SB 1468 is one of three bills that will put into place strong and effective penalties against HOA boards who use the threat of law suits to intimidate and punish homeowners into keeping their mouths shut. This bill will hold directors personally liable for the HOA’s attorneys fees if they lose in court.
This long needed enforcement of HOA laws against the boards, rather than just the members, comes about as a result of the HOA industry failing to police itself and to oppose intentional and rogue HOA violators. HOA lobbyists pay lip service to the ”5%” bad boards, but oppose any meaningful attempt to reign them in, a gross failure to act as a good corporate citizenship. Well, it’s time to pay the piper! HOAs “have gotten away with murder” against widows, retirees, single parents, minorities, and those who do not have the money or stamina to buck the HOA. Many of which are simply having the board to just comply with the law and governing documents.
Not only are the boards themselves directly at fault, they are also guilty of abdicating their duties and responsibilities under the law and governing documents to their hired hands, the attorneys and management firms. They are negligent in allowing their agents to act without accountability and without proper oversight and restrictions. The HOA attorneys make money win or lose by going to court. The HOA attorneys often step across the line and collude with the president and wayward boards to violate the laws and governing documents under the excuse of “in defense of my client.” They violate Arizona R. Civ. P. 11(a) (federal rule 11(b)) that requires,
The signature of an attorney or party constitutes a certificate . . . that to the best of the signer’s knowledge, information and belief formed after reasonable inquiry it [the complaint] is well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law . . . and that it is not interposed for any improper purpose, such as to harass . . . or needlessly increase the cost of litigation.
and Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct, 1.2(d), counseling client to break the law, and 1.13(b), Organization as Client, with respect to knowledge of client breaking the law.
Former Arizona Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission Chair, David D. Dodge, wrote about attorney “overzealousness” in the June 2005 edition of Arizona Attorney. (See my Commentary, HOA attorney fiduciary duty to homeowners).
The pro-HOA forces will immediately cry, “NO one will want to become a board member and the HOA will fail.” Well, I got news. Not too many members are rushing to become board members today, anyway. This bill requires the legislators to not only make a just and proper approval of the SB 1468, but to take a proper and just ethical and moral stand against authoritarian, undemocratic private governments that abuse the citizens of Arizona. Violations of the laws and our principles of democratic government cannot be allowed to continue! There are existing legal mechanisms today — just as there are mechanisms for HOAs to obtain public street variances, but HOAs prefer their independent principality status rather than be part of the greater community — that will maintain the perceived planned community benefits while holding the HOA government subject to the 14th Amendment as required of all government entities. (See A proposal for the “Muni-zation” of HOAs; Stop developers from granting private government charters).
Homeowners in HOAs have been waiting a long, long time for effective enforcement against HOA violators. Passing SB 1468 would be a very good start!
PS. The other bills are HB 2445 and SB 1240.
SB 1468 changes to the law
Notwithstanding any provision in the condominium documents, if a unit owner incurs attorney fees in a court action between the condominium or the board and the unit owner regarding enforcement of the condominium documents and the unit owner substantially prevails in the action, the following apply:
1. The members of the board of directors who voted on the record to support the court action against the unit owner are personally liable to the association for attorney fees and costs incurred by the association in the action.
2. If there is no record of who voted to support the court action against the unit owner, all of the members of the board of directors are personally liable to the association for attorney fees and costs incurred by the association in the action.