Dianna Wray does an excellent, detailed and historical presentation of the unchecked and unregulated power of de facto HOA governments operating outside of constitutional protections – the lack of due process and the unequal equal protection of the law. Without mentioning the above, Wray presents several stories of Texas HOA abusive power that strikes to the heart of homeowner mistreatment and injustice, as the legislature ignores his plight as if Texas were a banana republic. And rightfully so, she extends these unthinkable conditions to occur in all states.
The author warns her readers that,
HOAs are almost completely unregulated and the law is heavily weighted on the side of the homeowners’ associations — they almost always win. In Texas there is no regulatory agency overseeing homeowners’ associations. Most county attorneys and district attorneys won’t get involved with an HOA unless there’s evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and the website of the Texas Attorney General’s Office explicitly states that the office does not investigate homeowners’ associations and advises homeowners to get a private attorney. Most private attorneys conclude that the business just isn’t worth it.
And that goes for all state attorney generals.
She quotes Texas attorney David Kahne (co-author of the AARP bill of rights for homeowners, among other things).
Typically by the end of the lawsuit, it’s been such a hassle, most of the lawyers representing homeowners swear they’ll never do it again. . . . It’s lawsuits over grass growing in the driveway cracks and people who have fallen behind on their dues because of real problems in their lives and then they end up with thousands of dollars of debt, most of it owed to the attorneys.
Wray adds that Evan McKenzie argues,
that HOAs erode homeowner rights because they create a system in which the HOA is never held accountable for its actions. ‘Why do people think you can live in an urbanized area without any form of government except for these privatized entities that are under no legal obligation to uphold your rights? (My emphasis).
Readers of this commentary must understand, and must understand very well, that the laws on the books in all states are grossly inadequate for the purpose of compliance. When laws, like HOA laws, fail to provide effective enforcement penalties against perpetrators, like HOA boards, they are merely recommendations and suggestions. The legislators are relying on the good will of HOA boards, attorneys and managers to voluntarily comply not only with the letter of the law, but with the intent as well. The record clearly shows that this is not so!
Obviously in disregard of the above criticisms of the HOA-Land legal structure, HOA supporters respond with the same ol’ platitudes. From the HOA attorney, “Believe me, a lot of people complain about HOAs, but the alternative is chaos . . . It seems like I have a really mean, nasty job, but if somebody doesn’t do it, suburbia would collapse.”
From the Houston Texas CAI chapter Executive Director,
Without HOAs, common areas wouldn’t be kept up and people could paint their front doors scarlet, park boats on their lawns, put up countless yard signs, keep any number of pets and have six-foot-tall topiary rabbits in their front yards, destroying the look and value of neighborhoods.
They are resorting to fear-mongering!
These supporters, including CAI, are saying that they do not trust their fellow Americans and concerned people must resort to authoritarian contracts and strict enforcement of the rules in order to have a healthy, desirable and joyful community. Can you believe that? Talk about breeding hostility and division among your neighbors. One false move, a report by any “kindly” neighbor, can bring down the wrath of the HOA enforcers.
The author reminds of events in Texas long forgotten or not known to the people, even in Texas, of the battles of Winonah Blevins (2002) and Geneva Kirk Brooks (2004), pioneers in the fight for homeowner rights. Before these cases, won by the homeowners, there was the outrageous Texas Supreme Court decision in Inwood v. Harris (1987) in which the Men in Black ignored the explicit wording of the Texas Constitution regarding foreclosure protections and permitted Inwood to foreclose on Harris. (A few years later, apparently in response to the growing outcry of the court’s shameful special interest decision, the legislature amended the constitution to validate the Harris decision.)
While the article is lengthy, it is not a manual of how to get along in HOA-Land and remain happy by just following the rules. Or a list of “should-be” or “ought-to-be” statements that are unattainable and beyond the norms of society, like you must accept the surrender of individual liberties for the greater good. It deals with the reality before homeowners and the intentional failure by state legislatures — in all states — over the years to stand by the people and not the special interests.
It is a “telling it like it is,” or that it could easily be that way at any time in your HOA with a changing of the HOA board, or a new attorney, or a new management firm. The homeowner, as presented in Dianna Wray’s well written article, lives at the suffrage of the board; helpless to defend themselves against HOA abuse without a costly battle. Remember that well!
Tipping Point: In Huntington Village, the Community Association has All the Power, Dianna Wray, Houston Press ( http://www.houstonpress.com/news/tipping-point-in-huntington-village-the-community-association-has-all-the-power-7998755, Dec. 15, 2015).