America’s homeland: HOA law vs. Home rule law

Why are there private HOA governments when there are home rule, charter governments?

Getting down to the issues of state laws relating to local governments, let’s examine the doctrine of home rule. Under the home rule doctrine local communities are permitted a large degree of independence even to the extent that state legislative action is not necessary. What is home rule? In simple terms, it is a grant of authority and power — of independence — from the legislature to local communities.  (See HOAs violate local home rule doctrine and are outlaw governments; AZ Supreme Court, Tucson v. Arizona, CV-11-0150-PR (2011).)

 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. Check your state laws under home rule or charter government. Strict states treat the home rule powers strictly as set forth in the statutes, like agency enabling acts. Most states have allowed for wider freedoms to local home rule governments, with some allowing for local government charters functioning as a local constitutions.  In all cases it’s a grant of independent governance from the legislature on local matters.

As an example, Arizona’s Constitution allows for home rule charter governments.

 “The purpose of the home rule charter provision of the Constitution was to render the cities adopting such charter provisions as nearly independent of state legislation as was possible. . . .  ‘[A] home rule city deriving its powers from the Constitution is independent of the state Legislature as to all subjects of strictly local municipal Concern.’”

The masquerade

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?  Could it be as Prof. McKenzie stated in his 1994 book, Privatopia? “CIDs [HOAs/POAs/RCAs] currently engage in many activities that would be prohibited if they were viewed by the courts as the equivalent to local governments.”

It’s obvious that it was not to create healthy, productive communities.  Was it a business venture from the start to make profits for the originators masquerading as a public serve and benefit?? Was it for the real estate agents and the home builders, and to cut state government costs?

HOA associations are political bodies

The effective management of a political community, as are HOAs, and remain part of the greater political communities of their state and federal government, necessitates a rejection of the HOA legal scheme and its protectives laws.    There are no legitimate reasons why HOA governed communities cannot exercise effective and productive self-government while  being subject to constitutional law under home rule statutes.

Home rule doctrine existed long before the advent of the HOA legal structure in 1964. That is not to say that it would have solved all problems and be a perfect government, but it would be a government under the Constitution, part of the Union,  like all other forms of local government.  

If the initial 1964 HOA concept had included home rule provisions, then there would be no need for a restructuring.

Private Metropolis: explaining the demise of local public government

My repeated efforts to instill, to inculcate, a necessary broad  understanding  of democratic principles and government — and the part played by the HOA legal model of local government — in the demise of democracy in America[1] has been greatly assisted by the recent publication Private Metropolis.[2] (It was published at the same time as my amicus curiae filing with Arizona Supreme Court in Tarter[3]).

The opening introductory segment encompasses a wide description of special  governmental units. It is loaded with constitutional issues and controversies that says it all quite plainly: “quasi-governments,” “shadow local states,” “the municipality is no longer the privileged seat of governance,” and “special purpose local governments” (including homeowner associations with some 24% of the population as residents), that “became, in effect, shadow governments.” 

My 21 year long-term effort in the trenches  has been to introduce the broad level constitutional issues and democratic philosophy to the average American, who does not know and cannot understand the words of these learned political scientists. I have, for the most part, failed. Private Metropolis gives me additional support and the basis for continued efforts to educate the public at large who suffer the consequences of a  “not my job” attitude.

It is up to the homeowner advocates and HOA boards to embrace this reality and expose the arguments of supportive political scientists to the policy makers in your state, as well as educating the media  on its  continued silence on these issues.

Endnote


[1] See in general, Whither goest local government? Restrictive HOAs or responsible public government (2009); CAI’s early awareness of HOA constitutionality, public mini-government (2021); HOAs are another form of local government (2021).

[2]  Private Metropolis: the Eclipse of Local Democratic Government,  Dennis R. Judd, Evan McKenzie, Alba Alexander, Global and Community Series, Vol. 32, Univ. of Minneapolis Press (June 22, 2021).

[3] Pro Se Bendt amicus brief accepted by AZ Supreme Court.

Pro Se Bendt amicus brief accepted by AZ Supreme Court

My amicus brief was accepted and is now part of the record. The court has yet to decide if it will hear the case, which could be weeks – months way.

“Arizona Supreme Court
Civil Petition for Review – Appeal
CV-21-0049-PR TIM TARTER et al v DOUGLAS BENDT et al

“12. 25-Jun-2021 Amicus Curiae Staropoli filed an ‘Amicus Curiae Brief of George K. Staropoli in Support of Appellants’ on June 17, 2021 and a ‘Motion to Appear Amicus Curiae Brief of George K. Staropoli in Support of Appellants’ on June 24, 2021. After consideration, [163736]

IT IS ORDERED the ‘Motion to Appear Amicus Curiae Brief of George K. Staropoli in Support of Appellants’ is granted. The brief shall be filed as of June 17, 2021. Tracie K. Lindeman”

* * * *

I stated my value, in part, as:

“The issues addressed in this case are of general importance and statewide but also national concern, as the impact on community associations is certainly substantial and states look to other states for guidance in this developing area of law. 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.

“Professor Evan McKenzie in his landmark 1994 book (Privatopia: Homeowners Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government (1994)) acknowledged the fact that ‘HOAs currently engage in many activities that would be prohibited if they were viewed by the courts as the equivalent of local governments.’”

AZ Senate protects HOA misconduct rejecting HB 2052

The Arizona Senate is still sitting on HB 2052 since a month ago, March 1st,  a bill providing for member participation in HOA governance.  The bill  explicitly states, since the CC&Rs is seen as a contract, what the HOA cannot do and must allow for fair elections and meaningful  participation in HOA governance.

In the past I’ve addressed this constitutional question of fair elections in the HOA model of an authoritarian,  business form of governance.  I’ve provided examples of incidents and court cases reflecting this denial of fair elections, which exist in the public domain, as if the HOA is afraid of the democratic voice of its members.

In this writing I will call to your attention how an upscale, over 1,000 member HOA board — as a representative example of such HOAs — refuses to accept the facts laid before it that provide valid cause to conduct a due diligence examination; and to validate its positions in regard to its fiduciary obligations of good faith conduct and obedience to the governing documents.

Below I’ve copied parts of its application package provided to all candidates for  a director’s position. The package material clearly shows the BOD’s awareness of its fiduciary obligations and its required treatment with respect to the membership.

Obligations  and liabilities of directors

“Directors have a fiduciary duty to the Association and to each member.

“The duty of loyalty requires that:   Directors act in good faith  pursuant to a free, honest exercise of judgment not influenced by considerations other than the best interest of the Association.

“Failure to discharge the fiduciary duty can subject the Association to liability and subject the Director to personal liability. A Director can also be liable for illegal or tortuous acts of the Board of the Association if he/she participates in the decision to authorize the acts or knowingly fails to take steps to avoid the action. “[Emphasis added].

HOA control of the candidate process and campaigning

Getting down to the specific application of HB 2052, the relevant HOA’s candidacy procedures follow, with the opening line stating: “The Campaign and Election Policies have been carefully developed to provide a fair and clean process for candidates and all members.

While the specific policies are not clearly stated as whether prohibited or permitted, the overall tone is definitely of a prohibitive nature. The 14 points are shown as Exhibit 1 below. In sum, they include not using email listings; association facilities or agencies, clubs, etc. websites; no right to hold Q & A sessions independent of HOA;  no right to campaign through social media —  Facebook, Instagram, etc.; all advertising must be HOA approved; distributing flyers outside restaurants, presumably those within the HOA, or on common areas.

The policies of this HOA, and many other large-scale HOA are similar but not so detailed, demonstrate the failure of the board directors to act in good faith and as a fiduciary for the members.  For the HOA to argue that “The ends justify the means and we determine what’s good for the members, but the HOA entity comes first” is unsatisfactory and irrelevant. These policies reflect an authoritarian government that accepts the rejection of fundamental member democratic rights and privileges because they can hide behind the questionable legality of the CC&Rs.

There can be no excuse for HOA directors not being aware of the voluminous materials available for conducting their due diligence with respect to democratic, fair elections and member participation in HOA governance. They have been given plenty of notice, which subjects them to personal liabilities and prevents them from hiding behind “my attorney said it was OK,” or from acts of omission – doing nothing. 

This representative HOA’s policy so informs them of their liability. Yet, nothing is done to correct these violations of good faith. And still the directors, officers, and managers all demand respect! It’s shameless!

What is going on, you may ask?  Well, the board is setting policy for the acceptance of candidates without a vote of the membership. In other words, unless the proposed candidates are accepted by the BOD, the members have lost a candidate of their choosing. They have lost a meaningful participation in the governing of the HOA; they cannot disagree with the establishment!  So, if you thought your HOA was democratic, forget about it! 

Also, the BOD controls how candidates acceptable to them can campaign, placing severe restrictions not found in the fair public elections procedures.  See Exhibit 1 below. Again, members have lost their right to fair and free elections in HOA matters.

AZ Senate’s rejection of HB 2052

It is easily seen that  the AZ Senate supports these undemocratic polices as represented by this HOA’s practices. 

I have maintained that,

“Public policy today rejects constitutional government for HOAs allowing them to operate outside the law of the land. 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.”

See, CC&Rs are a devise for de facto HOA governments to escape Constitutional government; Reorienting the HOA board – fair elections; HOA Common Sense, No. 6: Fair and just hearings

And furthermore, “CIDS [HOAs] currently engage in many activities that would be prohibited  if they were viewed  by the courts as the equivalent of local federal amd Arizona governments.”  … Privatopia (1994), Evan McKenzie.

It is not too late for the Senators to meet their obligations to uphold the federal and Arizona Constitutions by passing HB 2052 into law.

Exhibit 1. HOA BOD campaign policies.

  1. Using email listings, electronic or websites of Neighborhood Representatives and Alternates, Charter Clubs, Interest Groups, community and specialty groups.
  2. Addressing a formal . . . Group (e.g., Neighborhood Representative, Charter Club, Interest Group, specialty group meetings, sports venues, etc.). However, a person’s right to free speech in casual conversations shall not be restrained.
  3. Participating in formal Q&A sessions and programs other than those sponsored by the . . . Election Team.
  4. Using Association facilities for campaign events for individual candidates.
  5. Removing other candidates’ campaign flyers from approved locations.
  6. Using the official . . . website, Facebook or Instagram social media accounts to promote your campaign or to use your personal social media accounts to defame or incite defamation of candidates, engaging in unkind innuendoes / slander / harassment at any time or in any setting.
  7. Posting campaign flyers on street signs, trees, light poles, motor vehicles, golf cars, lawns, windows, auto windshields, or in commercial buildings.
  8. Defacing approved campaign flyers.
  9. Using balloons, buttons, t-shirts, marked-up election ballot, etc. as campaign tools.
  10. Using advertising of any type (other than approved campaign statement and/or approved personal correspondence).
  11. Using multiple versions of campaign flyers at the same time.
  12. Placing flyers in mailboxes (against the law).
  13. Distributing campaign flyers outside the entrance of or in the restaurants.
  14. Distributing campaign flyers in common areas except as noted.

HOA bill of rights history updated

A brief history[i]

It should be noted when reading this brief history that in 1992 Community Associations Institute (CAI) modified its tax-exempt status from education (501(c)3) to a business trade entity (501(c)6) with increased  lobbying rights.[ii]

Prior to 2000

In 1992, Roger Dilger wrote,

For example, most of those who advocate the formation of RCAs HOAs] assume that RCAs  . . . incorporate all the rights and privileges embodied in the US Constitution, including . . . the rights of due process and equal protection under the law found in the Fourteenth Amendment;[iii]

In 1994 Evan McKenzie said it plainly, and is true today,

T]he property rights of the developer, and later the board of directors, swallow up the rights of the people, and public government is left as a bystander. . . . [Consequently,] this often leads to people becoming angry at board meetings claiming that their ‘rights’ have been violated – rights that they wrongly believe they have in a [HOA]. (p. 148).[iv]

Editors Barton and Silverman published Common Interest Communities in 1994, a report on 12 early HOA (CID) research studies addressing the debate between HOAs as private governments in relation to public government.[v] Their conclusions in regard to the environment and culture of HOAs included:

Our research shows the tension created by combining neighboring and political  social relations into this form of organization [common interest homeowner’s association].

This means that the association’s objectives can only be decided on through [sic] discussions among the homeowners. As a result, the homeowners’ association needs to meet the basic democratic standards of openness, fairness, and representativeness to its members.

The model of the informed consumer choosing the mandatory homeowners’ association and its detailed restrictions, the ‘servitude regime’, fails to describe reality.

[T]hey [certain homeowners] reacted with strong, negative emotions to apparent infringements on their own rights as private property owners. These residents treated the governing bard of directors not as trustees of the public interest but as neighbors who had unfair powers over them.

Our findings pf pervasive conflict and fear of conflict, accompanied by apathy and avoidance within the community, run counter to the normal picture of community organization.

Steven Siegel wrote in 1998,

Many RCAs exercise powers traditionally associated with local government. . . . Although the traditional view of RCAs is that each homeowner consents to the regime or chooses to reside elsewhere, Siegel rejects this view and suggests instead that RCAs are the product of forces other than consumer choice, including local government land use policies and fiscal pressure on local governments leading to the privatization of local government services. Because of the traditional view, RCAs rarely have been deemed state actors subject to the requirements of the Constitution. As private entities, RCAs regulate behavior in a way that is anathema to traditional constitutional strictures.[vi]

As early as 1999 homeowner advocates,  the late Lois Pratt and Samuel Pratt, made their case for a homeowner bill of rights, writing,[vii]

The association shall exercise its powers and discharge its functions in a manner that protects and furthers the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of the community’[citing NJ law]. . . .  In essence, this is the standard that defines the fundamental right of homeowners and the obligation of those in power. Every action of an association must conform to the standard: Does it promote the welfare and protect the rights of the members of the association?

While the topic of ‘Homeowner Rights and Responsibilities’ is frequently presented for discussion – in books, articles, and conferences on RCA management and operations, in state laws, in association by-laws, and in board minutes – the focus of attention consistently turns to the obligations of homeowners, and scant attention is given to homeowners’ rights. To date we have found no document that presents a thorough treatment of homeowner rights.

2000 and later

In 2000, before the Arizona Legislature’s HOA hearing committee I made an appeal for a member bill of rights:

[Homeowner rights advocates] first looked to the existing government, the HOA Board, and having failed to obtain satisfaction therein, must seek other means of redress – a radical change in the concept and legal structure of the homeowner association and its controlling document, the CC&Rs. What is needed is an inclusion of a homeowners Bill of Rights and the removal of such onerous provisions that make the homeowner nothing more than an indentured servant, living at the suffrage of the board – pleased if the board is benevolent; living in fear if the board is oppressive.[viii]

In 2005, some 5 years after my introductory statement to the Arizona Legislature, HOA member rights — an HOA Bill of Rights, a constitutional issue — took hold.  Nothing developed until The California Law Review Committee (CLRC), in 2005, timidly announced a “Chapter 2, Members Rights, Article 1, Bill of Rights,” in its preliminary draft to revising the applicable Davis-Stirling Act.  It immediately disappeared from the initial draft of revisions, but upon repeated exchanges on homeowner rights by the late Mrs. Elizabeth McMahon and Donnie Vanitzian, and yours truly,

CLRC finally responded in 2005: “CLRC responded with, ‘However, a bill of rights would probably go beyond the substantive rights that are currently provided in the law’ (MM05-03),” and,

George Staropoli objects [2008] to the lack of any substantive extension of homeowner rights. In particular he objects to the lack of any provision addressing the relationship of CID law to the state and federal constitutions. See Exhibit p. 1. As indicated at Exhibit p. 2, Mr. Staropoli first raised these issues in 2005 and was informed at that time that they were beyond the scope of the recodification project. (First Supplement to Memorandum 2008-12).

In July 2006 AARP released its A Bill Of Rights For Homeowners In Associations: Basic Principles of Consumer Protection and Sample Model Statute, authored by Texas attorney, David A. Kahne.[ix]

Furthermore in 2006,

CAI’s Tom Skiba thinks Staropoli’s logic is flawed. ‘The fact is that by statute, common law, contract, and decades of practice, community associations are not-for-profit entities,’ Skiba says, ‘and are and should be subject to the relevant and applicable business law, contract law, and specific community association or common-interest-development law in each state.’[x]

In 2007 I urged the need for an HOA Bill of Rights, citing the intents and purposes of The Preamble to the US Bill of Rights:[xi]

THE Conventions of a number of States, having at the time of 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 insure the beneficent ends of its institution:”

In 2007 a currently active CAI member and former President had this to say,

Thus, the question of whether a particular covenant in a contractually-created community violates an owner’s constitutional rights of expression finds its answer in well-established property law jurisprudence.

In 2008, after a few years drafting, the Uniform Law Commission produced it bill of rights, Uniform Common Interest Bill of Rights Act (UCIOBORA) as a result of pressures from homeowner rights advocates, AARP, and others to provide homeowners with a bill of rights.

The Need for a Free-Standing Home Owner Bill of Rights. . . . The reason is that each of these complex Acts has its detractors who have historically blocked adoption of these Acts in any state. . . . [And] of the difficulty drafters in the States may encounter in integrating any new adoption of the existing Uniform Acts with the laws that may already exist in a particular state.  For these reasons, ULC promulgated a free-standing and relatively short Uniform Act that addresses all of the ‘association versus unit owner’ [hints at similarity of ‘management vs employees’] issues touched on during the drafting of the 2008 UCIOA amendments.[xiii]

Tom Skiba, again in an unbelievable 2008 doubletalk statement declared:

Community associations are not governments — many years of legislation and court rulings have established that fact beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet they are clearly democratic in their operations, electing their leadership from among the homeowners on a periodic basis. . . . The solution to that problem is not to replace democracy with tyranny, royalty, or some other form of government, but to work to make the democratic process better and to hold those elected accountable.[xiv]

In 2008 Paula Franzese and Steven Siegel wrote with respect to the NJ Supreme Court opinion in Twin Rivers,

The laissez-fare approach to CIC regulation is reflected in the statutory law, which affords exceedingly few rights and protections to homeowners association residents.[xv]

In 2015 Deborah Goonan appealed to homeowners to write their Congressmen about the injustices in HOA-Land.[xvi] Her sample letter included,

“We have become a nation obsessed with property values to the exclusion of traditional American values,” and

“Governance of HOAs is not currently required to be bound by Constitutional law, thereby resulting in a nation where 67 million people are not subject to equal protection under the law. In HOAs, The Bill of Rights Need Not Apply. The resulting inequality contributes to abusive governance, frequent conflict and abuse of the legal system.”

Goonan again in 2020, referencing Arizona’s SB 1412 (held in Rules due to COVID-19 premature session closing)  and addressing Florida’s SB 623 (having since failed) wrote,

“It’s a 52-page bill that, among other things, seeks equal protection of Constitutional rights for all residents of HOA-governed communities. . .  The Bill of Rights would apply to all Florida HOA-governed communities.”[xvii]

The 2008 Uniform Law Commission’s HOA bill of rights, UCIOBORA, is a document that does not at all read like the US Bill of Rights, or any state constitution’s Declaration of Rights (state constitution equivalent of the Bill of Rights), or even the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (France, 1793).  Far from it.  Rather it reads like your current CC&Rs and the basic UCIOA with just a number of concessions to reality”[xviii].

The spirit of the US Bill of Rights must be made to prevail over the HOA-Land Nation.

NOTES

[i] Adapted from “HOA Bill of Rights redux,” George K. Staropoli, HOA Constitutional Government (2020).

[ii] Evan McKenzie, supra n.1, pp. 115 -119; Donald R. Stabile, Community Associations: The Emergence and Acceptance of a Quiet Innovation in Housing, p. 144 (2000). Funded by CAI and ULI.

[iii] Roger Jay Dilger, Neighborhood Politics: Residential Community Associations in American Governance, p. 160, New York Univ. Press (1992). Formerly WVU Prof. Political Science and Director of Political Affairs.

[iv] Evan McKenzie, supra n. 1.

[v] Stephen E. Barton & Carol J. Silverman, eds., Common Interest Communities: Private Governments and the Public Interest, Ch. 13, section, “Private Property and Public Life in the Common Interest Development,” Institute of Government Studies Press, Univ. of Calif., Berkeley (1994).

[vi] Steven Siegel, “The Constitution and Private Government: Toward the Recognition of Constitutional Rights in Private Residential Communities Fifty years After Marsh v. Alabama,” Wm & Mary Bill of Rights J., Vol. 6, Issue 2 (1998).

[vii] Lois Pratt and Samuel Pratt, A Bill Of Rights For Homeowners In Residential Community Associations (1999).

[viii] Homeowner’s Declaration Of Independence, George K. Staropoli, statement to the Arizona HOA Interim Hearing Committee, Sept. 7, 2000.

[ix] [1] David A. Kahne “AARP HOA Bill of Rights,” AARP Public Policy Institute (2006).

[x]Call &Response,” Christopher Durso, Ed., Common Ground — July – August 2006.

[xi] See “Why is there a need for a Homeowners Bill of Rights?,” George K. Staropoli, HOA Constitutional Government.

[xii]Former CAI president reaffirms property law superior to Constitution.” (2007). Article on NJ Twin Rivers decision, 2007; Link to CAI blog not found Sept. 9, 2020.

[xiii]  UCIOBORA, Prefatory Note, page 1.

[xiv] CAI CEO Skiba in his April 2, 2008 Ungated blog entry.

[xv]  Paula A. Franzese and Steven Siegel, “The Twin Rivers Case: Of Homeowners Associations, Free Speech Rights And Privatized Mini-Governments”, 5 RUTGERS J.L. & PUB. POL’Y 630 (2008).

[xvi]Let’s Get Some National Attention on HOA, Housing Issues,” Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities (2015).  

[xvii]Florida Legislature Considers HOA ‘Equal Protection’ Bill,” Deborah Goonan,  Independent American Communities (February 7, 2020).

[xviii] See “co-opting the HOA ‘homeowners bill of rights.’”, George K. Staropoli, HOA Constitutional Government (2011).