My home state of Pennsylvania seems to be serious about holding your condominium, cooperative, or homeowners association accountable.
Last month, the state convicted two men at Wild Acres HOA of election fraud.
A few days ago, the Pocono Record reported that House Bill 1774, introduced by Rosemary Brown (R) last fall, is expected to win a vote of approval from the PA Urban Affairs Committee. This bill would allow unit owners and proprietary lessees to file complaints against their Associations with the state Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Under current statute, a member’s only recourse is to file a claim in civil court – a process that is often cost prohibitive and heavily favors the interests of developers and corporate associations over the interests of consumers.
An amended version of the statute will include a 60 – 120 day time period for the parties to attempt to work out the dispute, prior to the AG’s office investigation.
House Bill 1774 currently has 14 sponsors.
An amended bill requiring the state Attorney General’s Office to investigate or mediate alleged violations by operators of common interest communities is expected to be approved next month by the Pennsylvania House Urban Affairs Committee, Chairman Scott Petri said Thursday.
The amendment to the bill offered early this year by Rep. Rosemary Brown, R-189, would require the homeowner(s) who files a complaint and the homeowners association or developer the complaint is lodged against to try to negotiate a resolution within 60 days. If no settlement is reached, the complaint will be forwarded to the state Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection for investigation.
There is a provision that would allow the parties to continue negotiating for a second 60-day period, if all sides agree.
“We want to have an interim process to try to resolve the issue,” Petri, a Bucks County Republican, said. “That way, homeowners can hold their homeowners association’s feet to the fire.”
The Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection has a duty to investigate unfair business and trade practices, allegations of fraud and deceptive marketing, as well as providing consumer education. The majority of complaints are resolved through mediation services provided by the Bureau, although it can also file formal legal action under certain circumstances.
In general, the Bureau is only authorized to file formal legal action where it has reason to believe that a business is engaged in illegal practices and it is in the public interest to do so. “The public interest” may include a pattern or practice of fraud, an important question of law, a significant number of consumer victims, a significant amount of money at risk or a variety of other things.
What I like about PA HB 1774 is that the consumer protections would apply to all types of Association Governed Housing, and the scope of authority is broad enough to encompass a wide array of consumer complaints under the authority of the Attorney General.
By comparison, in states such as Florida, an executive regulatory agency provides limited protection to condominium and cooperative association residents, but no consumer protection at all to those who live in planned communities with homeowners associations.
In other states, such as Colorado, HOAs are regulated by an agency under the division of real estate. The agency allows consumers to file complaints, but does not investigate or mediate those complaints.
Chapter 68, PA statutes governing condominiums, cooperatives, and planned communities with homeowners associations