Your HOA: part corporation, part police state?

Homeowners, residents question excessive power of HOAs.

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

 

Regular readers of IAC are familiar with my monthly “Corruption, fraud, & theft Roundup” posts. Today’s post is a Roundup of reports of homeowners association using and abusing their vast police powers in their communities — generally in the absence of due process and Constitutional constraints.

These factual accounts provide more proof that association-governed communities are much more than contractual agreements among homeowners, because, with alarming frequency, HOAs take advantage of legal liberties that were once the sovereign duty of government.

As HOAs continue to flex their police state muscles, residents are beginning to loudly object. More and more legal experts are acknowledging that many modern-day association-governance bodies of common interest communities have evolved into quasi-governments, de facto small town governments, or, at the very least, state actors.

(Morguefile.com)
Man says homeowner’s association is giving traffic citations

6:59 PM, Feb 12, 2018
7:13 AM, Feb 13, 2018

Fox News 4, Scripps Media, Inc.

ESTERO, Fla. — A man is questioning the legality of his homeowner’s association citing him for an alleged traffic violation.

This happened at the Timberwalk community off Three Oaks Parkway. Michael Krill told 4 In Your Corner he received a letter from his home owner’s association, fining him $100.00 for rolling through a stop sign in the community.

4 In Your corner wanted to investigate the legality of the practice. We consulted with Richard DeBoest, who practices community association law with Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross. He said HOA’s are allowed to do this. “They not only have the authority, they have the duty to enforce the rules and one of them would obviously be follow the traffic control signs, stuff like that.” he said

Read more (Video):

https://www.fox4now.com/news/local-news/man-says-hoa-is-giving-traffic-citations

In Timberwalk HOA, near Fort Myers, Florida, residents have been shocked to receive traffic citations and fines for allegedly running through a stop sign posted in their community. According to Florida attorney Richard DeBoest, the HOA that governs the gated townhouse community, developed by D.R. Horton, has the legal right and duty to enforce traffic rules. But take that legal opinion with a grain of salt, because DeBoest is a founder and shareholder of a South Florida law firm. He specializes in representation of homeowners, condominium, and other types of owner associations, is a weekly columnist, and has co-authored publications on legal issues affecting association-governed communities. 

 

UPDATE: Legislator wants to crack down on HOAs using radar guns

Posted: Feb 12, 2018 2:19 PM EST
Updated: Feb 13, 2018 1:34 AM EST

By Gary Harper

(3 ON YOUR SIDE) –
Arizona State Rep. Kelly Townsend wants a new state law on the books. And, it’s all because of a 3 On Your Side report she came across.

“So, I read the story and I was embarrassed. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ We’re doing that?'” Townsend said.

She’s talking about homeowners associations that are using handheld radar guns to enforce speed limits within their community.

In a previous 3 On Your Side report, Bernie Van Emden told us he was shocked when his own HOA sent him a notice and pictures saying it busted him for driving 2 miles an hour over the posted speed limit.

“When you got that letter from the HOA, what did you think?” 3 On Your Side asked Van Emden.

“I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life,” he replied.

In Van Emden’s community, it’s not uniformed police officers running radar. Instead, it’s homeowners who are with the HOA’s so-called Patrol Office. They’re running radar and sending out fines to their own neighbors like Van Emden. The fines do not affect your driver’s license and are simply an HOA fine.

Rep. Townsend is introducing House Bill 2540 to regulate the issue.

The legislation states the “… radar unit should be properly calibrated by a licensed facility…” to ensure the device is accurate before issuing fines.

It also says radar operators should have at least 10 hours of training using a radar gun. As of now, it’s unclear what, if any, training is given.

And finally, Townsend’s bill says an HOA won’t be able to issue a speeding fine unless a homeowner is driving “…at least 10 miles an hour above the posted speed limit.”

The pushback that I have had isn’t that we should not do this bill. It’s that we should outlaw these (radar guns) completely because HOA neighbors should not be in charge of law enforcement.”

Read more, including a link to the proposed legislation (video):

http://www.azfamily.com/story/37486347/update-legislator-wants-to-crack-down-on-hoas-using-radar-guns

 

Commentary: If HOAs are non-governmental entities — private corporations — then they should not have police powers that include monitoring traffic with a radar gun and issuing citations and fines. At the moment, those citations “do not affect your driver’s license,’ but, if this overreach is allowed to continue, it’s only a matter of time before industry trade groups lobby for the power to report private community traffic violations to the state, where it will result in points on driver’s licenses and higher insurance premiums for those drivers. 

HB2540 essentially delegates powers of government to private organizations that govern common interest communities. But if this bill becomes law, there will likely be Constitutional legal challenges and/or a demand that Arizona associations comply with all state and federal Constitutional constraints.

See here to track the AZ HB2450

Legally Speaking: Yes, Arizona HOAs could fine you for speeding

BY MONICA LINDSTROM | FEBRUARY 13, 2018 AT 5:47 PM
UPDATED: FEBRUARY 13, 2018 AT 8:39 PM

KTAR News

LISTEN: Monica Lindstrom – Mac and Gaydos Legal Expert

Homeowners associations, aka HOAs, are abundant in Arizona. There are about 9,000 of them in our beautiful state.

Whether you love them or hate them, one thing is certain: They are powerful, so powerful, in fact that you may have to fork over your hard-earned money to them for speeding!

There are some HOAs who have taken it upon themselves to form “patrols” and check for speeders in their community. They have gone so far as to purchase radar equipment, take pictures of the offenders and then send a notice of violation/fine.

Read more (podcast):

http://ktar.com/story/1947979/legally-speaking-yes-arizona-hoas-could-fine-you-speeding/

It’s worth reading the Arizona Attorney Monica Lindstrom’s opinion, but be sure to listen to the podcast, too, for additional perspective from talk radio personalities Mac and Gaydos.

(Mac calls HOAs “fascist regimes,” but Gaydos “loves HOAs” because they prevent his neighbors from painting the house pink.)

Again, the standard legal argument is presented: HOAs are contractual relationships, and “you agreed” to abide by rules and regulations, which may include the HOA’s right to monitor your driving behavior and issue citations and fines.  Lindstrom believes this power only applies to gated communities with private roads.

But, as previously reported, in some states, such as Florida, New Jersey, and Maryland, HOAs get away with issuing citations and fines when their members park on public roads.

(Pixabay.com free image)

Now, let’s switch gears a bit –

N4T Investigators: Hostile board?

Posted: Feb 13, 2018 3:53 PM EST
Updated: Feb 14, 2018 2:25 AM EST
Written By Matthew Schwartz

KVOA News 4 – Tucson – Michelle Ruffo says her homeowners association board has hit her with $2500 in fines because she’s a whistleblower. “They’re just physically and mentally trying to destroy me,” she told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, referring to a couple of board members.

Ruffo lives in the Reflections in the Catalinas condos in the foothills. Back in 2012, she found out almost a thousand dollars in HOA funds were used for a board member to fly here for an HOA meeting, from his other home in another state. Instead of using Skype or a different video conferencing method, the HOA’s management company, Lewis Management Resources, in 2012 reimbursed the board member $768 for his airfare, $114 for his hotel room; $96 for his rental car. That’s to attend one board meeting, using money that’s supposed to pay for homeowners’ property maintenance and improvements, for which they pay $195 a month. The current management company for Reflections in the Catalinas, Associa (Lewis is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Associa), declined an interview and sent us an email on behalf of the board of directors, saying the travel expense was “…approved by the board…” Really? The board president at the time, Carolyn Fike, said in an email to us, “that’s a flat-out lie.” And in an audio recording of the 2012 meeting obtained by the News 4 Tucson Investigators, Fike blasted the travel reimbursement.

“Even if there were justification for this reimbursement, ” Fike says during that meeting, “it should have been brought to the board’s attention, which it never was. It would have been voted on. But it was slipped in and that’s absolutely unacceptable.”

The board member who was being criticized for the travel expenses responds by saying, “Sue me.” We are not identifying him because he has not been charged with a crime. We approached him last week at the condos and asked, “Do you have anything to say about the HOA paying for your travel expenses?” He said, “That is not a correct statement.”

But Ruffo, who is a former member of the HOA board, says if the board wasn’t called out on this, the money would not have been reimbursed. “Nobody knew about it” before it was brought up during that 2012 meeting, Ruffo said. “So he kind of came in through the back door, slipped this in and from that point on when I made mention, all of a sudden I’m getting all kinds of fines that are outrageous.”

The $2500 in fines are mostly for parking in visitor’s spots or those of other owners. Ruffo gave us photos she took of the property management’s maintenance truck, while, she said, it was parked in her spot. She says she’s been unjustly fined for having plants in the common area, that she’s banned from using the pool and fitness room.

Read more (Video):

http://www.kvoa.com/story/37497219/n4t-investigators-hostile-board

 

Boom! A textbook example of HOA abuse of power to impose fines and other penalties upon a homeowner — who happens to be a former board member  a resident homeowner who had the audacity to blow the whistle on inappropriate, perhaps illegal use of condo association funds.

Note the display of police power in imposing $2,500 in fines. But also note the complete lack of due process: an internal hearing process that lacks proper notice and division of power, and smacks of kangaroo court, where the association member is presumed guilty until she can prove her innocence.

Is it a mere coincidence that Michelle Ruffo is being targeted with fines and sanctions, after informing her neighbors that their assessment dollars were being used to provide air fair and hotel expenses for personal travel of a board member? 

 

You see, power and corruption go hand in hand. And that explains why the framers of the U.S. Constitution (and state constitutions that followed) designed a government system with division of power and checks and balances, to counteract the negative impulses of human behavior: among them power and greed. 

Did the authors of the Bill of Rights ever imagine that private organizations would hide behind the corporate veil, using contract law as the excuse for defying human rights declared in the U.S. Constitution? Did the 38 delegates who signed the Constitution in 1787 ever envision that private corporations would be granted police powers reserved for government?

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