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!

Support CO 22-1137 for HOA due process justice

Another HOA enlightenment bill has been proposed in Colorado, 22-1137, joining California’s and Arizona’s legislation to restore homeowner fundamental rights and freedoms.  Reading the bill as introduced, it addresses a number of issues designed to provide meaningful due process, to good extent, allowing for small claims adjudication and restrictions, limitations on the HOA’s right to fine, interest charges, late payments, work-out plan before foreclosure, and limits on the amount of collection to just 3 times amount owed (avoids unusual and cruel punishment charges). 

What more can a homeowner ask for to obtain justice and fairness within the HOA government? Go for the bill! Support it!  Get what you can before the evil empire strikes back and whittles the bill down!  Yet, to my disappointment, a homeowner advocacy group has found problems with this bill, all relating to how it would cost the HOA more money. 

What is needed, as I’ve repeatedly argued, is strong support for the sponsor, Rep. Naquetta Ricks, and an outpouring of emails to the legislators, especially to the committee members who will hear the bill.  If there is a Request To Speak option at the legislature, sign up and use it!

Related issues

In a broader view of HOAs as private, separate local governments keep in mind what has been ignored and bypassed by state legislatures across the country, including Colorado. Why are there private HOA governments when there are public home rule, charter governments?   

All the states have a version of home rule that varies in the degree of independence granted to a local governments and under what terms.   Given this existing legal mechanism for strong, independent  local control, why was there a need for the creation and approval of, and the support for, private government HOAs?

 (See America’s homeland: HOA law vs. Home rule law; Colorado Constitution, Art. XX, §6, Home rule for cities and towns).

NH bill, SB 324, seeks OAH to hear HOA complaints as AZ

It has been a long time in coming since Arizona, under the Administrative Procedures Act, provided for the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) to hear complaints between homeowners and their association.  After some 16 years, a NH bill also seeks OAH processing of HOA complaints.

Arizona House bill HB 2824 became Ariz. Sess. L. Ch. 324 2006. After several CAI attempts to have it declared unconstitutional, the statute was modified: Ariz. Sess. L. Ch. 185 2011 (SB 1148, Andy Biggs, sponsor, now US Senator Biggs). I had initiated this approach to HOA due process and justice for homeowners in 2005 meeting with the then OAH Director and recommending OAH to Rep. E. Farnsworth. 

I also engaged in the CAI lawsuits that oppossed OAH and filed a pro se amicus curiae brief with the AZ Supreme Court in Gelb v. DFBLS.  The result was an order to the appellate court, which supported unconstitutionality, that its opinion is inadmissible as precedent, defeating CAI’s attempts.

Today, I am pleased to see, some 16 years later, that SB 324 has been introduced before the New Hampshire General Court of New Hampshire (as its legislature is named), calling for  the hearing of HOA and condominium complaints by means of NH’s APA /OAH statutes.  It has some interesting differences in that the complaints are not submitted to the real estate department but to   a Dispute Resolution  Board whose members are appointed by the Governor as basically all other agencies appointments are made.

That’s good news to hear! It’s another pro-member bill to restore constitutional and fundamental rights and freedoms to citizens living in HOA-Land.