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.

 

The future form of HOA-Land

A little earlier I had commented that HOAs are here to stay, but face strong reforms. It was an appeal for all to get their voices heard and take the HOA-Public Attitude Survey. Allow me to clarify my position.

“HOA” has 2 common connotations: as a model of authoritarian private local government or as the real estate “package” of amenities, landscaping, and certain infrastructure. I have long maintained that the real estate package represents the end but the HOA government model is not the best means to achieve that end. And that state legislators have treated HOAs as independent principalities with their pro-HOA laws and support of de facto governments devoid of constitutional protections for HOA members.

The overwhelming reform legislation across the country presumes and accepts the validity of the governing documents and state laws. This is a loser position!

It implies the acceptance of the legitimacy of legal arguments supporting the governing documents and pro-HOA statutes. Advocates should be denying their validity and constitutionality; by failing to oppose these defensive arguments homeowners have put themselves in the weaker position of, Please sir, can I have some more justice? An example of reform legislation that challenges fundamental wrongs has been summarized in HOA Common Sense and the HOA-Land culture is presented in The HOA-Land Nation Within America .

Example: not only demanding the licensing HOA managers but holding them to the same statutes and rules   –  not CAI’s standards — as required of city/town manager; holding the BOD to the same standards as city/town councilmen. The constitutional arguments to use include: a violation of the equal protection of the law, holding the HOA as a state actor, or an unconstitutional special “franchise” of the state relating to these real estate “packages.” (“franchise: an authorization granted by a government or company to an individual or group enabling them to carry out specified commercial activities, e.g., providing a broadcasting service or acting as an agent for a company’s products.”

Advocates must not ignore these broad, constitutional arguments but educate themselves to understand them. I am urging advocates and homeowners to follow the path of the Founding Fathers who stopped toying with the Articles of Confederation as unworkable. Rather than continue to make the Articles work, they did away with them and created the Constitution of the United States.

HOA-Land will still be here but which form will it take? Spend another 30 years as before or go for fundamental reforms?