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.

Court requires constitutional due process in HOA foreclosures

The enlightenment and awareness that the US Constitution and its due process requirement extends to private government HOAs is gaining momentum. ”The writing is on the wall.”

In the recent Colorado appellate decision in Hummel (C&C Investments v. Hummel, 022COA42, April 14, 2022)  concerning proper notice of homeowner foreclosure by the HOA, the court surprisingly acted sua sponte —in the name of justice. The courts have repeatedly failed to invoke, in the pursuit of justice as it claims to be its fundamental purpose, its right to act sua ponte — on its own — raising discussions of issues not raised by either party.  

In Hummel the question arose as to whether or not the homeowner was given notice of impending foreclosure action by the HOA.  The HOA send a processor server who said he posted the notice in the newspaper, which is allowed under certain circumstances. She discovered her plight only when an eviction notice was pinned to her door. The question be determined was, What is proper, legal service?

While court rules require that the HOA serve notice, the court held that it “must also meet the mandates of due process before foreclosing on an individual’s property” and that,

[I]t is not unreasonable to require a homeowners association to make a good faith, rather than a highly technical, effort to effectuate actual notice to a fellow neighbor before foreclosing on their property.”

In support of its opinion, the Court referenced the Colorado appellate court’s court view:

“Although an association is not the government, it serves “quasi-governmental functions” when enforcing covenants and must abide by the due process requirements of the United States and Colorado Constitutions.

“[T]he United States Supreme Court has long held that when foreclosing a lien against an individual’s home, due process requires “notice [that is] reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections.”

The appellate court found that the trial court failed to adhere to these principles before ordering a default judgment.

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

The roles of the Supreme Court vs the Legislature

At today’s Senate confirmation hearings of Judge Jackson, an intriguing dialogue took place between Jackson and Senator Lee (Utah).  The topic raised by Lee focused on the role that the Supreme Court is to say what the law is, and the role of Congress (or state legislature) is to say what the law should be creating public policy. The Court deals with the policies set by Congress.

The role of homeowner rights advocates is to say  to the legislatures what the law should be with respect to HOA-Land.  It is not to say that this happened to me and it’s wrong, or my HOA does so and so, which does not rise to the level of setting policy for all HOAs/condos  — no special laws for special entities.

And that’s another area where reform legislation often fails — too local.  Reforms must be broad as to have general concern for the state; as the courts have held from time to time, “This case Involves legal issues of statewide importance.”   And it must be explicitly stated or  implied.

Public policy today is harmful to the private property rights of HOA owners, and to a denial of due process protections and violations of the equal protection of the laws, treating HOAs as if they were independent principalities.  These policies and attitudes have created unjust, bad laws enforced by the courts, and used as precedent for more bad laws.

The cycle ends by advocates addressing the root cause of pro-HOA laws that treat HOA members as second-class citizens, which they are not!