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.

Statement to NC Select HOA Committee

January 17, 2012

Mr. Ed Stiles
Committee Assistant
NC House Select Committee on HOAs
 
email statement

Statement to the NC House Select Committee on HOAs

January 23, 2012 Meeting

Dear Committee Members,

I am submitting this email statement for inclusion into the record for the January 23, 2012 hearing on homeowners associations. I am a nationally recognized homeowner rights advocate who believes in “supporting principles of democratic government.”

Over my 13 years of involvement in HOA reform legislation across this country, I have witnessed a slow, but steady, change in the perception of homeowner associations from “the next best thing to Mom’s apple pie” to the realization of that there are “worts” all over the HOA legal concept and statutes. The reason for this has been the extensive use of the internet by advocates, and the inability of the pro-HOA forces and national lobbyists in every state to stifle their voices. For over 48 years, since the introduction of the “HOA “bible”, the Homes Association Handbook, these forces held sway and shaped the attitudes of the public, the media, the policy makers, and state legislators. They exclaimed the virtues and benefits of the HOA scheme, and hid the worts, the serious defects, among the most egregious being the denial that HOAs are authoritarian, private, de facto governments that function as independent principalities. As such, HOAs are illegitimate local governments.

I am not rejecting the freedom of choice, if indeed that is a fact, in selecting the perceived benefits of a planned community by buyers, but the mass merchandising of these HOAs under highly questionable sales and advertising methods – misrepresentation, fraud, half-truths, false truths. As an example, no state has adopted anything close to the “Truth in HOAs Disclosure Agreement” that serves as a notice and warning of what HOA life is really about. (See, Appendix A, Model Consent to be Governed Disclosure Bill). I am not objecting to that real estate “package” of benefits, but to the form and nature of the governing body of the subdivision, commonly known as the Homeowners Association, and the adhesive CC&Rs “contract” that denies constitutional protections of due process and the equal application of the law.

HOAs are unaccountable to the state government. The statutes are unconstitutional special laws for special organizations, that reject contract law and constitutional law for the common law of equitable servitudes. As long-time advocate Evan McKenzie wrote in Privatopia (1994),

In a variety of ways, these private governments are illiberal and undemocratic. Most significantly boards of directors operate outside constitutional restrictions because the law views them as business entities rather than governments. . . . [They] are inconsistent not only with political theories of legitimacy but with the normal process by which governments are created. . . . Thus these ‘private governments’ may violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Chapter 6).

There is no justification for the non-application of the laws of the land, and the denial of fundamental rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities for homeowners with such weak arguments as: “better landscapes make better communities,” or the shifting of residential development costs from the local municipality to the homeowners, or “they agreed to be bound.” The last of which is a mockery of justice and our system of government as it allows the waiver and surrender of rights and freedoms by the mere posting of a Declaration of CC&RS to the county clerk, sight unseen by those who will be bound by the CC&Rs, by a profit seeking developer adhesion contract.

This Committee has the opportunity to begin to set things right, to restore this country to “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” and to remove this second form of local government that has seceded from and rejects the Constitution. The Committee will hear from HOA supporters and from self-interest groups who should, by this time, understand that they, too, are rejecting the Constitution and the principles of democratic government. And more importantly, it will hear “petitions for redress” from homeowners. Do not fail the citizens of North Carolina. Do not cause them to have to say, “Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.”

I ask that the Committee to do justice by paying heed to those petitions by homeowners and taking on the long overdue HOA reforms being asked.

My HOA profile, Appendix B, is provided for your convenience.

Respectfully submitted,

George K. Staropoli
President