By Deborah Goonan
Calling all concerned advocates and professionals: while many of you have been making efforts to improve living conditions for HOA residents within your own states, it’s time to start contacting your representatives at the federal level, too.
I have written the following summary, which you can email to your Congressional Representatives and Senators from your states. You might also wish to send a copy to one or more current Presidential candidates that you support for 2016. The more of us that contact our elected officials with the same concerns, the more likely they will begin to pay attention.
You can go to this website to find your federal representatives and email them directly.
For topic, you can choose “Government Reform,” “Housing,” “Constitutional Issues,” or “Social Issues,” depending on the choices available on the contact form.
In the Subject line, type “Association-Governed Communities” or “Homeowners’ Associations”
Don’t know what to say, or don’t have much time? Cut and paste the summary below.
I want to call your attention to a very important issue affecting millions of American voters and taxpayers. Many private, Association-Governed Residential Communities (aka Community Associations OR Homeowners’ Associations) in America face a substantial economic challenge and social discord that adversely affects health, family stability, and general well-being.
Housing expenses are the biggest chunk of our household budget. My home should be my largest asset, not my biggest liability. All Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law, and those protections must also apply for those of us who reside in Association-Governed Communities. As it stands now, Americans are adversely affected by a patchwork of consumer-unfriendly state laws, combined with weak or non-existent oversight of Homeowners’ Associations, Condominium Associations, Cooperatives (and combinations or variations of private Associations). Homeowners and residents in over 300,000 Association-governed communities have nowhere to turn when faced with unexpected HOA assessments and financial liabilities. Likewise, there are very few practical recourses when we are faced with legitimate grievances with our Residential Associations.
There are two major issues affecting American consumers — primarily owners in HOAs, but also other residents (tenants), and taxpayers in general. Keep in mind that a significant portion of today’s tenants and general taxpayers are former HOA homeowners and/or know someone who might have lost their home to foreclosure in one of these communities. Since one in five Americans currently lives in some sort of Association-Governed Residential Community, it is common sense that HOA issues will touch the lives of millions of Americans who have never set foot inside an HOA or a condo complex.
The two major issues are:
1) Governance of HOAs is not currently required to be bound by Constitutional law, thereby resulting in a nation where 67 million people are not subject to equal protection under the law. In HOAs, The Bill of Rights Need Not Apply. The resulting inequality contributes to abusive governance, frequent conflict and abuse of the legal system, erosion of property and privacy rights, and unnecessary stress adversely affecting the health and safety of Americans, with a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable among us.
2) A stakeholder-driven corporate legal structure of common interest communities has created a significant threat to the economic health of millions of Americans. Among those risks are insufficient funding and administrative support for essential maintenance of community infrastructure, substitution of unregulated private security for publicly funded crime prevention and traffic control, a severe shortage of competent HOA Board leadership, exposure to unlimited debt and legal liabilities of the Association, and instability of the housing market driven by the whims of unchecked real estate moguls and capital investment firms. These effects radiate to the national economic climate beyond the gates and boundaries of those communities. While the financial community has advanced policies to protect their own interests, no one is protecting the interests of individual American consumers and taxpayers.
We have become a nation obsessed with property values to the exclusion of traditional American values.
If 67 million people cannot find peace and long-term prosperity through either home ownership or community engagement — the American Dream becomes elusive. What incentive exists to be responsible, to work hard, to invest in our local communities, when our rights and our personal wealth can be sacrificed for the benefit of a small minority that would seek to control our lives and impose upon us excessive spending of our hard-earned dollars?
Because these issues affect the Constitutional rights of millions of Americans, and pose a significant financial risk to the economic health of our nation, I urge you to address these concerns at the Congressional level.