Will ULC pursue HOA Member Bill of Rights?

“Can private parties enter into contractual arrangements, using adhesion contracts and a constructive notice consent, that serve to regulate and control the people within a territory (an HOA), to circumvent the application of the Constitution?”[1]

In August I commented that I was working with 2 institutions on a Member Bill of Rights.[2]

“Currently, I am working with two leading institutions concerned with state laws and the constitutionality of the HOA legal  structure. Addressing the Bill of Rights issue is relevant to conducting necessary research and studies. A Homeowners Bill of Rights would be a major step toward the equal protection of the laws for members of HOAs.

“As a result of my proposed research by  independent, objective researchers,  the law will be clarified and all parties set straight as to their rights, and on the legitimacy and validity of independent private governments in America.”

The Uniform Law Commission  (ULC) will decide on the 29th whether or not to undertake a study of my proposal for  meaningful revision to its UCIOBORA (2008).  It’s composed of only attorneys appointed by state legislators and are pro bono.  I must call to your attention the long established presence of CAI at ULC and with respect to UCIOA.

I believe that ULC will move ahead and make the Constitution and state laws living documents reflecting the overwhelming evidence for the need to admit that HOAs are invalid ab initio — from the very start — agreements and are unconstitutional.  

Notes

[1] The “end of denial” of unconstitutional HOAs, August 5, 2020.

[1] HOA Bill of Rights redux, August 29, 2020. Updated, HOA bill of rights history updated Sept. 13, 2020

Protecting HOA political free speech on matters of general community interest

Should matters of concern and interest to the general HOA member-community be protected from suits designed to stifle participation in HOA governance?  Homeowners in HOAs should be protected from these suits, called SLAPP suits, just as the general public is protected in most states that have anti-SLAPP laws.

The question becomes: will the courts hold issues of HOA governance to be a matter of general public interest and concern?  A failure of the courts to do so puts HOA governments solidly into the category of independent principalities, where members are not permitted free speech on community public issues, especially about their governing body, the HOA.

The expected defenses are 1) that HOAs are private, contractual governing bodies not subject to the 14th Amendment protections, which the members have agreed to obey; and disregarding the Ruiz opinion above,  2) the local HOA community cannot be considered as a public body that is interested in and concerned with matters of public interest; it’s a local, private matter.

There are several California cases holding that HOA concerns amount to public speech because it affects the community at large.  The following are anti-SLAPP suits.

“A SLAPP suit (strategic lawsuit against public participation) is a lawsuit brought primarily to chill a party’s constitutional right of petition or free speech. The anti-SLAPP statute was enacted to prevent and deter lawsuits that chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances and provides “an efficient procedural mechanism to obtain an early and inexpensive dismissal of nonmeritorious claims” arising from the exercise of those constitutional rights. . . . . The resident’s front lawn is a public forum for purposes of the First Amendment. . . . Moreover, it is now well established that the anti-SLAPP statute protects private conversations as well as those occurring in a public forum.” (Santa Barbara).

“’Public interest’ within the meaning of the anti-SLAPP statute has been broadly defined to include, in addition to government matters,  ‘private conduct that impacts a broad segment of society and/or that affects a community in a manner similar to that of a governmental entity.’ (Ruiz; according to California statutes).

[My emphasis]

“[W]e hold the trial court properly determined the anti-SLAPP statute applied because the evidence showed the alleged defamatory statements were made “in a place open to the public or in a public forum” and concerned “an issue of public interest. . . .  The two locations where the alleged defamatory statements were made–at the Board meetings and in the Village Voice newsletter [HOA] –were open to the public and constituted “public forums.” Additionally, because each of the allegedly defamatory statements concerned [*11] the manner in which a large residential community would be governed, they concerned “issue[s] of public interest.”  (Damon).

A homeowners association board is in effect ‘a quasi-government entity paralleling in almost every case the powers, duties, and responsibilities of a municipal government’ (citing Cohen v. Kite Hill Community Assn).”  (Damon).

My quick survey of state anti-SLAPP laws shows AZ, IL, HI, GA and MD as having strict laws relating to only issues before the legislature or a law, as petitioning rights.  A host of other states contain the much broader right to file an anti-SLAPP suit for issues of public interest. They are: CA, FL (as of 7/2015), IN, LA, OR, RI, TX, VT, and WA.  Check current status.

Case references:

  1. Santa Barbara Beach Club HOA v. Freeman, 2d Civil No. B212972 (Cal. App. 2nd 2010)
  2. Ruiz v. Harbor View CA, 37 Cal.Rptr.3d 133 (2005)
  3. Damon v. Ocean Hills [an HOA], 102 Cal.Rptr.2d 205 (2000)

NJ bill A469 a step toward regulatory agency oversight of HOAs?

NJ bill, A469 (former A1730), sponsored by NJ Speaker Pro Temp, Jerry Green, attempts to detail certain state protections for owner-members of HOAs.  Detailed protection is needed as a result of the vague and broad language of the statutes and governing documents that cause 1) unknowledgeable owners who complain to be “blown away” by HOA “officials,” including attorneys, and 2) unnecessary law suits just to clarify language that the HOA attorneys know misrepresent legal doctrine.

For example, “attorney-client privilege” is abused to apply to legitimate corporate records that are not attorney work products; and the misleading, contractual “after notice and opportunity to be heard” phrase regarding complaint hearings that short circuits the legitimate due process protections specifying confrontation of witnesses, providing evidence and the questioning of witnesses by an independent tribunal.

Among other things, the bill addresses due process by DCA (Department of Community Affairs) and fair election procedures, another vague and unspecified process in the governing documents.  It further takes the proactive step, as I’ve alluded to in my writings on HOAs as a government entity, with the pronouncement that, “Any governing documents of an association not in compliance with this section . . .  shall be deemed amended to be in compliance” (C.45:22A-43.c); and “Notwithstanding the provisions of any law to the contrary, a homeowners’ association shall be deemed to have amended its governing documents, including its bylaws” (45:22A-46.e.) (my emphasis).

In addition, additional regulatory powers are granted to DCA, “The Commissioner of Community Affairs shall promulgate any rules and regulations that may be necessary to effectuate the provisions of [this bill]” (C.45:22A-48.b).

Relevant excerpts from this bill can be read at Excerpts.

Some call it government interference in a democratic society.  Others, including yours truly, see it as legitimate police powers of the government to protect its citizens. As stated in this bill in its closing “Statement” (“legislative intent” statement), “This bill clarifies the intent of the Legislature that P.L.1993, c.30 (C.45:22A-43 et seq.) be viewed as an enabling act for homeowners’ associations of non-condominium types of planned real estate developments . . . .” (My emphasis).

In fact, the Planned Community Act states,

 “45:22A-22. Public policy

“The Legislature in recognition of the increased popularity of various forms of real estate development in which owners share common facilities . . .  deems it necessary in the interest of the public health, safety, and welfare . . . that dispositions in these developments be regulated by the State pursuant to the provisions of this act.

“45:22A-24. Administration of act. 4.

“This act shall be administered by the Division of Housing and Development in the State Department of Community Affairs, hereinafter referred to as the “agency.”

Does NJ law make HOAs an arm of the state, state actors, or an unconstitutional delegation of legislative powers to a private entity? 

In short NJ law has created a state regulatory agency and is now proposing to grant it further legitimate authority under its police powers in the “interest of the public health, safety, and welfare.”  An “enabling act,” as the statutes are clearly being designated, is required to grant powers and authority to state agencies.  State agencies are “arms of the state” subject to the 14th Amendment.

If deemed not, then do the NJ statutes provide sufficient control and oversight of private entities by the legislature?  I believe a resoundingly not!  A469 attempts to move in this direction, but more is needed.

I argued this issue in regard to HOAs in general in Supreme Court says corporations cannot be used to evade Constitution and Regulatory agency enforcement of HOA violations.