Media’s inexcusable silence on  reporting HOA legal issues

This writing  addresses the failure of the Arizona media, and in general all news media across this country,  to report in-depth on HOA legal developments. In particular, as an example, its failure to cover the Arizona Supreme Court Petition for Review, Tarter v. Bendt (denied).

It was a defamation case brought  by an HOA president dealing with matters of HOA governance. It resulted in a shocking $1,500,000 in damages against a homeowner who criticized the President.  The homeowner raised the issue of the HOA president as a “limited-purpose public figure.” An amicus brief informed the Justices on the larger picture of protected speech in the recognized HOA public forum on matters of HOA governance.

If it were not an HOA case, it surely would have made widespread news.

Most of you probably ever heard of Edward R. Murrow (1940s-60s) newscaster that, the Radio Television Digital News Association has annually awarded the Edward R. Murrow Award to individuals who make outstanding achievements in electronic journalism. Award recipients have included Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel,  Bryant Gumbel, Brian Williams, Katie Couric, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw.

Here are memorable quotes quite meaningful for today’s media who have been silent on reporting HOA reality news.

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.

“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.”

In 2017 I posted a Commentary that focused on the failure of today’s media to uphold its obligation under the 1st Amendment to inform the people. This protected freedom of speech was granted for the above important purpose, a purpose that the media seemed to have forgotten.

“The media of today, especially the local news media . . . seem to be oblivious to important HOA bills before state legislatures. Bills that would affect some 20% [now estimated to be 24% or more] of the people  across the country.

“There have been no in-depth analyses or debates of the HOA legal concept even at the national level, as the spread of HOA-Land is nationwide. The Sunday news talk shows, or by 20-20 and Dateline, are silent. There have been no discussions on whether HOAs, as de facto governments, should by made a government entity. Or whether state legislatures should continue to allow equitable servitude law to supersede contract and constitutional law. Or the lack of debate on the absence of “truth in HOAs” disclosures, similar to truth in lending and truth in advertising.

“Or what is the legitimate government interest to allow private governments to deny the equal application of the laws. Or to allow constructive notice – just take your deed — to bind unsuspecting home buyers to the CC&Rs sight unseen. Apparently there is no need to inform buyers at closing

But the media, with respect to HOA-Land, was silent and did not acknowledge its justification for its silence.  For more information, see my 2017 Commentary at Good night and very good luck – the unspoken media HOA alliance and Can HOA members expect justice in Arizona courts?

 . . . .

 Relevant to this Commentary, Maria Ressa (Filipino-American) just won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021. The Nobel Committee announcement spoke to the role of journalism and its affect on democracy.

 “Ms. Ressa and Rappler [her internet news site] have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse. . . . The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public,”

She is also author of How to Stand Up to a Dictator, a story of “how democracy dies by a thousand cuts” (to be released in July 2022).

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 .

HOA representative government and consent of the governed

George Washington wrote in his Farewell Address (1796), the Constitution “is the offspring of our choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles . . . .”  The Declaration of Independence asserted “that to secure these [inalienable] rights Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

These two quotes contain the fundamental principles of representative democracy adopted by means of a social contract, the Constitution, which are freedom of choice, ”just powers,” and “consent of the governed.” By virtue of these fundamental principles of democracy, HOAs cannot be considered as democratic governments. Period!

In his article explaining the meaning of the Constitution,[1] Edwin Meese III explains that “consent is the means whereby arbitrary power is thwarted. The natural standard for judging if a government is legitimate [and hence just] is whether that government rests on the consent of the governed.” 

In order for HOA governments to be just, legitimate and compatible with the Constitution these fundamental principles must be honored and supported. HOA “constitutions,” those CC&Rs, are not compatible with the US Constitution.

Meese further addresses the differences between “consent of the governed” and “will of the majority” that is a pro-HOA mantra. “The ‘consent of the governed’ describes a situation where the people are self-governing in their communities . . . into which the government may intrude only with the people’s consent.”

He explains that the “Will of the majority” is a political mechanism for decisions to be made by the government. In other words, the BOD makes decisions on behalf of the members based on its view of the majority will or some survey of the members. In short, in a representative democracy, like that attempted by the HOA legal structure, not all of the members are in agreement with or consent to the decisions of the BOD. It raises the issue of ‘the tyranny of the majority’ when the minority is not given due respect nor the ability to freely and equally speak out on HOA governmental issues.

Meese contends that the Founding Fathers[2] understood this weak point in a democratic government and the need to “insure domestic tranquility.”[3]

[A] government [must rest] not only on the consent of the governed, but also on a structure of government wherein the views of the people and their civic associations can be expressed and translated into public law and public policy. . . . Through deliberation, debate, and compromise, a public consensus is formed about what constitutes the public good. It is this consensus on fundamental principles that knits individuals into a community of citizens.

The structure of HOA governance is not based on and contradicts fundamental American principles and traditional values.  Furthermore, the CC&R are not even based on contract law 101 with its requirements for freely entered into, full disclosure, and explicit agreement to be bound,  but on the real estate doctrine of equitable servitudes.

To learn more about your loss of these rights and freedoms see The HOA-Land Nation Within America.

 

References

[1] Edwin Meese III, “What the Constitution Means,” The Heritage Guide to the Constitution (2005). Meese was the US Attorney General under Ronald Reagan.

[2] See in general, The Federalist Papers, #51, James Madison who explained, “Justice is the end [goal] of government. It is the end of civil society.”

[3] Preamble to the Constitution.

Evan McKenzie on HOA consent, disclosure and realtors

The typical homeowner has no idea what he is getting into — or what kind of HOA leadership he will be dealing with — when he signs a binding contract to move into an HOA-governed subdivision.”

So spoke internationally recognized and outspoken advocate for HOA reforms, Professor Evan McKenzie (author of Privatopia: Homeowners Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government (1994) and Beyond Privatopia (2012)) in an interview for the Evansville Courier and Press (“Woman says HOA demanded microchip in her dog”).  And with respect to consent and the inadequacy of state mandated disclosure documents, McKenzie calls them “hopelessly inadequate.”  He is quoted as saying, “If (realtors) cared about this, which they don’t, they would be establishing policies.”

I’ve written on the topic of why people choose to live under HOA regimes and who remain silent. As a sample, there is the  oppressive structure of the HOA (Why do people harm others in HOAs?), the “unspoken alliance of no negatives about HOAs” (Good night and very good luck – the unspoken media HOA alliance, CA court upholds HOA suit against real estate agents), and the failure of state legislatures to uphold constitutional rights (Proposed “consent to be governed” statute, the “Truth in HOAs” bill).  One can conclude that the HOA institution is basically corrupt (as defined: impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle; perversion of integrity).

I have repeatedly argued for the education — the enlightenment — of the public, the media and state legislators as to the truth of the matter, understanding that the unspoken alliance is still at work.  Where there is a lack of understanding, actual or pretended, then educate as to the truth. Help others to understand.  And this enlightenment requires that advocates challenge, confront and expose the non-truths being continuously aired by pro-HOA special interests (Path to Victory at the Legislature).

Thank you Evan for your effort to enlighten others as to the reality of the HOA concept and its defects.

 

Read this highly informative article at CourierPress.com.