The role of the HOA apathy affliction in circumventing public policy

In my prior Commentary, See The HOA apathy affliction: a political dynamic, I wrote about the HOA attorney driven recourse to complete rewrites of the CC&Rs that works because of the apathy affliction that is thriving in HOA-Land.  I would like to now add that this approach, in general, is an intentional violation of your state’s public policy.

Public policy is expressed in many ways by the actions or inactions, and statements or non-statements by government officials in the executive, judiciary and legislative branches. What bills are made law or not passed, and the intention of the legislature, when and if explicitly stated, makes public policy. 

In Arizona, for instance, HB 2441 (2011 session) was submitted and aggressively supported by the CAI chapter. It contained, among other things, a provision for the minority control of the CC&Rs amendment process by allowing as low as 33% of the all members to approve an amendment. While the Apache Wells rewrite contains a very vague and loose requirement for amending the CC&RS in contrast to the detail by-laws amendment process, it lacks homeowner protections.  There are no requirements for notice, meeting at which the voting is to take place, no approval requirement, etc.  (The prior 1987 CC&Rs required a majority approval of all the members).  The 50% vote is misleading as to homeowner protections without all of the above in place, as has occurred in the Fourth Amendment rewrite with respect to the minority approval of special assessments (See below and the prior Commentary link)..

10.4. Amendments. At any time this Declaration may be amended by an instrument in writing, executed by the then Lot Owners of more than fifty percent (50%) of the Lots in the Project.  Any amendment approved pursuant to this Section 10.4 of this Declaration shall be signed by the President of the Association and shall become effective upon recordation of the same with the County Recorder of Maricopa County, Arizona. Any such amendment shall certify that the amendment has been approved as required by this Section 10.4.

 

But, when it comes to approving special assessments (Section 7.5 of the CC&Rs), which could be almost any amount like the assessments to pay off an $8.5 million loan for a suspect administrative building in 2007, the rewrite allows for a 25% approval of any special assessment. (The prior 1987 CC&Rs required a majority ratification of the special assessment by all the members).  The point that I wish to make is that the special assessment rewrite is only one example of how minority control fails to protect the homeowner.

Another example is the attorney self-interest covenant, 10.2, Administrative Law Proceedings, which states in part,

In the event the Association is required to incur any expense, including attorneys’ fees and costs, as a result of the direct or indirect actions of any Owner, the Association shall be entitled to recover all such expenses incurred, including all attorneys’ fees and costs, against the applicable Owner, regardless of whether formal proceedings are actually filed, pursued or awarded . . . .

 The public policy of the State of Arizona was made clear in 2006 when ALJs were permitted to hear HOA disputes, and no attorney fees were allowed to be awarded in these hearings. The CAI attorneys managed to have the law declared unconstitutional, which resulted in a reaffirmation of the legislative intent in 2011 to provide for ALJ adjudication without attorney fee.  The intent of the legislature was explicitly stated in the new bill.

 The inclusion of section 10.2 in the Apache Wells CC&Rs rewrite can only be viewed as another intentional slap at Arizona public policy, and one in the best interests of the HOA hired-hand attorney.  The covenant for minority approval of special assessments, given the history of special assessments at Apache Wells, is another act of bad faith and disregard for public policy. 

 The recourse to CC&R amendment rewrites with the reality of the apathy affliction so prevalent in HOA-Land is a devise to circumvent public policy in order to achieve goals and objectives not in the best interests of the homeowner.  The Restatement of Property: Servitudes, Section 3.1, Validity of Servitudes,    “A servitude [covenant running with the land] . . . is valid unless it is illegal or unconstitutional or violates public policy.”  It is only the acts and actions of the people within HOAs that can return them to the American way of life.

 Read the related Commentary, Why do people harm others in HOAs?

CAI continues to ignore the Constitution for the HOA constitution

CAI continues its stand against HOAs being held to the US and state constitutions.  This is a second case, the first being CBTR v. Twin Rivers, 929 A.2d 1060 (2007). Sort of an argument for secession to an independent principality status where all residents would be regarded as “expats” (expatriates).

In the Twin Rivers case, the CAI amicus brief to the NJ appellate court warned about “the unwise extension of constitutional rights to the use of private property by members [in HOAs].”

Here’s what CAI had to say in this more recent NJ case, 4 years later. Note that it’s a “putative” brief. Aside for being paid by a party, not indicated here, a putative amicus brief can bring up arguments not raised by the parties for the “edification” of the court. This appears to be CAI – NJ’s position.

Excerpts from the “Putative Amicus Curiae Brief” by CAI – NJ to NJ Supreme Court, July 27, 2011

Whatever rights common interest association members have to express themselves regarding association issues arise not from the State Constitution but rather from statute, from contractual provisions of the association’s governing documents, from the fiduciary duty owed by the association trustees, and from concepts of fundamental fairness.

The ability of members to communicate with each other thus may be said to be an implied covenant in the By-Laws, a fiduciary obligation of the organization, and/or due to fundamental fairness to enable members to participate in community affairs and governance.

A governing board’s regulations are enforceable only if they satisfy the business judgment rule, that is, they are authorized by statute or the governing documents and the board’s action is not fraudulent, self-dealing or unconscionable. [citing Twin Rivers].

Because the unit owners have other statutory, contractual and legal remedies to protect them from overreaching by the Association, there is no need to apply the constitutional free speech clause. For that reason as well, the appellate majority opinion should be reversed.

Mazdabrook Commons v. Kahn, No. 67,094, (NJ 2011) (Not yet decided).

In other words, who needs the Constitution? We have our top-down, business profiteer’s CC&Rs private contract, and laws that mimic and are almost identical to the CC&Rs. Who needs the NJ Constitution, too.

See Twin Rivers and NJ HOA free speech rights, redux.

Why do people harm others in HOAs?

The following is my conclusion in Why people do harm to others in the HOA subculture.

Looking Toward the Future

In the Milgram and Stanford Prison Experiments researchers explored what evil men can and will do to others 1) under repeated pressure from authority figures to follow the rules, and 2) in an environment where one is expected to act in accordance to the  roles of the community.  The researchers found that basically good people will indeed do harm, even do severe harm, to others.  The conditions and factors present in these experiments exist within the HOA community, and the harm being done to others in these HOAs is well documented in the media and in the courts.

 The authoritarian insistence on enforcing complete obedience to the CC&RS, as repeatedly impressed on HOA boards by their attorneys, is well documented. The compliance by the directors and officers with these pressures for enforcement is well documented.   The blind obedience, apathy, and passivity  to authority by HOA members – the “prisoners” — who sign and agree to provisions blatantly detrimental to their interests, is well documented.  The adoption of the roles demanded of them by the system  and by the situation —  state laws and the court opinions, the adhesion CC&Rs and governing documents, and the lack of effective recourse — is well documented.  

The numerous “educational” seminars taught  by the attorneys and managers, many of which are sponsored by state and local governments,  serve not to fully inform but to indoctrinate the members into roles of obedience  and passivity, is well documented.  Good people doing bad things or remaining silent in the midst of wrongful acts and actions by the HOA is well documented.

State governments, the legislatures,  cannot allow HOAs to continue to  run amuck and to  freely violate the laws and their contractual obligations without legitimate and necessary constraints holding them accountable for the harm that they do to others.  Stop the “free rides.”  

Do not be conned by the HOA special interests unsubstantiated fear mongering about the demise of HOAs, and their  “only 5% are bad”, so we don’t need any restrictions.  Property crimes over the past 5 years averaged 3.3% yet we have laws.  Murder and rape rates are so miniscule compared to 5% (roughly 5 in 100, 000, or .00005), yet we have laws against these crimes.   If HOAs are indeed the next best thing to Mom’s apple pie, then they will survive.  If not, then it was the factor that “we got a good thing going here,” in terms of anything goes, that was the driving force behind all the clamor.  Fear not, people will continue to buy homes that are truly their private property.

But, to let the people in HOAs  continue to do harm to others and do nothing as  a matter of public policy is shameful.

Read the full paper here.

HOA reforms needed to guarantee U.S. Constitutional protections

Letter to the Arizona Capitol Times, Nov. 25, 2005

Replacing democratic local governments with authoritarian private governments: Is this good public policy?

With another Legislative session soon to start, homeowner rights advocates are again seeking the substantive reforms to correct long-term problems with planned community governance. At the heart of the matter is the continued replacement of democratic local government, governments subject to the U.S. Constitution and 14th Amendment prohibitions, with contractual, authoritarian private governments that are not subject to the prohibitions of the 14th Amendment.

The two broad prohibitions within this amendment are the equal application of the law and the due process clauses that are not applicable to private agreements. Or are they?

I ask the legislators, the public interest organizations and policy makers to consider the following questions:

1. Is it proper for the state to create, permit, encourage, support or defend a form of local government of a community of people, whether that form of government is established as a municipal corporation or as a private organization that is not compatible with our American system of government?

2. Is it proper for the state to permit the existence of private quasi-governments with contractual “constitutions” that regulate and control the behavior of citizens without the same due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment; that do not conform to the state’s municipal charter or incorporation requirements; or do not provide for the same compliance with the state’s Constitution, statutes or administrative code as required by public local government entities?

3. When did “whatever the people privately contract” dominate the protections of the U.S. Constitution?

4. Please state what, if any, are the government’s interests in supporting HOAs that deny the people their constitutional rights?

George K. Staropoli