proposed HOA constitutionality bill

“Now is the time for all good homeowner advocate leaders to come to the aid of member-owners”

 living in HOAs and suffering abuse, financial and emotional distress as a result of BODs being  protected by Arizona laws. These abuses are easy to understand and support! (See HOA Common Sense: rejecting private government and The HOA-Land Nation Within America).

A quick and simple — but highly effective — bill that was proposed in March 2011 and will bring relief to homeowners being treated a second-class citizens by state laws in support of the HOA legal scheme. It was ignored by Arizona advocates and dismissed by the Legislature.

“No provision of any contract or any declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions . . . is enforceable in this state unless the party seeking to enforce the provision proves by clear and convincing evidence that 1) the provision being enforced was knowingly and voluntarily agreed to by all parties . . . . Any representation or statement offered as clear and convincing evidence . . . shall include a signed statement containing the following, beginning with “I understand that I can ask that the following be read and explained to my satisfaction.”

So reads an excerpt from my proposed “Truth in HOAs” statute that should be made law in each and every state. That is, if indeed the legislature stands by the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, which we are hearing so much about in the media nowadays.”

The “The Truth in HOAs Act,” as I called  it,  allows each state to modify the proposal in accordance with its state HOA/condo acts — shown in square brackets [].  Also, subsection (3) contains a list of acknowledgements  that can be tailored to each state’s advocate lobbying efforts.  See Arizona Truth in HOAs statute (pvtgov.org).  The essential bill section is contained in subparagraph (4).

Therefore, in reference to subsection 3(d) above, the CC&Rs or Declaration for any planned community, condominium association or homeowners association shall state that, “The association hereby waivers and surrenders any rights or claims it may have, and herewith unconditionally and irrevocably agrees to be bound by the US and State Constitutions and laws of the State as if it were a local public government entity.

 The real estate subdivision or condominium will not be affected by requiring HOAs to join with other forms of local government and be subject to the Constitution as a home rule entity.  See HOAs violate local home rule doctrine and are outlaw governments.

This 2022 legislative session offers a unique, one-time opportunity to get the message across and to educate the legislators. Remaining silent on the issues only plays into the pro-HOA hands of CAI and offers excuses by the media not to cover HOA abuse.  Not only will you find “ammunition” in support of your arguments as contained in the 2 above publications, but also in my Arizona Supreme Court  amicus brief filed and accepted in Tarter v. Bendt (see note (vi) in Can HOA members expect justice in Arizona courts?).

My arguments are summarized in the Commentary.  As is my approach, my arguments are supported by legal authority and hard evidence documents, which CAI ignores and YOU lose!  They must be exposed if the legislators are to be fully informed on the reality of HOA-Land.  As leaders who are internet publishers,  actions speak louder than words!

 

America cannot be completely unified with HOAs

America cannot be completely unified with HOA-Land not subject to Constitution

Our new #PresidentBiden and #VicePresidentHarris have a task before them if they truly seek to unite America.  There are some 23% of Americans live under special laws for special entities known as #HOAs – #homeownerassociations – that are authoritarian local governments not subject to the #Constitution as required by all local and state governments.

In total, these fragmented HOAs constitute The HOA-Land Nation within America, actively encouraged and supported by all state legislatures to some degree or another.  Only the federal government can act Restoring the lost Constitution to HOA-Land.  I brought this very need to the attention of the Trump presidency with no results (Rogue presidents: Trump and HOAs). A Plan Toward Restructuring the HOA Model of Governance has been proposed to this effect.

I now call upon President Biden and Vice President Harris to truly unite all Americans under the Constitution and the laws of the land.

Are HOA state actors created by statutory use of shall/may?

The use of the words “shall” and “may” have generally accepted meanings in state laws and statutes.[1]  Their use in bills and laws relating to HOA-Land raises the highly controversial question of: Are HOAs state actors?  Wayne Hyatt — former CAI president – wrote in 1976 that HOAs were mini-governments.[2]  In general, a state actor is an entity that is functioning as “an arm of the state” or “in place of the state.”[3]  Does the use of “shall” that is defined as “mandatory” make the HOA an arm of the state?

In sum, the US Supreme Court criteria for classification of a state actor can be found in Brentwood:[4]

  1.  From the State’s exercise of “coercive power,”
  2. when the State provides “significant encouragement, either overt or covert,”
  3. when a private actor operates as a “willful participant in joint activity with the State or its agents
  4. when it is controlled by an “agency of the State,”
  5. when it has been delegated a public function by the State
  6. when it is “entwined with governmental policies,” or
  7. when government is “entwined in [its] management or control.”

In regard to the institutionalization of HOAs, or as I refer to it, HOA-Land, the above tests 1 – 3, and 5 -6 would provide clear and convincing evidence that the policies of state legislatures, as demonstrated by the enacted pro-HOA laws, have created HOAs as state actors who willingly undertake state actions.  Review your state laws for the use of “shall” and the consequences of that mandate on your individual property rights.

***

The pro-HOA laws enacted by state legislators, aside from other constitutional concerns with respect to the 14th Amendment protections of the equal protection of the law and valid due process, use “may” and “shall” that are permissive and mandatory obligations upon HOAs (and condos).  “May” is commonly found as “the board may set the time of the annual meeting,” or “may charge . . .”  The overlooked impact and consequence of this word is to legalize activities and actions that were all-to-fore not legal rights granted to the HOA.

They are now made a legal activity, if your BOD so chooses.   Prior to a statute using “may” the action or activity had to be granted by the governing documents.  If so, by including it in a statute lends “officialness” to the action, and a very difficult process to declare the statute invalid.  It protects the governing documents if so permitted.

The right granted by the use of “may” to HOA boards (BOD) to fine or monetarily penalize members and filing a lien with the right to foreclose, for example, makes it a legal action not granted to other nonprofit organizations.  Can you imagine PBS or United Fund placing a lien on your failure to not pay your pledge to support their existence? No way!  Why allow HOAs this legal right?  Which of the above criteria does it violate?

***

Now the heart of the matter focuses on the use of “shall” that is a mandatory order to the HOA to act on behalf of the state —  fine those members and collect costs including attorney fees, etc. Not only is it a legal requirement for the HOA to act as ordered, the BOD has no choice, no discretion to do otherwise, nor can the members reject a potential amendment or rule change. So much for democracy at work in HOA-Land!  Which of the above SC criteria does it violate?

It is well beyond the time for those public interest nonprofits touting their support for the Constitution and democratic values to get involved and stop this disgraceful and unconscionable legislation.  Stop the legislation that coerces, encourages, and supports private government, authoritarian HOAs.  Legislation that advances the view that the HOA “constitution” is a better deal than the 232-year-old US Constitution.  Shameful!

***

The American experiment in democracy, as the youthful America was described by Alexis de Tocqueville[5], is being subverted by the HOA legal scheme supported by elected officials and academics parading as the nouveau Philosopher-Kings preaching to the elected government leadership.  In 2009 I commented:

“I explore this failure of the American Experiment and the rise of independent HOA principalities in Establishing the New America of independent HOA principalities (see New America).”

Notes

[1] See “Legislative shall,” paper with quotes from Yale Law Journal and the Arizona bill drafting manual as a specific example.

[2] Read his 1976 statement in To be or not to be a mini or quasi government? Hyatt said ‘yes’. (2015). Wayne Hyatt was a prominent figure in the promotion of HOA-Land as well as an important person in creating CAI in 1973, serving as its second president. I believe he had strong influence in drafting the Del Webb Declarations still in use today.

[3] In general. see arguments for state actors: HOA Case History: state actors or mini/quasi government (2011); Do state HOA Statutes Establish HOAs as State Actors? (2012); Judicial error regarding HOAs as mini-governments and state actors (2015), “This commentary, somewhat technical at times, demonstrates the failure of the courts to address the fundamental issues that HOAs are mini-governments, and that by the collective functions and actions of HOAs there is clear and convincing evidence to make the case that they are indeed state actors. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

[4] Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Ass’n, 531 U.S. 288 (2001).

[5] Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville (Vol. 1, 1832; Vol. 2 1840). Printed by Alfred A. Knopf (1972).

CAI maintains HOAs are protected by and do not violate the Constitution — not so!

Much to my surprise and astonishment I stumbled upon CAI’s press release on its website.[1] It informs the reader that all is well with the HOA legal scheme and there are no waivers of constitutional rights or other constitutionality problems. In fact, CAI claims that the Constitution protects the CC&Rs’ contract.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Americans do not waive their constitutional rights when they move into a community association. In fact, courts have found that community association residents, by enacting reasonable rules for their own communities, are actually exercising their constitutional rights of association, contract, expression and assembly. . . . By purchasing homes in association-governed communities, buyers enter into constitutionally protected agreements with their neighbors.

The U.S. Constitution gives community association residents the right to govern their own communities without the need to get government’s permission to adopt rules. This prerogative is at the core of individual property rights and is a tradition that dates to the very founding of our nation.

I am not surprised at CAI’s failure to mention yours truly by name, the only outspoken advocate on HOA constitutional violations[2] that emphatically objects to and challenges CAI’s simplified arguments that misrepresent the law.

 

First paragraph fallacies:

Apparently agreeing to  free speech restrictions on displaying signs or flying the flag and due process protections are not considered a waiver or surrender of rights by CAI. CAI’s position that the right to associate and to enter into private contracts is protected by the Constitution is a false and naïve argument. Can you and I privately agree to violate the Constitution, and to associate in community where its government is not subject to the same restrictions as public government?

There are conditions for a voluntary waiver and surrender of constitutional rights that the CC&Rs agreement fails to meet, especially when it comes to implied waivers — those not specifically stated. But somehow the courts enforce the CC&Rs as if they met the requirements for constitutional waivers, like the Twin Rivers[3] case that CAI is relying on. CAI doesn’t mention its amicus curiae that argued In the context of community associations, the unwise extension of constitutional rights to the use of private property by members (as opposed to the public) raises the likelihood that judicial intervention will become the norm . . . .” If no rights were waived, why then is CAI so concerned about restoring them?

I have raised the valid argument of misrepresentation in the selling process and that the buyer was misled and not fully informed as to the consequences of his entering HOA-Land. No one, who firmly believes that HOAs are good for America, has stepped forward and publically signed the Homeowner Association Consent to be Governed Agreement: A Model Act[4] that a sign-off of explicit waivers and surrenders of constitutional rights (in paragraph 3), including a waiver of the equal protection of the laws.

Second paragraph fallacies

I explain in “HOAs violate local home rule doctrine” (see note 2 below) that HOAs are allowed operate far beyond state laws relating to home rule statutes, granting HOAs independent political government powers are denied to legitimate home rule communities. Consequently, HOAs are being treated with special laws for special entities in violation of the Constitution, federal and state.

The question that I have raised, and ignored by CAI in its release and in other communications, is summed up in the following statement: “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.” In essence, HOAs have been allowed to operate outside the Constitution as authoritarian independent principalities, violating the fundamental principles and values underlying our American way of life.

While CAI publicizes its claims to be working for productive, healthy and desirable communities, it is apparent that these communities are not part the American system of democratic government. It advertises that it is an educational organization, yet conducts surveys to promote its view of what is good for HOA-Land.

References

[1] https://www.caionline.org/PressReleases/_layouts/15/WopiFrame.aspx? sourcedoc=/PressReleases/Media%20Statements/Homeowners%20and%20Constitutional%20Rights.doc&action=default. October 7, 2015. (I don’t know how long this has been there, but CAI has revised its website recently.)

[2] See in general, CC&Rs are a devise for de facto HOA governments to escape constitutional government; Unconstitutional delegation of power to HOAs; HOAs violate local home rule doctrine and are outlaw governments.

[3] CBTW v. Twin Rivers, 929 A.2d 1060 (2007).

[4] An example: “d). I understand that the association, as a private entity and not an arm of the state, is not subject to the restrictions and prohibitions of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution that otherwise protects the rights of the people against actions by public government entities; (g) that there are no equivalent clean or fair elections procedures to protect the integrity of the HOA election process as found in public government elections.http://pvtgov.org/pvtgov/agree-disclose-license.pdf.

Combatting the CAI happiness in HOAs surveys

It is the CAI sponsored/conducted surveys of overall “happiness in HOAs” (my words) that advocates must come to deal with.  The surveys must be challenged and confronted, because the HOA lobbyists will show them, with a smile, to your state legislators. And then they will point out several other similar surveys. The legislators will simply glance at the data, smile, and say, “How can I help you?”

It is accepted doctrine, especially in the courts, that if a statement is not refuted it is taken as true. Same applies here when arguing for HOA reform legislation.  The surveys can be challenged on several points, such as, biased surveys even though the reputable Zogby conducts the actual survey under the sponsorship of CAI;  the questions asked and not asked; and the conclusions drawn from the data presented if you obtain access to the actual survey questionnaire and unedited responses. (Any reputable organization will provide this information as verification of its conclusions, as is standard operating procedure with any validly conducted research).

Take the latest CAI 2012 survey under “Association Rules”  that contained an assertion that 25% — note not 5% — had a  “significant” personal issue or disagreement” with their HOA. It also stated that just 42% were satisfied with the outcome. Yet, the survey concluded with the finding that just 8% dissatisfied with their board: “This strongly suggests that the vast majority of residents recognize and appreciate the net benefit of living in their communities—even when there are differences of opinion.”  The survey did not go into the nature of the disputes.  Were they trivial, or did they involve homeowner rights and the fair and just treatment of homeowners?

The following question was asked under “Pre-purchase Awareness:”  Did the fact that your current home is in a community association make you more likely to purchase or rent your home, make you hesitant about purchasing or renting your home or have no impact? An interesting question that indicates an awareness of advocate arguments that if they knew the whole truth about HOAs they wouldn’t buy into an HOA.  Of course the survey revealed that 64% indicated “no impact” and 29% indicated “more likely,” for a 93% positive view of HOAs.

However, no one was asked to read my Truth in HOAs Disclosure Agreement and its comments from readers, for example, that provided a lot of material information about HOA life.  What do you think the response would have been?  But, if nobody tells the legislators about the Truth in HOAs disclosure, or can get the local media to run a survey, then the legislators can pretend ignorance, or at least ignore the babblings of a few malcontents. 

It seems that the predominate attitude of the vast majority of state legislators is that the overall benefits of HOA legal scheme far outweigh any concerns for homeowner constitutional protections  – due process and the equal protection of the laws.

CAI’s Research Foundation makes the following broad claims in its Statistical Review (my emphasis),

Because of the fiscal challenges faced by many local municipalities, communities are often created with the stipulation that the developer will create an association that will assume many responsibilities that traditionally belonged to local and state government.  This privatization allows local jurisdictions to permit the continued development of needed housing without having to pay directly for that infrastructure through property taxes. . . . Community associations not only maintain home values, but also reduce the need for government oversight and expenditures by providing services, assigning payment responsibility to homeowners and being responsive to local concerns.

Read the above carefully!  Where are the protections for homeowner rights under the contractual, not public domain, nature of HOA governments?  There are no protections as one would expect under our system of democratic government.  That is inexcusable! And state legislators do not see any problems with private governments operating outside their state and US Constitutions.

 

If the above surveys and conclusions by CAI are not challenged, life will remain difficult for meaningful HOA reforms.