Desert Mountain opinion (AZ) constitutionality – part 2

Introduction

This 2-part Commentary on the H-O-A amendment boilerplate process entails a number of complex constitutional issues that are interlinked.  Discussing one results in discussing another, etc. in order to fully understand the validity of the H-O-A legal scheme.  [quote — ]You can’t see the forest for the trees[  –unquote  ] is the result of this complexity obfuscated by the Restatement and by the national pro-H-O-A special interest lobbyists.

In Part 1 I discussed 5 selected views by the appellate court that I see as constitutional challenges.   Herein Part 2 I present constitutionality challenges in regard to 1)  the bias found in the  Restatement of Servitudes,[1] a legal authority on court decisions and common law in favor of the H-O-A legal scheme, and 2) the freedom to contract doctrine[2] and its bearing on whether people are truly free to enter an H-O-A private government contract.

The Arizona appellate court ruling in Nicdon v. Desert Mountain[3] with respect to a CC&Rs amendment needs to be appealed to the AZ supreme court. In Part 1,  I raised the question of an on color of law denial of fundamental rights to property; on violations of the equal protection of the laws.   

Disclaimer: Understanding that in spite of my 20+ years reading hundreds of federal and state supreme court and appellate court opinions, I am not a lawyer nor am I employed by a lawyer; I only offer my views.

. . . .

Restatement of Property: Servitudes

In Item 5 of Part 1, I raised my concern that the Court relied on the Restatement of Servitudes quoting, [quote — ]A restrictive covenant is generally valid unless it is illegal or unconstitutional or violates public policy[  –unquote  ].[4]  The Restatement (American Law Institute) is accepted as legal authority even though it seems to be advancing ought to be or societal goals rather than reporting the law and factual court decisions.  

[quote — ]The Institute’s mission is [quote — ]to promote the clarification and simplification of the law and its better adaptation to social needs, to secure the better administration of justice, and to encourage and carry on scholarly and scientific legal work.[  –unquote  ] It achieves this goal through the development of Institute projects, which are categorized as Restatements, Codes, or Principles. . . . Restatements are primarily addressed to courts and aim at clear formulations of common law and its statutory elements, and reflect the law as it presently stands or might appropriately be stated by a court.[  –unquote  ][5]

The opening sentence above is the heart of the problem.  It presumes that justice is accomplished through ALI’s promotion of current court decisions, which in turn, are the reflection of a bias as  to what constitutes [quote — ]a better adaption to social needs.[  –unquote  ]  It flies in the face of  long standing constitutional doctrine on the legitimacy of the law and the consent of the governed.   It opens up to the controversy regarding the extent to which people may associate and establish contracts under freedom to and freedom of contract.

This 2000 update and marked rewrite began in 1987, 13 years ago. It is now another 21 years of substantive changes in the laws and public policy; H-O-As have now been institutionalized and accepted as [quote — ]this is he way it is.[  –unquote  ]  This is quite clear from the Forward (emphasis added):

 [quote — ]Professor Susan French [Reporter (chief editor/contributor) for this Restatement] begins with the assumption . . . that we are willing to pay for private government because we believe it is more efficient than [public] government  . . . . Therefore this Restatement is enabling toward private government, so long as there is full disclosure . . . .[  –unquote  ]

And we know there is an absence of full disclosure that amounts to misrepresentation.  Sadly, there is evidence of contradictory statements aiding and abetting this misrepresentation even in the Restatement that is used as legal authority by the courts. While the Court quoted comment a of §3.1[6] (see [quote — ]Contractual freedoms[  –unquote  ] below), it omitted comment h, which reads, [quote — ]in the event of a conflict between servitudes law and the law applicable to the association form [its private contractual nature], servitudes law should control.[  –unquote  ]

In addition, while the court referenced §6.10 it unbelievably failed to reject §6.13, comment a, which states: [quote — ]The question whether a servitude unreasonably burdens a fundamental constitutional right is determined as a matter of property law, and not constitutional law.[  –unquote  ]

Need I say more about securing the [quote — ]better administration of justice[  –unquote  ]?  Certainly not for the affected people — the H-O-A homeowners.  ALI is guilty of bias against the homeowners, the [quote — ]patients,[  –unquote  ] as analogous to the medical profession with its high degree of specialization where, working on the same body, the left hand doesn’t know about, or doesn’t care about, what the right hand is doing at the same time. 

If it is true and believable that laws are to provide justice, as widely proclaimed, the courts and the lawmakers must consider the effects of both hands on the patient. ALI must adjust its approach and remove these pro-H-O-A views and make references to applicable constitutional law.  ALI must also recognize that H-O-As are another form of local government that is not subject to the Constitution, and remove §6.13, comment a. 

The policy makers have failed to understand that the H-O-A CC&Rs have crossed over the line between purely property restrictions to establishing unregulated and authoritarian private governments.

Section 6 of the Restatement, Part D, Governance of Common – Interest Communities, attempts to deal with the governance of H-O-As in general. Section 6.16 addresses representative government.  It does not read at all like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights.

Contractual freedoms and consent to be bound

Let’s begin with the excerpt from Desert Mountain opinion  in Part 1(1) linking the binding of the CC&Rs [quote — ]contract[  –unquote  ] by deed acceptance to the implicit consent to be bound in a single quote (emphasis added),

[quote — ]By accepting a deed in the Desert Mountain planned community, the [homeowner]  became bound by the Declaration, including properly adopted amendments. . . . when [a] homeowner takes [a] deed containing restriction allowing amendment by majority vote, homeowner implicitly consents to any subsequent majority vote to modify or extinguish deed restrictions[  –unquote  ].

By this doctrine, contract law 101 is ignored in favor of servitude law, as the Restatement advises  and an implicit waiver and surrender of a fundamental property right is accepted as valid, thereby treating the homeowner as a second-class citizen.  It does not do justice for the homeowner and should be held as an illegitimate exercise of police power by the legislature.

 In Item 5 of Part 1, I also raised the matter of the freedom to contract doctrine as contained in comment (a) of  the Restatement’s §3.1  that I now discuss in some detail here due to its constitutional complexity.

‘‘In general, parties may contract as they wish [freedom to contract] , and the courts will enforce their agreements without passing on the substance . . . The principle of freedom of contract is rooted in the notion that it is in the public interest to recognize that individuals have broad powers to order their own lives.’[  –unquote  ]   

In opposition to the above, I raised the following questions  years ago in 2005,

[quote — ]When did ‘whatever the people privately contract’ dominate the protections of the U.S. Constitution?  Please state what, if any, are the government’s interests in supporting H-O-As that deny the people their constitutional rights?[  –unquote  ]

I have not received an answer from any party including constitutional think tanks, state legislators, attorney generals, or the media.  It’s obvious that in any reply they [quote — ]would be defending the indefensible![  –unquote  ]

Freedom to contract; implied consent to be bound

The simplistic argument that remaining in the H-O-A implies consent is answered, in general,  by political scientist, professor of constitutional law, and author Randy Barnett,

Simply remaining in this country, however, is highly ambiguous. It might mean that you consent to be bound by the laws . . . or it might mean that you have a good job and could not find a better one [elsewhere] . . . or that you do not want to leave your loved ones behind. It is simply unwarranted that to conclude from the mere act of remaining . . . that one has consented to all and any of the laws thereof.[  –unquote  ][7]

I broadly address the consent issue in H-O-A Common Sense, No. 4: Consent to be governed[8]  (2008).  A deeper discussion can be found in H-O-A consent to agree vs. [quote — ]the will of the majority[  –unquote  ] (2019) wherein I quote constitutional scholars Randy Barnett, Keith E. Whittingham, and Edwin Meese.[9]

The important, selected, noteworthy quotes shown below bear directly on the defects in the top-down, take it-or leave it CC&Rs:

[quote — ]Tacit consent purports to provide a rationale for obligating those of us, by chance or choice, have not made their approval of the government explicit [Whittingham].[  –unquote  ]

[quote — ]The [quote — ]consent of the governed[  –unquote  ] stands in contrast to [quote — ]the will of the majority[  –unquote  ] . . . consent is the means whereby arbitrary power is thwarted [Meese].[  –unquote  ]

[quote — ]A law may be ‘valid’ because it was produced in accordance with all the procedures required by a particular lawmaking system, [the H-O-A amendment procedure, for example] but be ‘illegitimate’ because these procedures were inadequate to provide assurances that a law is just’ [Barnett].[  –unquote  ]

US Supreme Court must decide

I have informed readers about the  sticky-wicket that ties all these constitutional questions together as applied to the H-O-A legal structure and scheme; a sticky-wicket that must be resolved once and for all by the US Supreme Court.

References


[1] Restatement (3rd), Property: Servitudes, Susan F. French, Reporter, American Law Institute (2000).

[2] The question of  [quote — ]legitimacy of consent[  –unquote  ] is explored by Randy Barnett in his publications where he argues that there are limitations.  Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty, Randy E. Barnett, Part 1, Princeton University Press, 2004). 

[3] Nicdon v. Desert Mountain, No. 1 CA-CV 20-0129 (April 29, 2021).  

[4] Supra n.1, §3.3(1).

[5] [quote — ]How the Institute Works,[  –unquote  ] American Law Institute (ALI),website (May 3, 2011).

[6] This section of the Restatement, Validity of Servitude Arrangements, speaks to unconstitutional servitudes (§3.1(d)) and servitudes violating public policy (3.1(e)).  Worth reading.

[7] Supra n.3, p.19.

[8] See H-O-A Common Sense: rejecting private government (2008) pamphlet on Amazon.

[9] Barnett, supra n. 3; Whittingham, [quote — ]Chapter 5, Popular Sovereignty and Originalism,[  –unquote  ] Constitutional Interpretation, Univ. Press of Kansas (1999); Meese, [quote — ]What the Constitution Means,[  –unquote  ] The Heritage Guide to the Constitution (2005). Meese was the US Attorney General under Ronald Reagan.

Desert Mountain opinion (AZ) constitutionality part 1

The Arizona appellate court ruling in Nicdon v. Desert Mountain[1] needs to be appealed to the AZ supreme court on color of law denial of fundamental rights to property; on violations of the equal protection of the laws.  While the issue at hand was an amendment to restrict short-term rentals to just 30 days, it raised several constitutional concerns.

It is unfortunate that the Court relied on earlier HOA case law as precedent.  When these older decisions are quoted and cited, they must be reviewed and rebutted along constitutional concerns. 

Disclaimer: Understanding that in spite of my 20+ years reading hundreds of federal and state supreme court and appellate court opinions, I am not a lawyer nor am I employed by a lawyer; I only offer my views.

. . . .

With respect to Desert Mountain, the following are quotes from the opinion  that I find contentious and worthy of constitutional challenges.

1.  “By accepting a deed in the Desert Mountain planned community, Nicdon became bound by the Declaration, including properly adopted amendments. . . . when [a] homeowner takes [a] deed containing restriction allowing amendment by majority vote, homeowner implicitly consents to any subsequent majority vote to modify or extinguish deed restrictions”.

Surprise! Surprise! “Implicit consents”  means not clearly stated. This is a reality hidden from and not made known to the buyer at closing by the builder, the HOA, or the real estate agent, thus raising full disclosure of material facts violations. Meanwhile the courts, and CAI, have repeatedly upheld the validity of the CC&Rs as a bona fide contract against homeowners.

2.  “In addition, in interpreting contracts, “we attempt to reconcile and give effect to all terms . . . to avoid any term being rendered superfluous.”  The Court accepts CC&Rs as a valid contract.  Based on (1) above, this is an unequal protection of the laws and a due process violation resulting from misrepresentation of material facts.

3.  “In adopting the Amendment, Desert Mountain properly followed the procedures laid out in its governing documents.”  Under contract law this can be seen as an invalid “agreement to agree.”   The homeowner raised the issue of an unreasonable addition to the CC&Rs, but the Court saw it differently.  The real argument, in my mind, was the invalid agreement to agree and therefore,  a taking of personal property without compensation not permitted under the federal and Arizona constitutions.

Although no such restrictions explicitly appeared in the Declaration when Nicdon’s principals purchased their home, they could have reasonably anticipated further restriction or expansion on matters within the scope of the Declaration’s regulation.”

There are no grounds for holding that a member “could have reasonably anticipated further restriction or expansion on matters. . . .”  It’s dictum.  The governing documents are not set up for handling agreements to agree on broad and unreasonable amendments that are NOT negotiated with the members. Voting for the amendment is not negotiating. Many members speaking out on contract matters is not negotiating one-to-one. But, in order to make the HOA work, the amendment process, following public processes, rejects contract validity.  We have unequal protection of the law.

Also, is this an open-ended procedure  making the covenant invalid? “Some courts have concluded that an agreement to negotiate at a later date is an unenforceable agreement to agree. . . . But other courts have distinguished unenforceable agreements to agree from valid agreements to negotiate in good faith.”[2]

4.  “Given these provisions, as well as the comprehensive nature of the Declaration and its amendment procedures, a prospective purchaser of a lot in the community would reasonably be on notice their property would be regulated by extensive use restrictions, including limitations on renting of homes, subject to amendment in accordance with the Section 5.20 process.”

I would argue that a buyer would “reasonably be on notice their property would be regulated by extensive use restrictions” is  an abuse of discretion in that reasonableness is with regard to the content of the amendment and not the notice of an amendment.  It is obvious that there is no provision for negotiations with the homeowner.  The governing documents amendment provisions are set up as if it were a local government and not a one-to-one contract. It needs further explanation.

5.  “A restrictive covenant is generally valid unless it is illegal or unconstitutional or violates public policy” was quoted from the Restatement (Third) of Property (Servitudes) § 3.1(1). 

The Court added §3.1(1)),

 “this concept “applies the modern principle of freedom to contract,” which generally means that courts will enforce parties’ agreements “without passing on their substance.”. . . .  A restriction may violate public policy for several reasons, including if the restriction is “arbitrary, spiteful, or capricious.

I will forego a discussion of freedom to contract[3] and the reliance on the Restatement of Servitudes,[4] which I find biased in its support of HOA and not an independent reporter on common law and court decisions.  Part 2 will go into these complex but highly relevant constitutional issues relating to the HOA legal scheme.

. . . .

What has been lacking in HOA litigation over the years, with all due respect to homeowner champion lawyers, is constitutional law expertise.  I’ve read too many cases that touched upon constitutional arguments like free speech, due process, and equal protection of the laws but failed to delve deeply into these defects in the HOA legal scheme.

  The broad approach successfully used by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her women’s rights litigation needs to be adopted here. And, as usual, CAI was there representing the HOA or by filing amicus curiae briefs.

References


[1]   Nicdon v. Desert Mountain, No. 1 CA-CV 20-0129 (April 29, 2021).

[2] The Lawletter Blog, The National Legal Research Group, (April 30, 2021).

[3] The question of  “freedom to contract” is explored by Randy Barnett where he argues that there are limitations. Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty, Randy E. Barnett, Princeton University Press, (2004).

[4] Restatement (3rd) Property: Servitudes (American Law Institute 2000).


Goldwater Institute ignores HOA unconstitutionality

Reading through the highly respected Christina Sandefur’s paper in the Harvard Law Journal,[1] I was deeply disturbed by the absence of any discussion of similar conduct by homeowners associations (HOAs). Her paper criticized city ordinance prohibitions on short-term home rentals. “These cities treat home sharing itself as the crime.” It is a dangerous proposition that government . . . [to] be able to criminalize violations of that judgment” [“on how to use their properties”].

Yet, in her one single sentence, Sanderfur holds HOAs harmless that, by means of the governing documents, use their “police powers” to prohibit short-term rentals and from criminalizing such acts by their members. While that may be the role of a homeowner association when people contract to determine to how to use their properties, a city government should not have that power.”

Sanderfur’s arguments against government statutory prohibitions, include in part,

  • “Cities look at this as a way to increase revenues” by imposition of fines,
  • “They get to outlaw the activity,”
  • Intimidate residents [of the city] into giving up their property rights”,
  • “This is not only abhorrent public policy, and
  • “It is also unconstitutional”.

It seems that these arguments apply to HOAs also, but it appears that nobody is listening. I do not understand and cannot understand this blindness to the constitutional issues surrounding HOAs, especially from the prestigious, defending the Constitution, public interest Goldwater Institute.

What is the rationale behind this blindness when there is substantial legal authority in support of unconstitutionality, from the basic outlaw government of independent principalities that reject the US Constitution,[2] to placing the doctrine of equitable servitudes property law over constitutional law and contract law;[3] to gross misrepresentation in the selling and marketing of HOAs that invalidate and thought of a bona fide consent to be bound.[4]

When will Goldwater question the constitutionality of the HOA model of government? Why is Goldwater viewing an HOA just as a real estate subdivision package of amenities, landscaping, homes and not as a distinct form of local government[5] functioning outside the laws of the land as an outlaw government.

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.” (George K. Staropoli).

 CIDS [HOAs] currently engage in many activities that would be prohibited  if they were viewed  by the courts as the equivalent of local governments.[6]

There is no compelling and necessary justification for HOA special treatment. It’s time to end these outlaw private governments that violate even the most liberal home rule, self-governing provisions of state laws and constitutions.[7]

I do not see Goldwater’s name on the list of Arizona’s Request to Speak positions on SB 1412,[8] a bill prohibiting HOAs from restricting the political free speech rights of homeowners in regard to political issues within the HOA community. California just passed SB 323, a progressive bill supporting homeowner rights, and Florida has SB 623 in the works also seeking homeowner rights and freedoms within the HOA legal structure.[9] This a very good time for Goldwater to speak out on this bill and HOA member rights, freedoms and privileges and immunities as US citizens.

 

The Goldwater Institute, including Sanderfur, has been on my distribution list for some time as well as Victor Riches, President & CEO, whom I met and discussed HOA problems as far back as the early 2000s when he was an Arizona legislative staff analyst. I also met with and discussed HOAs with Clint Bolick, now AZ Supreme Court Justice, who in 2013 accepted my request for legal assistance to sue the State of Arizona. He was preempted by Tim Hogan of ACLPI.[10] It was with Nick Dranias that I had a pleasant Arizona Capital Times exchange on HOA issues.[11] He offered, privately, some advice that I have incorporated into my Truth In HOAs position and Homeowner Declaration.

 

Notes

[1] Christina Sandefur, “Turning Entrepreneurs into Outlaws,” p. 45 et seq., Harv. J.L. & Policy, Winter 2020. Sanderfur is an Exec. VP, Goldwater Institute.

[2] See The HOA Principality (2005); HOA-Land: the product of the decline in democratic institutions in America. (2018).

[3] The Restatement advises judges — and is regarded as precedent — that its collection of laws known as HOA law dominates all others.   Section 6.13, comment a, states: “The question whether a servitude unreasonably burdens a fundamental constitutional right is determined as a matter of property law, and not constitutional law”. Section 3.1, comment h, states: “in the event of a conflict between servitudes law and the law applicable to the association form, servitudes law should control.” See CC&Rs are a devise for de facto HOA governments to escape constitutional government (2015).

[4] See HOA consent to agree vs. “the will of the majority”. (2019).

[5] The four recognized types of local government are : commission, and council-manager, the most prevalent. See in general, Roger L. Kemp, “Forms of Governance,” Managing America’s Cities: A Handbook for Local Government Productivity, McFarland & Co., (2007).

[6] Evan McKenzie, Privatopia: Homeowners Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Governments, Yale Univ. Press, 1994.

[7] See in general, HOAs violate local home rule doctrine and are outlaw governments, concluding paragraph. (2014).

[8] AZ RTS positions as of today, March 4, 2020.

[9] See Toward a democratic HOA subject to the Constitution (2020).

[10] See AZ Attorney General admits SB 1454 HOA to be invalid and without effect (2013).

[11] See Goldwater Institute: regulating HOAs “stands Constitution on its head” (2008).

The continuing saga of Brown vs Terravita HOA. Can CC&Rs amendments violate state law?

Summary

The AZ appellate court is deciding whether or not to permit an attorney fees award resulting from an ALJ decision not involving a contract. The law says no, but Terravita’s HOA attorneys think differently and managed to get a CC&Rs amendment passed that permits just such a violation of state law.  Brown, the homeowner/plaintiff, had filed a complaint against state statutes and not against the CC&Rs. Furthermore, the amendment does not represent a majority or supermajority vote, but a minority vote based on a 2010 “minority control” CC&Rs amendment.  In other words, Terravita has become an oligarchy in fact.  Will this influence the court’s decision?

Case history

Terravita is a1300 resident, more or less, HOA in Scottsdale, AZ, with country club and golf included.  William Brown is a long-time resident who has been active in challenging the Terravita board for some time, winning cases.  In fact, Terravita’s insurance company has specifically set a $75,000 deductible for suits filed by Brown, just for him alone. Can you guess why?[1]

The ongoing case from 2012, filed with the OAH was decided against Brown on a question of failing to hold an evidentiary hearing for Brown’s position (regarding evidence that an executive meeting was not an executive meeting and Brown was entitled to the records). The ALJ felt the hearing was not necessary and granted summary judgment against Brown.

 The Court’s Order upheld the Administrative Law Judge’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Terravita. Thus, Terravita is entitled to its attorneys’ fees and costs as the prevailing party under A.R.S. §§ 12-341.01 and 12-341 as well as under the Amended and Restated Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions for Terravita, as amended . . . .[2]

The HOA filed for attorney fees for the OAH hearing and for appellate costs. Uncertain that, in this ongoing case, Terravita will prevail under 12-341.01 and case history, which supports nonpayment of attorney fees in ALJ cases, Ekmark (The law firm of Ekmark & Ekmark) first argues that Brown is none other than “Bad, bad [Bill] Brown, meanest guy in the whole damned town”[3] (my words).  The application for fees, in my view, character assassinates and libels Brown using Uyleman v. D.S. Rentco to defend its claim for a discretionary fee award. Brown is described as:

This lawsuit was both unfounded and trifling. It was nothing more than an attempt to harass and burden the Terravita community . . . Plaintiff proceeded to waste the resources of the Court and Terravita by appealing this meritless case. . . . The burden of defending these spurious claims should not fall on innocent homeowners. Rather, it should fall on the Plaintiff who filed this action and appeal with no legal basis and with no reason other than to harass Terravita.

Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

In my view, this argument is a weak one designed to attack Brown. The second, but questionable, argument advanced by Terravita relates to the 2013 amended CC&Rs that permit such attorney fees in contradiction to state law.  (It raises questions of, who’s in charge?  The state? The municipality? The HOA? The HOA lawyers? Who??)  But in order to do so, Ekmark must claim that the OAH issue pertained contract and fees are payable under ARS  12-341.01.

Brown filed for a review and a superior court appeal of the decision, and then filed the ongoing appeal in the appellate court against the attorney fee award, CA-CV2014-000455.  He counters with, “The claim for attorneys’ fees under TCA’ s amended and restated declaration, in addition to defying credulity, is a misplaced transparent ex post facto attempt to trump well-settled Arizona law.”[4]

Brown presents his argument that the case is not a contract case but a violation of state law, having filed the OAH petition as a violation of state law, not of the CC&Rs.  (This is the question that should be before the courts, not one advanced after the fact by the attorneys in order to claim fees.) Apparently Brown’s wording was intentional, anticipating the HOA’s recourse to the 2013 amended CC&Rs.

Can CC&Rs covenants violate the Constitution or state law?

Under The Restatement (3rd) Servitudes, section 3.1,[5] the answer to the above question is NO!  As I wrote in 2005,[6]

When did “whatever the people privately contract” dominate the protections of the U.S. Constitution?

At the heart of the matter is the continued replacement of democratic local government, governments subject to the U.S. Constitution and 14th Amendment prohibitions, with contractual, authoritarian private governments that are not subject to the prohibitions of the 14th Amendment.

Can you and I contract to not pay income taxes?  Heavens no! But, can the HOA contract via amendments or rules to lower speed limits on public streets within its community? The courts would probably uphold the HOA’s position under 1) a validly adopted amendment, 2) members agreed to be bound by the governing documents, and 3) if the amendment is more restrictive than state law or ordinance.

What gives? Why the difference?  I’ve seen court decisions based on the business judgment rule,   (the board knows best), the amendment is in the best interests of the entire membership, and it’s the voice of the majority of the members.  But, this is not the case with Terravita and the attorney fees amendment.

Let’s go back to the 2010 Terravita amendment that was approved by the members allowing amendments to be passed by a minority of the membership,[7] contravening prevailing doctrine that supermajority approval was necessary for amending constitutions or charter.

Think for a moment.  If a minority can control the amendment process, it can control the HOA by enacting amendments that further strengthen the powers of the incumbent board.  Given the fact that the rogue boards are dominated by their HOA attorneys, minority control solidifies the political machines as the power elite.[8]

Consequently, as best as can be determined, the Terravita attorney fee amendment of 2013 passed with only 38% of the membership, although the board announced a misleading 90% approval. Based on Terravita’s email that 571 ballots were received, 90% would mean just 514 members approved the amendments or 38% overall membership approval.  Not even a majority!

OMG, the minority can speak for the majority, binding all of them to the amendments. So much for the board speaks for the majority of members. So much for HOAs being democratic.  Members who do not vote cannot be considered as approving the amendments.  Another democratic principal fallen by the wayside.

All brought to you under the advice and supervision of Ekmark, a CAI CCAL attorney.

Fortunately, a year later an Arizona bill, HB 2441, with similar provisions was put forth by another CAI CCAL member, Scott Carpenter, and failed. Carpenter characterized the bill as, “This change would enable community association to change their documents without onerous approval requirements that count a failure to participate as a ‘no’ vote.”[9]  In other words, create an oligarchy like Terravita with control by the few, and guided by attorneys, the HOA philosopher-kings.

In conclusion, how will the Arizona appellate court decide this case against Terravita?  For the survival of the defective  HOA regardless of the harm to the principals of our system of government, or will the court stand up and be counted, saying enough is enough?

References

[1] It would seem that the insurance company was going to pull its E & O insurance, but settled for this arrangement.

[2] Terravita’s application for attorneys’ fees  for (Ekmark & Ekmark)

[3] Jim Croce lyrics from Bad, Bad Leroy Brown:

“And it’s bad, bad Leroy Brown The baddest man in the whole damned town Badder than old King Kong And meaner than a junkyard dog.”

[4] See Brown’s 22 page opening brief, 1 CA-CV2014-000455, 9-16-2015. In addition, the amendment to § 17.08 only grants attorney fees to the HOA if it wins; the homeowner gets nothing.

[5] “A servitude . . . is valid unless it is illegal or unconstitutional or violates public policy [being]  a servitude that is arbitrary, spiteful, or capricious.”

[6] HOA reforms needed to guarantee U.S. Constitutional protections.

[7] Section 17.02 of the 2-10-2010 amended CC&Rs: “This Declaration may be amended by the affirmative vote or written consent, or any combination thereof, of the Owners holding not less than two-thirds (2/3) of the votes cast, provided that the total vote equals or exceeds Quorum.” A quorum being 1/3 of the membership.  Thus 1/3 of 2/3 = 307 affirmative votes out of 1380 members.

[8] See Beware the folly of eliminating supermajority voting for amending the HOA CC&Rs; HOA democracy at work: dysfunctional adoption of amendments by minority vote.

[9] Carpenter Hazlewood Delgado & Wood blog of Jan. 18, 2011, written by Scott Carpenter, “HB2441 – CC&R Amendments.”

The unconstitutional delegation of implied rulemaking powers to HOAs

Here I present evidence of the explicit and implicit delegation of rulemaking powers to HOAs, which, if not unconstitutional, would alone establish HOAs as state actors.

In an earlier Commentary[1] I discussed the implied delegation of legislative functions to HOA private governments. Putting the issue in simple terms, I quoted Stephen Wermiel’s comments on a constitutional delegation case before the US Supreme Court,

The dispute before the [Supreme] Court . . . [involves] the even less well-known principle that Congress may not delegate legislative authority to private entities. . . . [T]he Justices must decide if the authority given to Amtrak by federal law is legislative in nature, and whether Amtrak is a private corporation or a public entity.[2]

“Rulemaking” is a term that deals with the grant of legislative powers to state agencies and, in a more restrictive mode, to private entities. It is the authority to adopt rules that have the effect of law, which can be found in the federal and state Administrative Procedures Acts (APA)[3]. The point is that the term “rulemaking” is a state agency process and is not found in the nonprofit corporation law even though these nonprofits have rules.

However, it has been applied to the supposedly nongovernmental, private nonprofit HOA corporation. In Tierra Rancho [4]  the court quoted The Restatement (3rd) Servitudes (the common law legal authority in the absence of statutory law) § 6.13(1)(b) and (c) in paragraph 25, “[the HOA has] the duty to ‘act reasonably in the exercise of its discretionary powers including rulemaking, enforcement, and design-control powers.’”  The HOA rulemaking powers are set forth in detail in § 6.7.

Ҥ 6.7 Power to Adopt Rules Governing Use of Property [my emphasis],

(1)        Except as limited by statute or the governing documents, a common-interest community has an implied power to adopt reasonable rules to

(b)        govern the use of individually owned property to protect the common property.”

Comment “b” to 6.7 (p. 141, second paragraph) goes even further,

Even in the absence of an express grant of authority, an association enjoys an implied power to make rules in furtherance of its power over the common property.  The association has no inherent power to regulate use of individually owned properties, however, except as implied by its responsibility for management of the common property.

And finally, examples of implied delegation of rulemaking powers can be found in state statutes.[5]

It is quite evident that the public policy of every state contains an implied delegation of legislative rulemaking powers to private HOA corporations.

Stephen Wermiel explained the non-delegation doctrine in Amtrak (my emphasis),

“[I]n theory delegation to the private sector can never be constitutional. . . . The Solicitor General argues that there is no unconstitutional delegation to a private entity because government officials retained control . . . . The Association of American Railroads (AAR) argues that the delegation to Amtrak is for actual rule-making authority and that Amtrak is . . . a private entity for purposes of the nondelegation doctrine.[6]

In regard to the Solicitor General’s argument, we know this is not true with HOA statutes.  As there is no oversight, no enforcement, and no effective penalties against HOAs that violate the law, there is no government control.[7]  Having the homeowner enforce the HOA laws does not constitute government control or oversight.  In regard to AAR’s argument, the above evidence supports an unconstitutional delegation of legislative rulemaking powers to private HOA entities.

No matter how you view the private entity non-delegation doctrine, HOA rulemaking is unconstitutional and the covenants are thereby invalid. (The Restatement, § 3.1, Validity of Servitudes, General Comments.)

 

References

[1] Unconstitutional delegation of power to HOAs.

[2] Stephen Wermiel, SCOTUS for Law Students: Non-delegation doctrine returns after long hiatus.  (SCOTUSblog Dec. 4, 2014)

[3]See federal Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. Subchapter II, § 551(4) and § 553).

[4] Tierra Ranchos HOA v. Kitchukov, 165 P.3d 173 (Ariz. App. Div. 1 2007).

[5] A sample of implied rulemaking statutes by state.  Arizona: ARS 33-1803(A) and (B) for HOAs; 33-1242(A)(1) for condos. California: Civil Code §§ 4340-4370 (Part 5, Chapter 3, Article 5, Operating Rules). Florida HOAs:  Title XL, § 720 et seq. do not explicitly address rules per se, but speak to enforceable “guidelines” and “standards”; Florida Condos:  Title XL, § 718 et seq. (in particular, § 718.1035, the general statement on “association rules”). Nevada: “NRS 116.31065  Rules.  The rules adopted by an association” (with 5 “musts” imposed on the HOA).

[6] Supra, note 2.

[7] In regard to the delegation of legislative powers to private entities, a review of the fuzzy case history of the Non-delegation doctrine indicates a constitutional requirement for governmental control or oversight of the private entity’s decisions and rules.  See “ A New Private Delegation Doctrine?”.