HOAs are another form of local government

Listening to the events concerning the shooting in Brooklyn Center, MN I was surprised to learn that its form of government is based on the council-manager system.  We are more familiar with the mayor – council or mayor – manager forms of local government where the mayor is elected and plays a major role in governing the city.[1]

However, in the council-manager form the major is a figure head with the powers to rule the city are divided between the elected city council and a city manager  appointed by the council.  Sound familiar?  Many HOA Bylaws follow the council-manager form of local government, except that the Bylaws do provide for corporation laws governing the duties of officers.  This is true of the many large HOAs and the retirement/resort subdivisions.

The division of labor and authority follows the public form in that the council holds ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the government but is restricted to policy issues, while the appointed manager actually runs the HOA. A good example can be found in an Arizona active-adult HOA of some 17,000 people.

“The affairs of the Association shall be managed by a Board of Directors which shall serve as the corporate policy-making body of the Association. . . .  The Board is not responsible for nor authorized to perform day-to-day operations of the Association. The day-to-day operations of the Association shall be carried out by CAM or agents retained by the Association under the supervision of the Board.

“Subject to the Board’s responsibilities concerning operational policies, it shall be the policy of the Association . . . that the Board refrain from unreasonably interfering with the performance of delegated functions by CAM.”

The major difference between local public government Brooklyn Center, MN and the Arizona HOA lies in the private contractual nature of the HOA that absolves it from application of the US Constitution as well as the state constitution. HOA members are, as compared to non-HOA members, therefore second-class citizens lacking constitutional protections within their own state.[2]

The $64,000 question is: So why is there so much opposition to requiring the HOA to be subject to the Constitution like all other forms of local government?  BEFORE you respond, think very carefully with respect to the implication and consequences of your response.

References


[1] See in general, Roger L. Kemp, “Forms of Governance,” Managing America’s Cities: A Handbook for Local Government Productivity, McFarland & Co., (2007). They are: Strong Mayor, Council-Manager, Town Meeting (direct or representative democracy), and Commission. See also,  Home rule doctrine vs. HOA governments; CC&Rs are a devise for de facto HOA governments to escape constitutional government.

[2] See George K. Staropoli, HOA-Land Nation Within America (2019).

CAI Manifesto – white paper

{Originally published in 2016].

This CAI ‘white paper’ cements the position that CAI is the sole competent voice for HOA matters. For those who took the time to read all four of these papers, [note 1] what should stand out is the absence of any discussion of HOAs as de facto private governments, as de facto political entities, or as quasi or mini governments both of which imply a political entity.  The reason why the authors of these papers, the elitist would be Philosopher Kings, cannot address the question of violations of the Constitution is that they would be “Defending the Indefensible.”

So, as expected of politically motivated actors, ignoring the controversy makes it go away, especially when there’s only one voice of any merit and strength.  Facts that are inconsistent with the views of CAI are dogmatically dismissed and ignored. And to this end CAI has been very successful with respect to state legislatures and the cooperating media.

“For more than 40 years, CAI has educated, advocated, published and informed people living and working in common-interest communities. Thanks to those ongoing efforts, we have a strong and valuable understanding of community associations today.[note 2]

CAI will use these papers to further indoctrinate the legislators, the media and the public that CAI is the only competent, informed, knowledgeable, educational and credentialed organization with 40 years’ experience to conduct HOA affairs and to deal with HOA issues.  “Homeowner rights advocates” are ignored and dismissed as an opposition movement.  Instead, following the lead of Arizona Rep. Ugenti who in 2013 made the following statement to the Arizona Government Committee:

Ugenti stated that each year there was “a plethora of personal HOA legislation” and tried “to spare the [committee] members the constant agony of many personal pieces of HOA legislation,” as contrasted to the industry legislation. (See video of Ugenti speech here https://youtu.be/REt_TJD-6UQ).

CAI speaks only of “individual constituents” and “isolate incidents” that do not measure up to a policy that the legislature could act on[note 3] (my emphasis):

“Lawmakers have been, and will continue to be, called upon to address concerns expressed by individual constituents who share an isolated incident that has made them unhappy with their community associations. In an effort to help constituents, lawmakers may introduce legislation addressing association governance that may increase and undermine the well-established and proven model of community association governance.

“This trend is expected to continue as long as a legislative response is considered necessary to respond to negative perceptions produced by media out of lone circumstances. Legislative responses to individual constituents contribute to community associations being perceived as over-restrictive micro-governments focused on covenant enforcement. This perception may accelerate legislative efforts aimed at greater oversight of community association governance and require greater transparency.”

They make an accurate assessment of conditions. This failure to present a unified national voice backed by credential authorities will continue to persist into the future.  If you stop CAI Central, you destroy all local CAI state chapters’ reason for being. They become just another self-serving special interest.

These papers also contain CAI attempts to influence other dominant organizations like AARP and NAR (National Assoc. of Realtors).[note 4]  Furthermore, CAI calls for not only influencing legislatures, but the judges, too.[note 5]

References


[1] Links to these papers can be found on the CAI web page, Community Next: 2020 and Beyond(May 5, 2016).

[2] Id

[3] Supra, public policy link, p. 6.

[4] Supra. n. 1, external influences link, p. 4-5.

[5] Id, p. 13-14.

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.