HOA bill of rights history updated

A brief history[i]

It should be noted when reading this brief history that in 1992 Community Associations Institute (CAI) modified its tax-exempt status from education (501(c)3) to a business trade entity (501(c)6) with increased  lobbying rights.[ii]

Prior to 2000

In 1992, Roger Dilger wrote,

For example, most of those who advocate the formation of RCAs HOAs] assume that RCAs  . . . incorporate all the rights and privileges embodied in the US Constitution, including . . . the rights of due process and equal protection under the law found in the Fourteenth Amendment;[iii]

In 1994 Evan McKenzie said it plainly, and is true today,

T]he property rights of the developer, and later the board of directors, swallow up the rights of the people, and public government is left as a bystander. . . . [Consequently,] this often leads to people becoming angry at board meetings claiming that their ‘rights’ have been violated – rights that they wrongly believe they have in a [HOA]. (p. 148).[iv]

Editors Barton and Silverman published Common Interest Communities in 1994, a report on 12 early HOA (CID) research studies addressing the debate between HOAs as private governments in relation to public government.[v] Their conclusions in regard to the environment and culture of HOAs included:

Our research shows the tension created by combining neighboring and political  social relations into this form of organization [common interest homeowner’s association].

This means that the association’s objectives can only be decided on through [sic] discussions among the homeowners. As a result, the homeowners’ association needs to meet the basic democratic standards of openness, fairness, and representativeness to its members.

The model of the informed consumer choosing the mandatory homeowners’ association and its detailed restrictions, the ‘servitude regime’, fails to describe reality.

[T]hey [certain homeowners] reacted with strong, negative emotions to apparent infringements on their own rights as private property owners. These residents treated the governing bard of directors not as trustees of the public interest but as neighbors who had unfair powers over them.

Our findings pf pervasive conflict and fear of conflict, accompanied by apathy and avoidance within the community, run counter to the normal picture of community organization.

Steven Siegel wrote in 1998,

Many RCAs exercise powers traditionally associated with local government. . . . Although the traditional view of RCAs is that each homeowner consents to the regime or chooses to reside elsewhere, Siegel rejects this view and suggests instead that RCAs are the product of forces other than consumer choice, including local government land use policies and fiscal pressure on local governments leading to the privatization of local government services. Because of the traditional view, RCAs rarely have been deemed state actors subject to the requirements of the Constitution. As private entities, RCAs regulate behavior in a way that is anathema to traditional constitutional strictures.[vi]

As early as 1999 homeowner advocates,  the late Lois Pratt and Samuel Pratt, made their case for a homeowner bill of rights, writing,[vii]

The association shall exercise its powers and discharge its functions in a manner that protects and furthers the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of the community’[citing NJ law]. . . .  In essence, this is the standard that defines the fundamental right of homeowners and the obligation of those in power. Every action of an association must conform to the standard: Does it promote the welfare and protect the rights of the members of the association?

While the topic of ‘Homeowner Rights and Responsibilities’ is frequently presented for discussion – in books, articles, and conferences on RCA management and operations, in state laws, in association by-laws, and in board minutes – the focus of attention consistently turns to the obligations of homeowners, and scant attention is given to homeowners’ rights. To date we have found no document that presents a thorough treatment of homeowner rights.

2000 and later

In 2000, before the Arizona Legislature’s HOA hearing committee I made an appeal for a member bill of rights:

[Homeowner rights advocates] first looked to the existing government, the HOA Board, and having failed to obtain satisfaction therein, must seek other means of redress – a radical change in the concept and legal structure of the homeowner association and its controlling document, the CC&Rs. What is needed is an inclusion of a homeowners Bill of Rights and the removal of such onerous provisions that make the homeowner nothing more than an indentured servant, living at the suffrage of the board – pleased if the board is benevolent; living in fear if the board is oppressive.[viii]

In 2005, some 5 years after my introductory statement to the Arizona Legislature, HOA member rights — an HOA Bill of Rights, a constitutional issue — took hold.  Nothing developed until The California Law Review Committee (CLRC), in 2005, timidly announced a “Chapter 2, Members Rights, Article 1, Bill of Rights,” in its preliminary draft to revising the applicable Davis-Stirling Act.  It immediately disappeared from the initial draft of revisions, but upon repeated exchanges on homeowner rights by the late Mrs. Elizabeth McMahon and Donnie Vanitzian, and yours truly,

CLRC finally responded in 2005: “CLRC responded with, ‘However, a bill of rights would probably go beyond the substantive rights that are currently provided in the law’ (MM05-03),” and,

George Staropoli objects [2008] to the lack of any substantive extension of homeowner rights. In particular he objects to the lack of any provision addressing the relationship of CID law to the state and federal constitutions. See Exhibit p. 1. As indicated at Exhibit p. 2, Mr. Staropoli first raised these issues in 2005 and was informed at that time that they were beyond the scope of the recodification project. (First Supplement to Memorandum 2008-12).

In July 2006 AARP released its A Bill Of Rights For Homeowners In Associations: Basic Principles of Consumer Protection and Sample Model Statute, authored by Texas attorney, David A. Kahne.[ix]

Furthermore in 2006,

CAI’s Tom Skiba thinks Staropoli’s logic is flawed. ‘The fact is that by statute, common law, contract, and decades of practice, community associations are not-for-profit entities,’ Skiba says, ‘and are and should be subject to the relevant and applicable business law, contract law, and specific community association or common-interest-development law in each state.’[x]

In 2007 I urged the need for an HOA Bill of Rights, citing the intents and purposes of The Preamble to the US Bill of Rights:[xi]

THE Conventions of a number of States, having at the time of adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added:  And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution:”

In 2007 a currently active CAI member and former President had this to say,

Thus, the question of whether a particular covenant in a contractually-created community violates an owner’s constitutional rights of expression finds its answer in well-established property law jurisprudence.

In 2008, after a few years drafting, the Uniform Law Commission produced it bill of rights, Uniform Common Interest Bill of Rights Act (UCIOBORA) as a result of pressures from homeowner rights advocates, AARP, and others to provide homeowners with a bill of rights.

The Need for a Free-Standing Home Owner Bill of Rights. . . . The reason is that each of these complex Acts has its detractors who have historically blocked adoption of these Acts in any state. . . . [And] of the difficulty drafters in the States may encounter in integrating any new adoption of the existing Uniform Acts with the laws that may already exist in a particular state.  For these reasons, ULC promulgated a free-standing and relatively short Uniform Act that addresses all of the ‘association versus unit owner’ [hints at similarity of ‘management vs employees’] issues touched on during the drafting of the 2008 UCIOA amendments.[xiii]

Tom Skiba, again in an unbelievable 2008 doubletalk statement declared:

Community associations are not governments — many years of legislation and court rulings have established that fact beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet they are clearly democratic in their operations, electing their leadership from among the homeowners on a periodic basis. . . . The solution to that problem is not to replace democracy with tyranny, royalty, or some other form of government, but to work to make the democratic process better and to hold those elected accountable.[xiv]

In 2008 Paula Franzese and Steven Siegel wrote with respect to the NJ Supreme Court opinion in Twin Rivers,

The laissez-fare approach to CIC regulation is reflected in the statutory law, which affords exceedingly few rights and protections to homeowners association residents.[xv]

In 2015 Deborah Goonan appealed to homeowners to write their Congressmen about the injustices in HOA-Land.[xvi] Her sample letter included,

“We have become a nation obsessed with property values to the exclusion of traditional American values,” and

“Governance of HOAs is not currently required to be bound by Constitutional law, thereby resulting in a nation where 67 million people are not subject to equal protection under the law. In HOAs, The Bill of Rights Need Not Apply. The resulting inequality contributes to abusive governance, frequent conflict and abuse of the legal system.”

Goonan again in 2020, referencing Arizona’s SB 1412 (held in Rules due to COVID-19 premature session closing)  and addressing Florida’s SB 623 (having since failed) wrote,

“It’s a 52-page bill that, among other things, seeks equal protection of Constitutional rights for all residents of HOA-governed communities. . .  The Bill of Rights would apply to all Florida HOA-governed communities.”[xvii]

The 2008 Uniform Law Commission’s HOA bill of rights, UCIOBORA, is a document that does not at all read like the US Bill of Rights, or any state constitution’s Declaration of Rights (state constitution equivalent of the Bill of Rights), or even the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (France, 1793).  Far from it.  Rather it reads like your current CC&Rs and the basic UCIOA with just a number of concessions to reality”[xviii].

The spirit of the US Bill of Rights must be made to prevail over the HOA-Land Nation.

NOTES

[i] Adapted from “HOA Bill of Rights redux,” George K. Staropoli, HOA Constitutional Government (2020).

[ii] Evan McKenzie, supra n.1, pp. 115 -119; Donald R. Stabile, Community Associations: The Emergence and Acceptance of a Quiet Innovation in Housing, p. 144 (2000). Funded by CAI and ULI.

[iii] Roger Jay Dilger, Neighborhood Politics: Residential Community Associations in American Governance, p. 160, New York Univ. Press (1992). Formerly WVU Prof. Political Science and Director of Political Affairs.

[iv] Evan McKenzie, supra n. 1.

[v] Stephen E. Barton & Carol J. Silverman, eds., Common Interest Communities: Private Governments and the Public Interest, Ch. 13, section, “Private Property and Public Life in the Common Interest Development,” Institute of Government Studies Press, Univ. of Calif., Berkeley (1994).

[vi] Steven Siegel, “The Constitution and Private Government: Toward the Recognition of Constitutional Rights in Private Residential Communities Fifty years After Marsh v. Alabama,” Wm & Mary Bill of Rights J., Vol. 6, Issue 2 (1998).

[vii] Lois Pratt and Samuel Pratt, A Bill Of Rights For Homeowners In Residential Community Associations (1999).

[viii] Homeowner’s Declaration Of Independence, George K. Staropoli, statement to the Arizona HOA Interim Hearing Committee, Sept. 7, 2000.

[ix] [1] David A. Kahne “AARP HOA Bill of Rights,” AARP Public Policy Institute (2006).

[x]Call &Response,” Christopher Durso, Ed., Common Ground — July – August 2006.

[xi] See “Why is there a need for a Homeowners Bill of Rights?,” George K. Staropoli, HOA Constitutional Government.

[xii]Former CAI president reaffirms property law superior to Constitution.” (2007). Article on NJ Twin Rivers decision, 2007; Link to CAI blog not found Sept. 9, 2020.

[xiii]  UCIOBORA, Prefatory Note, page 1.

[xiv] CAI CEO Skiba in his April 2, 2008 Ungated blog entry.

[xv]  Paula A. Franzese and Steven Siegel, “The Twin Rivers Case: Of Homeowners Associations, Free Speech Rights And Privatized Mini-Governments”, 5 RUTGERS J.L. & PUB. POL’Y 630 (2008).

[xvi]Let’s Get Some National Attention on HOA, Housing Issues,” Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities (2015).  

[xvii]Florida Legislature Considers HOA ‘Equal Protection’ Bill,” Deborah Goonan,  Independent American Communities (February 7, 2020).

[xviii] See “co-opting the HOA ‘homeowners bill of rights.’”, George K. Staropoli, HOA Constitutional Government (2011).

HOAs undermine principles of democratic America

The immediate reaction to the title of this editorial comment from the vast majority of readers, is as I suspect,

Unbelievable, wild statement; No way; I love my HOA; the volunteers work for the community; the board of directors has my interests at heart; I can vote for the directors and on other matters, And anyway, I really don’t care, I’m happy with the amenities, facilities, and protection of my property value.

This blindness toward compliance with the US Constitution and the laws of the land can be traced to the culture of the HOA-Land Nation as I presented in Part 1 of The HOA-Land Nation Within America. As for the false argument that because members can vote for a board of directors makes the HOA democratic, ignores the reality of Cuba, China, Russia, North Korea and other countries where people can also vote for their leaders.  Voting alone does not make a democracy.

Other aspects of the HOA model of government that illustrate departures from public government, the Constitution and laws of the land can be found in the HOA-Land Nation publication: lack of oversight protections and the absence of a separation of powers, especially there is no independent judicial function for fair hearings; an absence of meaningful  penalties against acts of the Board amounting to absolute immunity; and inadequate fair election procedures as found in public elections.

In all practicality, the HOA private government is based on a business model and not a municipality model, and whoever described a business as being democratic?  As such, following the business model, the HOA is a one-party government; the party of the incumbents who control the selection of candidates, who can vote, and the election procedures designed to keep the establishment in power.

Here’s what Gandhi had to say about one-party governments and democracy. With the independence of India from British control in 1947, Mahatma Gandhi reflected on the dominance of the Indian National Congress Party over the newly formed government.

“[Gandhi] realized that a one-party system could actually be a no-party system, for when the government and party are one, the party is a rubber stamp and leads only to a fictitious existence.

‘Without free criticism and potent opposition, democracy dies.

‘Without political criticism and opposition, a nation’s intellect, culture and public morality stagnate; big men are purged and small men become kowtowing pygmies. The leaders surround themselves with cowards, sycophants and groveling yes-men whose automatic approval is misread as a tribute to greatness.’”

(The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, Louis Fischer, The Eaton Press, collector’s edition (1988, initially 1950).

The common culture within the HOA-Land Nation treats any criticism, any opposition, any independent thought not supported or approved by the board of directors as subversive. The members are inculcated into adopting and supporting this attitude and treat such views as harmful to the peace and harmony of the community.  Committees of members — opposing political parties – are attacked and treated with hostility. Free political speech and dissent is not tolerated.  

With 23% plus Americans living in HOA-Land, the HOA culture has had its effect on national, state and local politics; ignoring the Constitution and laws of the land are easily acceptable and do not constitute a problem for HOA members. 

Lost HOA Constitution webinar complete videos

This post allows access to 3 webinar videos on Restoring the Constitution to HOA-Land. The quality improves as I go on — it’s the content, the material, that’s important to learn and understand.

For best viewing press the ‘expand’ icon (lower right) for full screen viewing. Place cursor over video to select menu.

HOA board education in constitutionality

HOAs have, as local private governments are not subject to the Constitution, created divisiveness and a separation from the greater public community resulting in member confusion regarding the law and their constitutional rights and protections. StarMan Group presents an online educational series, with numerous authorities, to instruct HOA boards in regard to their obligations “in the best interests of the members”.

This HOA educational series to reorient HOA boards and the public in general is available online under the collection, “Restoring the Lost Constitution to HOA-Land”:

1) HOA Common Sense: rejecting private government, a summary of 6 constitutional defects,

2) The HOA-Land Nation Within America, presenting the scope of outlaw private governments that deny constitutional protections,

3) The Plan to Restructure the Model of HOA Governance that advances an approach to restore the Constitution to HOAs while keeping the desired benefits of the “real estate package,” and

4) Establishing the New America of Independent HOA Principalities,” a history of the HOA scheme.

For a historical perspective of HOA-Land, see: 1) The Homes Associations Handbook (ULI, 1964). (Not publicly available but I have a copy of the 434 page document); 2) Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government (1994), Evan McKenzie; and 3) Community Associations: The Emergence and Acceptance of a Quiet Innovation in Housing (2000), Donald R. Stable. (ULI and CAI production).

CAI School faculty advice – managing HOAs

I have described the CAI School of HOA Governance in an earlier post. In short its programs educate and promote the biased CAI view of governing HOAs.[1] I consider the School’s faculty consisting of those learned professionals, real estate attorneys, CAI former Trustees and national Presidents and some misguided constitutional attorneys and nonprofit organizations.

The latest School pronouncements come from a highly respected real estate attorney that is deeply involved in CAI, Kelly G. Richardson.[2] In view of his background and publications, seminars and speeches, I consider him to be part of the of the CAI School faculty that sets CAI’s objectives, missions and programs. Note that Richardson’s profile shows no credentials or expertise to speak about corporation management or governance, or constitutional or municipal laws.

Yet he feels free to speak outside his expertise about HOA governance that I maintain is founded on real estate equitable servitudes, covenants running with the land, where “The policy makers have failed to understand that the HOA CC&Rs have crossed over the line between purely property restrictions to establishing unregulated and authoritarian private governments.”[3] Richardson, with all due respect, does not have the credentials to advise HOA directors on governing the HOA.

In his “Homefront: Fiduciary Duty” article[4] he takes the time to clarify in some detail, finally for the members, that the BOD (board of directors) acts in the interests of the corporation and not the individual member. That’s straight corporation law not HOA law. However, I’m confused by the following statement: “If the director were a fiduciary to the individual member, that pursuit of delinquency or violation would breach the duty of loyalty toward that member, but the loyalty is to the corporation.” Richardson seems to be saying that indeed a director has a fiduciary duty to the member but that duty to the HOA comes first.

Then he goes on to advise directors that a dissenting director, one who voted in the minority, owes his allegiance to the HOA and must muzzle himself.

“Even though the director believes the decision is a poor one, the director’s loyalty to the corporation compels the director to support and not frustrate the board’s decision.” This appears to be one of the fundamental flawed teachings of the CAI School, never go against the HOA or BOD. Never! It is contrary to all expert advise on effective and productive management[5] or city management.[6]

Richardson closes with advice on the need to conduct due diligence so the director can fulfill his duty to the HOA.

“The duty of care requires directors to have sufficient information from qualified persons to make the decision.” But then comes the plug for CAI, “Savvy directors know their role as directors is to make good decisions and not to advise, and so support hiring outside experts for advice.”

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.”

 Once again Richardson is advising directors to remain silent and to trust in the experts adding support to my earlier assertion, BODs, in general, resort to CAI not for legal advice on how to run the HOA government but as a crutch to allow them to dodge their obligations to govern the people.”[7] His managerial advice does not come from any credentials in political science, or constitutional law, or municipal government, but as a real estate professional espousing the CAI School of HOA Governance model of contractual, private, local government. In short, by fear mongering, it gives credence to the view that the HOA lawyers control the BODs.

Indoctrination “is the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.” Over the years CAI has been very successful in indoctrinating all the people: the policymakers, the state legislators, the state real estate departments, the media and the homebuyers. Richardson’s article justifies the need for a restructuring of the independent HOA principality and a reorienting the board of directors away from the CAI School doctrine.[8]

 Notes

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] See in general Restructuring HOAs: “CAI School and member benefits” pt. 2.

[4] HOA Homefront: Fiduciary Duty – What It Is, And Is NOT, The Public Record, (Feb. 26, 2020).

[5] See for example: Are You Creating ‘Yes Men’ And Hindering Your Own Leadership Success?”, Terin Allen, Forbes.com (Nov. 10, 2018). “In my experience, most people get this way because they are responding to a culture or people in management who elicit and reward this type of behavior. . . . [in order to] survive on a dysfunctional leadership landscape where all the signals and messages confirm for them that dissent is bad and agreement is good.”; “7 Ways “Yes People” Can Destroy Your Business,” Barry Moltz, American Express Company (May 27, 2013). “Yes people don’t tell the truth. They only tell the . . . business owner what they want to hear. This doesn’t help a leader, who needs the whole story, good and bad, to operate a business. It only serves to increase your vulnerability.”

[6] Orville W. Powell, City Management: Keys to Success, AuthorHouse (2002). Powell “is recognized in this country and internationally as an expert in the field of city administration.”

[7] See Restructuring the HOA model.

[8] See HOAs are in need of a major restructuring.