NV supreme court upholds HOAs as public forums

Last week the Nevada Supreme Court, in Kosor,[i] citing California Davis-Stirling law and Damon[ii] and Kite Hill[iii] opinions, affirmed HOAs as public forums. Issues relating to HOA governance are matters of public interest protected by free political speech.

In short, legitimate and valid criticisms of your HOA and its president and board are protected from HOA lawsuits of defamation and libel. At heart: Are the statements made in good faith and truthful?

Kosor filed an anti-slapp motion in defense that argues that the statements at issue were protected under free public speech —  statements that were of general interest to the public.  In summary, here’s what the Court upheld, following California’s rulings and law.

Accordingly, we conclude that Kosor met his prima facie burden to demonstrate that the statements in question were all made in public forums on a matter of public interest.

“Nextdoor.com post qualifies as a public forum for the purposes of anti-SLAPP protections. . . .these steps [Kosor’s statements] do not seem to differ significantly from that which might be required to view posts on Facebook; that is, a post on Nextdoor.com is as compatible with expressive activity as one on the other platform, which we have already held can support a public forum.

“The HOA here is no less of ‘a quasi-government entity’ than that in Damon, ‘paralleling in almost every case the powers, duties, and responsibilities of a municipal government.’”

“it appears that Kosor’s post, like his HOA meeting commentary, campaign flyer, and printed letter, sought to open conversation among Southern Highlands community members and enlist their participation in the community’s decision-making process.

Does your state protect your right to dissent in an HOA?  Why not?

References


[i] Kosor v. Olympia Companies, NV No, 75669 (Dec. 31, 2020).

[ii] Damon v. Ocean Hills Journalism Club, 102 Cal. Rptr. 2d 205 (Ct. App. 2000).

[iii] Cohen v. Kite Hill Cmty. Ass’n, 191 Cal. Rptr. 209 (Ct. App. 1983).

We don’t want no stinkin’ government protection for HOA members

This California Adams-Davis-Stirling newsletter (“California’s Leader in Community Associations Law”) says it all.  Speaking to a new federal law as of October 2016 (that applies to all states), Code of Fed. Reg. §100.7(a)(1)(iii)),

  1. “The law requires that boards take prompt steps to investigate and end harassment.
  2. This intrusion by the federal government into the affairs of homeowners associations is unprecedented.
  3. The burden the new regulations create will likely outweigh any intended benefits regulators had in mind.
  4. Associations are not cities with paid city council members, police forces, and governmental immunities.
  5. Making boards an arm of the federal government is going to make it harder to recruit and keep volunteers on boards.”

 

Items (1) and (5) make the HOA a state actor due to the mandatory “order” to investigate harassment complaints relating to Fair Housing laws. Item 5 deals with one of the fundamental flaws of the HOA legal scheme — unpaid and untrained volunteers with no local government experience to run HOAs.  What would you expect?  You get what you paid for.  That’s a gold mine for HOA attorneys, who have created these pro-HOA state laws and adhesion contract CC&Rs.

Item (4), while HOA boards have no government immunities they hide behind the business judgment rule that says let the board decide, not the courts, in effect giving immunities.

The author, Adrian Adams, recommends that “Boards should work with legal counsel to adopt anti-harassment rules for their associations.”  “Should” is not “shall” and not mandatory.  It is an “ought to” that requires no compliance and carries no enforcement actions.

The HOA attorneys do not want government interference since it really would interfere with their domination of HOA boards: Seek advice from the people who know best, your HOA attorney.  It is a self-serving recommendation to generate more income for the attorneys, who have repeatedly failed to serve the beneficial interests of the HOA membership.

“We don’t want no stinkin’ government protection for HOA members”!  If not, who then?  You can’t have your cake and eat it!

Since the state legislators have failed to act, it becomes necessary for the Feds to protect the people. See The FEDS must restore law and order in secessionist HOA governments and Getting the Feds involved in HOA reforms.

Letter criticizes CLRC rewrite of Davis-Stirling (HOA) statutes

Below are excerpts from my January 30th  4-page letter to CLRC.

“I read Ms. Vanitzian’s LA Times column of December 29, 2013, Attempt to Simplify California Condo Laws Ends in Confusion and your response contained in MM14-09. As you may be aware I commented on her article in two parts. . . .  If you are looking for facts, allow me to introduce a few.  I recall Susan French’s study in 2000 (H-850), at the request of CLRC, that started the ball rolling ‘to clarify the law [and] establish a clear, consistent, and unified policy with regard to formation and management of these developments.’ 

“Still, much of her report aside from the need for clarity, Part II, sections C and D, called for protections of homeowner rights and a bill of rights statute in the rewrite of Davis-Stirling. . . .  Whatever happened to the proposed ‘Chapter 2, Members Rights, Article 1, Bill of Rights,’ (MM06-25)?

“There was my letter (MM05-25s1) arguing for the need for this equal rights chapter, to which you answered with, ‘Beyond the scope of this project’ even though French had recommended protecting homeowner rights. . . . It is obvious that this rework by stakeholders without meaningful homeowner input easily leads to clarifications and simplifications as interpreted solely by this group, from its perspective, which would not protect the homeowner. The new D-S cannot be seen as the result of an unbiased effort and with integrity.

“The approach used by CLRC has the smell of corporatism, the rule by a handful of corporations.  It is a form of government that flows from fascism as defined by its founder, Italy’s Benito Mussolini, Il Duce.  ‘Fascism combats the whole complex system of democratic ideology, and repudiates it . . . . Thus understood, Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State . . . interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people.

“CLRC responded with, ‘However, a bill of rights would probably go beyond the substantive rights that are currently provided in the law’ (MM05-03), but in the next sentence dismissed the US Bill of Rights as non-existent substantive law. The obvious answer – as there were a number of published books, papers and journals from nationally recognized researchers and political scientists relating to this issue – was to recognize that indeed HOAs were de facto governments and to subject them to the Constitution.”

****

The cry “no government interference” while accepting HOA private government interference is irrational.  This acceptance of undemocratic, authoritarian HOA government with less protection of individual rights and freedoms than public government is a rejection of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. These people have lost their common sense!

Neither CLRC nor CAI will go down in history as Heroes of the American Republic, but perhaps may be remembered as Heroes of HOA-Land

The complete critical letter can be found at MM14-09s1.

CAI attorney stalwart defends HOA Land private constitutions and so-called bill of rights

The CAI stalwarts once again responding to my challenge to defend the constitutionality and legal status of the HOA legal scheme, including the highly questionable assertion of a “consent to agree” under the constructive notice doctrine.  This time, dedicated CAI stalwart Beth Grimm enters the arena with her August 2012 e-newsletter, What’s new in HOA Land . . .  The topic is, “Homeowners Bill of Rights.”

From the very start she informs her readers, in a round-about way, that there are no federal or state constitutions applicable to HOA private agreements.  I’ve been saying that for years!  And she points out that, “Without A Constitution What Is a Bill of Rights Worth?”  Grimm continues in what must be taken as a joke, in full agreement with the comment by Bill Davis, with a quote from Thomas Jefferson about the need for a bill of rights after admitting there is no HOA constitution.  

It appears that the reader is entering the realm of the attorney “word-game,”  where long established concepts and meanings are distorted to suit the attorney’s private agenda.  It’s an indoctrination and propaganda tactic. Welcome to Newspeak.

In strict legal terms, the assertion by Grimm that the governing documents are the HOA’s constitution is not correct.   But the courts have upheld the CC&RS as if they were just like a political constitution and interpreted them as a de facto constitution.  And as I have tried to explain, state laws like the California Davis-Stirling Act, the UCIOA acts, and other state HOA “Acts” serve as a parallel code of public laws applicable at the local government level to the class of nonprofit private governments called HOAs. 

The courts have also applied public government attributes, conditions and rights to these private contracts that are not contained in the explicit CC&RS covenants, and have applied overly broad interpretations as to what the members have agreed to without their signature – just by simply taking their deed in hand.  In other words, the activist courts are imputing a “consent to agree” that does not exist in the CC&RS. And nobody warns the unsuspecting homeowner of the consequences of reaching out for that deed. Nobody!

A host of reputed rights are then examined by Grimm, but they read more like the documents of the Rights and Responsibilities of members (a document first used to explain what a democracy is all about and how citizens are to act;[i] and a publication of CAI Central). It is in stark contrast to the preamble to the US Bill of Rights, emphasis added,

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

This long time CAI stalwart attorney does not address the constitutional concerns raised in my The Truth in HOAs Disclosure Agreement, nor does she call for CAI to conduct such a poll. There is no support for my Declaration of US and State Citizenship. Grimm’s presentation misses this important point.

Nor does she mention that back in the 2008 – 2009 the California Law Review Commission’s attempt to rewrite the Davis-Stirling Act contained a proposed Chapter 2, Member Bill of Rights.  It was quickly removed and has not been adopted in the new law to become effective in 2014.  Nor does she present the homeowner advocates proposed homeowners bill of Rights published in the now defunct AHRC website and the AARP version written by David Kahne in 2006, among others.

It should be noted that in 2008 the Uniform State Laws Commission adopted a bill of right for UCIOA (UCIOBORA), but did not incorporate it was a part of UCIOA.  Rather, they created a separate version so that states can choose to adopt its so-called bill of rights or leave them out.  To date, no state has adopted this bill of rights.  It reads like your CC&Rs and pro-HOA state laws.  Nothing at all like the US Bill of Rights or the state Declarations of rights.

If HOA Land is to join the union and lose its independent principality status, thereby providing constitutional protections to the homeowners,  then Beth Grimm and all other CAI legal-academic aristocrats should be demanding the amendments to the Declaration  and state laws as proposed in my Declaration above,

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.

Why aren’t they?  The above state law and mandatory Declaration amendments will put an end to the jokes and word games that attempt to hide the fact that HOAs are de facto but unrecognized governments operating outside the Constitution. And there will be a bona fide Bill of rights!

 


[i] The Rights of Man, Thomas Paine, 1791; The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1793, French revolution origins)

California’s Davis-Stirling Act creates CIDs as state actors

Dear California Legislators,

While civ: 1352 of the Davis-Stirling Act (please note that this Act has been placed under the Civil Code and not the Business and Profession Code) declares how a CID is created, “This title applies and a common interest development is created whenever a separate interest coupled with an interest in the common area or membership in the association ….”, 1363(a) mandates a homeowners association, to be known as a community association and not a CID association, “A common interest development shall be managed by an association that may be incorporated or unincorporated. The association may be referred to as a community association.” Yet this imposition of a private government lacks any homeowner protection as with a Homeowner Bill of Rights, nor does this provision require approval by a state agency or legislature, as would be required if the CID were attempting to form an incorporated community within the state structure.

The operative word is “shall” and constitutes a delegation of legislative powers to the community association. Under common interpretations of the US Constitution, this makes the association a state actor and subject to the 14th Amendment prohibitions as any other government body.(1) This state of affairs subjects these CIDs to meeting the recognized standards of proper due process equal application of the laws protections under the 14th Amendment.

While paragraph 1363(g) seems to provide proper notification of “crimes against the CID” by requiring that a schedule of violations be adopted and provided to each homeowner, much like in the public sector where criminal law requires that a crime must be contained in some statute, “[T]he board of directors shall adopt and distribute to each member, by personal delivery or first-class mail, a schedule of the monetary penalties that may be assessed for those violations . . . .”

However, paragraph 1363(h) only requires,

When the board of directors is to meet to consider or impose discipline upon a member, the board shall notify the member in writing, by either personal delivery or first-class mail, at least 10 days prior to the meeting. The notification shall contain, at a minimum, the date, time, and place of the meeting, the nature of the alleged violation for which a member may be disciplined, and a statement that the member has a right to attend and may address the board at the meeting.

This provision does not meet the accepted standards of due process that demands an impartial hearing where the accused may confront the accusers and present and examine witnesses. The homeowners are being short changed.

Under Article 4 of SB551 we have a very good move toward providing for this independent tribunal as a very good attempt to meet established requirements for due process. It’s unfortunate that the bill does not provide a mechanism to insure that the proposed bureau will indeed be there to serve justice for all. A “a pay as you go” procedure, as adopted in Arizona and as we have in the public sector, is a more appropriate approach to attaining this justice.

Notes:
1. See generally, Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Athletic School ,531 US 288 (2001) (tests for state action); Steven Siegel, The Constitution & Private Govt, W & M Bill Rts J 461 (Summer 1998).