McKenzie wrote in 1994 (Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government,

“CIDS [HOAs] currently engage in many activities that would be prohibited  if they were viewed  by the courts as the equivalent of local governments.” 

Many of your complaints, here and on other websites, reflect this reality of an authoritarian government that coerces consent.  HOA boards are not required to uphold member fundamental rights; neither are they obligated to be fair, just, understanding, or compassionate. HOAs are NOT public governments with these implied obligations.  It does not have to be that way! 

See HOA Common Sense and The HOA-Land Nation Within America.

Common Sense

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.

“Without fair elections procedures that contain enforcement against HOA board wrongful acts, including retaliatory acts and intimidation by the board, voting in an HOA is a mockery of democracy.  Is this HOA government better than public government?  Common sense tells us no!”

HOA-Land Nation

“Your HOA board (BOD) is unaccountable under state laws with trivial, if any, penalties or punishments for violations of state laws or the governing documents?  Without meaningful enforcement to hold BODs accountable and to serve as a detriment to continued violations, you are forced to sue just to get compliance.

 “The much touted HOAs are democratic because members can vote is utterly without merit?  Fair elections protections, as compared with those in the public arena, do not exist under a corporation law.  Members do not have equal access to HOA newsletters, website, member lists, and use of common amenity meetings rooms, among other denials.” 

DEMAND CONSTITUTIONAL AND FUNDAMENTAL PROTECTIONS!  Demand your legislators support such a bill as proposed HOA constitutionality bill.

Can HOA members expect justice in Arizona courts?

“HOA members in Arizona should not expect justice from the courts”

If you are a member of an Arizona HOA/condo, or soon plan to be one, you should pay heed to the above quote made in response to the Arizona Supreme Court’s denial to hear the Bendt appeal petition for review.[i]  In my Commentary, trying to understand the rationale for the denial,

“The homeowner, Bendt, is punished for speaking out, in admittedly harsh terms, [relating to issues of HOA governance]. Yet the judicial system stands by looking at a distance and allowing Trump and his followers to function as vexatious litigants; allowing them to  raise allegations, which are not only laughable but blatantly false under Rule 11, is shameful conduct.[ii]

What message is being sent by this disturbing decision? To the public? To the homeowners in HOAs seeking the equal protection of the laws under the Constitution? To the national lobbying trade group, CAI, who can breathe easy with respect to any challenges to the constitutionality of the HOA legal scheme that  contains denials of fundamental rights and privileges?

Professor Randy Barnett wrote, speaking of justice and judicial legitimacy,

A constitution that lacks adequate procedures to ensure the justice of valid laws is illegitimate even if it was consented to by a majority …. 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]  

And we must not ignore the effect of precedent on court opinions. Hansford and Spriggs found [that] the doctrine of stare decisis, itself, falls victim to the preferences of the judges. The closer the precedent was to the judges views, the more the precedent would be followed, and vice versa. Additionally, the research found that “the justices are more likely to negatively treat [modify or reject] a precedent they dislike on ideological grounds if that precedent is quite vital [how often cited in support]” by the judges (p. 75).[iv]  Bad HOA laws abound leading to favorable anti-homeowner decisions.

And still we see “Equal justice under the law” emblazoned on the façade of the US Supreme Court building. It contains a major defect, a misleading fallacy,  and a presumption of supreme court infallibility [without error].  Bad laws — unjust laws — will not produce justice for all!  And that is just what we face in the HOA-Land Nation.

I have argued (2009) for a judicial system that adhere to the following:

Before we can decide, we must examine some of the myths and realities of the American judicial system.  First, we have the concept of justice, the very foundation of any judicial system, although some have argued it is to uphold the law.  Philosophically, a judicial system cannot exist in a democracy if it does not uphold justice and correct the wrongs of the past.  In fact the people are told “Equal Justice Under Law”, the motto on the Supreme Court building; “to secure justice”, the commonplace stated purpose of court rules of procedure;   “to establish justice”, the opening purpose in the Preamble to the US Constitution; and we designate the members of the Supreme Court as “justices”. Notice that “to uphold the law” is not included in the above.  This is the argument, along with the insistence on precedent, used by those special interests who favor unjust laws.[v]

. . . .

So, in particular, went is wrong with the AZ  supreme court denial in Bendt?  A lot!

An amicus brief is submitted, and subject to approval by the Court and the parties, to advise the Justices in better understanding the conditions and factors relevant its opinion that it may not be aware of. The following is a summary of arguments presented in my amicus brief[vi] seeking the Court to review the petition in the name of justice for the homeowner, Bendt, and for all other citizens living n Arizona HOAs.

“The Hannaman 2002 study (NJ) was quite frank and revealing describing problems and complaint still in existence some 19 years later in spite of efforts by the self-proclaimed HOA experts and educators, national CAI. “

“[Referring to Nevada Supreme Court in Kosor v. Olympia Companies, 478 P.3d 390 (2020)]. Because we conclude that each of Kosor’s statements was “made in direct connection with an issue of public interest in a place open to the public or in a public forum,” we reverse the district court’s decision to the contrary and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

“As our [California] Supreme Court has recognized, owners of planned development units ” ‘comprise a little democratic subsociety . . . .’ ” (citations omitted).” (Damon v. Ocean Hills Journalism Club, 102 Cal. Rptr. 2d 205 (Ct. App. 2000) at “A. Public Forum”).

“Among its findings [South Carolina HOA study committee] were . . . While the Community Association Institute (CAI) and other private entities offer educational resources to homeowners and managers, state government cannot place the sole responsibility of educating homeowners and board members on a private entity.

“Although not presented by the Appellant where three plaintiffs who] are lawyers, and based on claims of false and inexcusable character assassination against Tarter . . . this Court has reasonable suspicion to remand the case for a determination the validity of an anti-slapp motion.

“This Court, or any court, cannot allow a group of individuals or organizations to create a devise in order to escape constitutional protections and enter into a contract, constitutionally valid in all other aspects, to form private local governments whose members remain citizens of this country as well as of their respective states. It, as it stands in regard to HOAs, makes a mockery of the Constitution and our principles of a democratic society.

“The free speech issues of limited-purpose public figure and of HOAs and social media as public forums with respect to political HOA governance issues have been raised and need to be addressed.

“As with Brown [v. Bd of Educ.], America’s culture and environment has changed dramatically from 1964’s Homes Association Handbook and the formation in 1973 of Community Associations Institute (CAI) to deal with rising HOA problems and constitutional concerns after only 9 years. In 1992 CAI dropped its 501(c)3 educational status for 501(c)6 trade organization so it could lobby state legislators.”

I cannot understand the Supreme Court’s denial of Bendt’s petition and the opportunity to rule or to further investigate these issues, by orders or by request to the Legislature — as it has so ordered in the past —  and thereby fulfilling its obligation to defend the Arizona and US Constitutions.  Instead, it seems that the Justices have allowed their opinions to be guided by the prevailing public policy favoring private government HOAs that are independent of the two Constitutions.[vii]

References


[i] See AZ supreme court denies hearing HOA case raising limited-purpose public figure doctrine.

[ii] Id.

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

[iv] Hansford and Spriggs, The Politics of Precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court, Princeton Univ. Press (2006).

[v] See in general,  HOAs, justice, and judicial myth and precedent.

[vi] Staropoli Amicus brief Tarter  v. Bendt

[vii] See in general, The HOA-Land Nation Within America and Establishing the New America of Independent HOA Principalities.

The writing is on the wall for HOA reforms

Although the Arizona Supreme Court has not yet decided to hear Tarter v. Bend (CV 21-0049), my 44 page Pro Se amicus curiae brief is a matter of public record, regardless.  The case about a defamation suit by the HOA president, also an attorney and a limited-purpose public figure, raised constitutional issues of public speech with respect to questions of HOA governance. 

Selected excerpts follow.

As with the issue in Dombey (Dombey v. Phoenix Newspapers, Inc) . . . failing to present the question of Tarter’s status as a possible public figure denied the jury from considering the issues of protected free speech on public issues.

Kosor (NV) was sued on the basis of his criticism  and distribution of a pamphlet and letter at a board meeting seeking a seat on the board of directors.

“Because we conclude that each of Kosor’s statements was “made in direct connection with an issue of public interest in a place open to the public or in a public forum,” we reverse the district court’s decision to the contrary and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

The impetus behind this view can be laid to the heavy lobbying of state legislators, judges, the public and the media by the Community Associations Institute (CAI). From its 2016 white paper,

“Most legislators do not thoroughly understand common-interest communities or who their patchwork legislation is actually protecting. . . . Legislative responses to individual constituents contribute to community associations being perceived as over-restrictive micro-governments focused on covenant enforcement.”

In response to my Arizona Supreme Court pro se amicus brief in Gelb v. DFBLS (CV-10-0371-PR) CAI attorney Jason Smith wrote,

“It is clear from the that the amicus curiae [referring to me] simply wants to impose constitutional protections on members in homeowners associations. The law has never supported that proposition.”

[I called to the Court’s attention a question of a SLAPP lawsuit against Brendt.]  The issue of an HOA SLAPP lawsuit against a member is in the interest of general public and of statewide importance, and also of national concern, the impact on community associations is certainly substantial. This Court should, sua sponte, consider Tarter’s legal action as a HOA politically motivated strategic lawsuit  against member participation.

I urge the Court to apply the long overdue correction  of  Plessy v. Ferguson by Brown v. Bd of Education to the long overdue and needed corrections to the unconstitutional HOA legal scheme.  As with Brown, America’s culture and environment has changed dramatically from 1964’s Homes Association Handbook and the formation in 1973 of Community Associations Institute (CAI) to deal with rising HOA problems and constitutional concerns after only 9 years. 

If only advocates would stand up to CAI

This month, April 18th and 21st,  I posted comments[1] on the dereliction of duty by state legislatures and the need for the DOJ to investigate state legislatures as well as the undue influence by CAI teachings in its School of HOA Governance[2]  Yesterday, the 23rd, it seems that CAI is trying to soften its misleading statements and failure to disclose the whole truth about HOA-Land.  Previously I had commented upon Kelly G. Richardson’s[3]  2020 article  in The Public Record,[4]

“Richardson seems to be saying that indeed a director has a fiduciary duty to the member but that duty to the HOA comes first.   He further warns directors, who have relevant knowledge and expertise, to remain mum and not speak out least he be sued. If the director chooses to speak out as he should do in the best interests of the HOA, ‘the director is not acting as a director but is an unpaid consultant and could be held liable for their advice.’”[5]

In yesterday’s “ HOA Homefront: What surprises lurk in your CC&Rs?”[6]  Richardson added to his attempt to “tell it like it is” revealing some hidden aspects of CC&Rs. (Emphasis added).

“Here are 11 things about CC&Rs that might surprise you, before you read them. 

“CC&Rs bind all owners, regardless of whether they read it, understood it, or received a full copy of it. As a recorded document, CC&Rs are a “covenant running with the land,” meaning a legal commitment attaching to the land and therefore its owners.

“Normally enforced by courts, even if they seem unreasonable. The California Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that CC&Rs are presumed enforceable, with some narrow exceptions (such as if they contradict a law).

Original developer-supplied CC&Rs often are boilerplate with parts not applicable to the community. This is because the developer’s primary interest is to obtain quick approval from the Department of Real Estate to begin selling the homes.

As limits upon owner autonomy, CC&Rs can seem intrusive at times. These limits help to protect neighbors from unneighborly behavior and against properties detracting from the community.”

I must admit he comes clean to a certain degree admitting to some of those hidden aspects of CC&Rs, which the interested parties including legislators and the media should have been made aware prior to any decision-making, or before buying a home in an HOA. Too late after the fact!  Additionally,  Richardson fails to “call for action” — frequently used by CAI chapters — to correct these silent gotchas by adopting my proposed legislation,[7] which plainly says,

“The association hereby waivers and surrenders any rights or claims it may have under law and herewith unconditionally and irrevocably agrees 1) to be bound by the US and State Constitutions, and laws of the State within which it is located, as if it were a subdivision of the state and a local public government entity, and 2) that constitutional law shall prevail as the supreme law of the land including over conflicting laws and legal doctrines of equitable servitudes. Legislative dereliction of duty

“Furthermore, any governing documents of an association not in compliance with the above shall be deemed amended to be in compliance, and notwithstanding the provisions of any law to the contrary, a homeowners’ association shall be deemed to have amended its governing documents to be in compliance.

Lesson to be learned

For far too many years advocates and homeowners have failed to rally against the heavy influence of CAI on state legislators and the media, thereby allowing CAI to set the tone unchallenged.  This failure demonstrates a severe weakness to achieve HOA reforms of substance.  It is widely known, and proven countless times in other successful arenas, that legislation is accomplished by means of a widespread outcry by the “victims.”  Former Colorado Senator Morgan Carroll strongly advises her readers,

We elect people to represent our interests, but our elected representatives cannot adequately represent you unless they hear from you. . . . If you don’t participate in your government, then the only remaining participants in the system are legislators and lobbyists.” 

It has been a long time failure by homeowner rights advocates to achieve meaningful, constitutional reforms. For whatever reason for this lack of involvement in a nationally united front, the practical reality has been the continued control and dominance by the CAI School of HOA Governance.[8] 

As an aside, CAI’s March “Call For Action”, “Grassroots Advocacy Initiatives Are More Essential Than Ever,” seems to be desperately seeking more active grassroots  involvement by its members, yet advocates remain silent.

“It is more important than ever for CAI advocates to engage in grassroots activism across the country. CAI believes it’s crucial for our members to tell legislators their stories and help them better understand the need for proper public policy decisions when approaching state legislation regulating community associations.”[9]  

Presently, Colorado’s HB 21-1229 is falling by the wayside as well as Arizona’s HB 2052, resurrected from last year’s SB 1412, both excellent reform bills.  California is facing problems with  SB 391 and in Florida  SB 623 (2020) went into defeat.

If only more had come forward and challenged, criticized, and exposed CAI we would have achieved much, much more.  Richardson’s article offers an excellent opportunity to step up to the plate!

References


[1] See Legislative dereliction of duty: supporting HOAs and   State legislatures must be held accountable for dereliction of duty.

[2] The foundation and principles of the School can be traced back to CAI’s Public Policies, The CAI Manifesto (its 2016 “white paper”), its numerous seminars and conferences, its Factbooks and surveys, its amicus briefs to the courts, and its advisories, letters, emails, newsletters, blogs etc. I have designated these foundations and principles collectively as the CAI School of HOA Governance.

[3] Kelly G. Richardson: CAI Board of Trustees 2011-2017; Community Associations Institute (CAI), National, President, 2016; College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL), 2006; CAI’s California Legislative Action Committee, Chair, 2009, 2010; National Association of Realtors; California State Bar Association, Real Estate & Litigation Sections.

[4] HOA Homefront: Fiduciary Duty – What It Is, And Is NOT,

[5] CAI School faculty advice – managing HOAs.

[6] The Press-Enterprise, News, Housing, Opinion (April 23, 2021).

[7] See for example, Legislative dereliction of duty: supporting HOAs.

[8] Supra n. 2.

[9] See Grassroots Advocacy Initiatives Are More Essential Than Ever .

How legislative Rules committees abort democratic HOA reform bills

In the interest of public education on the functioning of state legislatures, this paper presents information on the rules governing state legislatures — using Arizona as a representative example — that affect passing bills into law.  I focus on the Rules committee’s powers to obstruct the voice of the people, and how it can prevent — kill — HOA reform bills by the actions of the political party leaders.

The powers of the Rules committee are undemocratic and authoritarian  in nature designed to thwart, apparently, the folly of the voice of the people.  We see the same undemocratic, authoritarian powers granted to HOA boards to an even greater extent,  The national lobbying group’s promotion of the “business judgment rule,” and acceptance by the courts, is a prime example.[1]

Exhibit 1 details the Rules powers that can prevent HOA reform bills, and any other bill not liked by the powers that be, from a hearing and vote by the full chamber — by the people’s representatives. As I wrote earlier[2], Arizona’s HB 2052, a bill that has in reality been killed in the Rules committee after unanimous approval by the House and Senate government committees, is a prime example of this misuse of authority.

The Senate Fact Sheet “intro” paragraph misrepresents the content of the bill:

“Expands statutory restrictions on condominium unit owners’ association and planned community association (HOA) regulation of political signs to include signs related to certain community activity. Prohibits an HOA from prohibiting door-to-door community activity”.

Of the 8 listed “Provisions,” 2 are technical, 2 relate to political signs, and 4 — given a short sentence in the “intro” —  expand on HOA restrictions and prohibition’s protecting free political speech and expression, in the HOA public forum,[3] as curtained in my earlier “Senate Protects” posting.[4]

. . . .

The Arizona Legislature, and each and every state legislature, is  not a sovereign that can do no wrong, but has duties and obligations sworn to under oath “to establish justice . . . and secure the blessings of liberty” for the people of its state. It cannot demand respect but must earn it through good deeds.  Passing HB 2052 into law would be a sign of good faith that would earn the respect of the people.

Exhibit 1.  Arizona Legislative Council publications

“In the Senate, bills are usually not “held” in the Rules Committee for partisan or political purposes; bills which go into the Rules Committee are almost always reported out. In the House, the Chairman of the Rules Committee can “hold” (read “kill”) a bill simply by not giving it a hearing. (p. 52).

“The options of the committee chairman are a) Hear the bill and vote on it, b) Hear the bill but take no action, c) Assign the bill to subcommittee, d) Not hear the bill.  (p. 39-40).”

“The Role of the Rules Committee,”  State Senator Randall Gnant, From Idea to Bill to Law (2000). (As of April 2021).

“Each measure is assigned to the Rules Committee of the house through which it is progressing . . . . The Rules Committees assess the constitutionality of the proposed legislation. Unless they are withdrawn or discharged, all bills must pass the Rules Committee before they are heard on the floor. (p.41-42).

“An Active Calendar of the Committee of the Whole (so called in both houses) consisting of bills the Speaker or President selects for consideration by the respective Committee of the Whole (COW).

“A calendar consisting of all bills and other measures that have been reported from the committees. In the House this is called the “House Calendar.”  In the Senate it is called the “Calendar of the Committee of the Whole.” These calendars are simply a list of bills and other measures that are ready for further action by the full chamber.” (p.42-43).

Arizona Legislative Manual 2003 Edition, Arizona Legislative Council (2003). (As of April 2021).

Notes


[1] See, Reorienting the HOA board: business judgment rule (2020).

[2] See, AZ Senate protects HOA misconduct rejecting HB 2052; Arizona HB 2052 restores homeowner constitutional speech protections.

[3] See court holdings: Calif. holds HOA elections as protected free speech public elections (2019); NV supreme court upholds HOAs as public forums (2021).

[4] Supra n. 2, AZ Senate Protects.