Arizona’s landmark fair elections, free speech law on HOA governance

On Sept. 25, 2022, Arizona’s new HOA reform law (Session Law Ch, 125; HB2158),  bringing substantive free public speech on HOA governing issues and establishing a fair elections procedure, will become effective.

This is a major step forward to the application of Constitutional 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 “tools” are there for members to stand up and fight for their rights. No one else will do it for you! Especially your board of directors.

As James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers #51: “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” HOA boards for the most part have demonstrated that they are indeed not angels.

I congratulate the bill sponsor, Rep. John Kavanagh, and 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.

The intent and purpose of this law are highlighted below :

“‘association-specific political sign’ means a sign that supports or opposes a candidate for the board of directors or the recall of a board member or a condominium ballot measure that requires a vote of the association unit owners.

The details specify the rights of members and prohibitions on the BOD regarding these signs. Furthermore,

“association may not prohibit or unreasonably restrict a unit owner’s ability to peacefully assemble and use common elements of the condominium [or HOA];

“group of unit owners may assemble to discuss matters related to the condominium [or HOA], including board of director elections or recalls, potential or actual ballot issues or revisions to the condominium documents, property maintenance or safety issues or any other condominium matters . . . .”

Relevant sections of HB 2158

The relevant sections of the new law can be read here: HB 2158;  Ariz. Sess. Law Ch 125 (2022). An audio version on Spotify can be heard here: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/mqz2Fe4Dytb

Homeowners do not have HOA ‘eminent domain’ protection

You all know about public domain eminent domain protection: the government cannot take your property for public use – public benefit — without fair market compensation, which you can negotiate and take to court if necessary. Acquiring your property is a “taking.” 

According to the courts,  it is not well known that the government’s denial of a natural use of your property is considered an informal taking, and compensation must be paid. I am surprised to learn that almost any personal property owned by the homeowner can be subject to a taking by the government. (Investopedia).

As an HOA member you do not have an equivalent HOA government taking protection whereby you are compensated for any takings or modifications demanded by the HOA. While HOA government takings per se are rare except for foreclosure rights, the HOA does demand that the homeowner replace or remove approved  landscaping trees or shrubbery, additions like sheds, playsets,  repaint the exterior, etc. At the homeowner’s expense!

I’ve found many times that corrective action is delayed until after completion of the approved homeowner improvements, and the HOA demands that it be torn down by the homeowner. Grossly unjust and unfair: it’s the incompetence of the HOA failing to act within a reasonable time while construction begins.

However, it’s understandable and acceptable if the governing documents specify, for example, that exteriors just be repainted every 15 years, or roofs inspected for necessary repairs every 20 years or so, etc.

The argument used by the HOA generally falls into keeping with the image  of the properties and maintain property values, for the benefit of the members, the HOA ‘public.’  As it stands, the owner/ member has no right to demand compensation and is another instance of constitutional protections lost in HOA-Land.

State supreme court cases favor member rights and freedoms over HOA

I would like to thank Deborah Goonan on her post[1] covering two especially important state supreme court HOA cases, and her excellent reporting and analysis of the issues. My review and comments follow.

WDIS, LLC v. Hi-Country Estates Homeowners Ass’n, Phase II, 2022 UT 17 (Utah 2022)

Raised in this landmark case, but not directly addressed, is the constitutional validity of the CC&Rs that contain implicit waivers and surrenders of fundamental rights and freedoms that are available to and protect all Americans under the Constitution. At issue, as stated by the Utah SC in WDIS,

“More relevant to this case, future owners of parcels or homes within the jurisdiction of any HOA are not required to formally sign onto the restrictive covenants when they are first created. Instead, consumers (be they buyers, heirs, or lenders) are merely entitled to a take-it-or-leave-it option to accept ownership of the property, subject to whatever covenants and restrictions are on file in County records. By taking possession of the property, an owner is presumed to have accepted the restrictions as valid and enforceable.”

The “Landowners” raised the especially prominent issue of freedom of contract, raising the charge of CC&Rs as an unconstitutional contract. The Utah Supreme Court concluded:

“The protective covenants at issue were not contractual” because “they did not involve two parties agreeing to perform acts in relation to each other. We conclude that applying the presumption is appropriate.”

“The freedom to contract is implicated because the question we are resolving is whether parties “of full age and competent understanding” are free either to accept or reject those covenants later on. And there are other reasons, beyond the freedom of contract, to apply the presumption.”  

* * * *

Belmont Ass’n v. Farwig,  No. 214A21, 2022 NCSC 64 (N.C. 2022)

First, with respect to outwardly friendly HOA member legislation let me point out what we see here,  the bill/law usually contains an offsetting exception or exclusion that renders the homeowner benefits questionable or negates them under practical application. Obviously, anybody seeing solar panels on roofs know that they will be seen by the public. How can a court ignore that?

Also, watch out for Rules that cannot be supported by the CC&Rs and are invalid as the SC pointed out regarding an ARC rule. HOAs cannot add restrictions or conditions not specified or prohibited by the CC&Rs without a CC&Rs amendment.

Second, as I’ve repeatedly stated, state legislatures favor the HOA over member rights and constitutional protections. Thank God there are some courts who do seek justice like the NC  Supreme Court in this case that saw, in plain English, the subterfuge of “friendly” HOA member law.

Read the full post here:

  1.  HOA Lawsuits: Property owner challenges to HOA boards (Part 2) – Independent American Communities, Deborah Goonan, Aug. 5, 2022.

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