By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Updated February 7, 2020
Homeowners in two states on the opposite side of the country stand up for Constitutional rights in HOA-governed communities.
In 2020, First Amendment rights are on the line in Arizona, while Florida Legislators mull over an HOA Equal Protection law.
As IAC posted earlier this week, Arizona Legislators are considering SB 1412. The legislation’s intent is to support First Amendment rights for homeowners and residents in HOA governed communities by upholding the rights of residents to engage in free political speech and assembly in their communities.
Lawmakers are getting the message: free speech and transparency go hand-in-hand. If we don’t allow free speech in our HOA-governed communities, we’ll never have transparency.
Well, here’s more good news.
In the Sunshine State, Florida Legislators are taking it up a notch with House Bill 623.
It’s a 52-page bill that, among other things, seeks equal protection of Constitutional rights for all residents of HOA-governed communities.
Here’s the relevant part of HB 623
In these screenshots, capturing the January 24, 2020 version of HB 623, you’ll note separate provisions for each type of community.
In order, see the Equal Protection clauses for Homeowners’ Associations (planned communities), Condominium Associations, and Cooperative Associations.
The Bill of Rights would apply to all Florida HOA-governed communities
Finally, after years of small changes to ‘tweak’ state laws, we have a state bill that gets to the heart of dysfunction, abuse, and corruption in homeowners, condominium, and cooperative association governed communities.
If enacted as written, HB 623 would equalize rights of residents of HOA-governed communities. Florida law would explicitly state that HOA residents have the same Constitutional rights as residents of communities who are not burdened by HOAs, covenants, restrictions, bylaws, and board-enacted rules.
What a breath of fresh air!
For a deeper understanding of how HOAs stomp all over your Constitutional rights, see IAC’s previous posts on this topic:
The recent backlash against HOAs is sweeping the nation
Let’s face it. Homeowners and residents in restricted communities are sick and tired of HOA boards and managers that control the flow of communication. They’re tired of being kept in the dark on important issues that can affect their quality of life.
To be fair, not all HOA boards ‘go rogue’ or revel in power trips. Unfortunately, many HOA board members aren’t equipped with the knowledge or personal ethics necessary for good governance.
And there’s no easy way for residents to protect themselves or fight back, short of spending a fortune in a lawsuit with their HOA.
The current corporate structure of HOAs lacks Constitutional checks and balances. That gives HOAs too much power, and no accountability.
Even worse, weak HOA boards often enable aggressive HOA managers or attorneys to engage in self-serving or predatory behavior.
This website is chock full of examples of HOA corruption, fraud, and abuse of power. The industry trade group can no longer say these are ‘isolated incidents.’ No one will believe them.
Adding 14th amendment Equal Protection provisions to Florida law with HB 623 will give residents in HOA-governed communities a strong legal leg to stand on. Essentially, HB 623 is a new Civil Rights act that applies to Floridians who live or own property in a community association.
Opposition to equal protection?
As of today, IAC has not seen any official stance on FL HB 623 by the HOA trade group, Community Associations Institute (CAI), home builders’ groups, or national or state Realtor’s Associations.
To my surprise, Eric Glazer, co-administrator of the Florida HOA and Condo Blog associated with the citizen advocacy group CCFJ (Cyber Citizens For Justice) appears to oppose HB 623.
Here are a couple of screen shots of Glazer’s most recent post: Sounds a lot like the standard HOA-industry line, doesn’t it?
For the record, Jan Bergemann, president of Cyber Citizens For Justice, stands firmly in favor of HB 623, calling the U.S. Constitution ‘sacrosanct.’
Eric Glazer’s stance on HB 623 makes me wonder, whose side is he on? His view seems inconsistent with advocacy for individual homeowners and residents of HOA-governed communities.
The concern over Second Amendment rights limiting gun control in HOA common areas is a Red Herring.
Don’t fall for it.
Glazer’s warning against gun restrictions is a diversion tactic and a scare tactic. It’s designed to drum up fear and opposition to community living without all the unnecessary and unconstitutional restrictions.
The same can be said of Glazer’s ominous warning that guaranteeing equal rights for HOA residents will flood Florida courts with lawsuits against HOAs.
More likely, an HOA Equal Protection law will put homeowners and residents on an even playing field with their HOAs.
Perhaps ordinary HOA residents will finally have greater access to civil rights attorneys, legal aid, non-profit legal advocacy groups, and mediators. And I have a hunch that plenty of legal professionals will be happy to educate the HOA when it oversteps its authority.
In other words, when residents start winning legal battles, predatory litigation will become less profitable. HOA attorneys will learn that homeowners won’t be intimidated by abusive governance tactics.
IAC thinks that enforcement of Equal Protection laws will put a stop to the HOA litigation gravy train for certain unethical or corrupt HOA-industry attorneys, developers, and management companies.
Overall, protecting Free Speech, Due Process, and private property rights will improve quality standards for HOA governance. That means fewer HOA lawsuits, not more of them.
So, what can readers do to support HB 623?
An advocate’s mission: read, participate, and learn
If you’re a reader who supports the rights of individual people over the rights of private or corporate entities such as HOAs, the you should read HB 623.
Sign up to track and follow its progress in the Florida Legislature.
Even if you don’t own property in Florida, consider following this bill.
If you do reside or own property in Florida, contact your state Legislators to express your support for the Equal Protection of residents in HOA-governed communities.
Don’t know who to contact, or how to do it? Then check out these resources:
The Florida First Amendment Foundation maintains a list of Legislator emails.
You can also search for your state Representatives and Senators at StateofFlorida.com.
Boring as it may seem, be sure to read the entire bill.
HB 623 has a lot of other subtle and not-so-subtle changes affecting homeowner rights. However, the Equal Protection clause is, by far, the most important part of the bill.
State Legislators often amend bills several times before they vote. One bad change can completely change the purpose and intent of the law.
Keep an eye on who supports and who opposes Equal Protection for HOA residents. Make careful note of Legislators on the side of housing consumers. Thank them for their support.
Residents of other states can learn from the legislative process in Florida.
After all, if successfully enacted, Florida’s HB 623 will serve as blueprint for Equal Protection state laws across the U.S., and, ultimately, federal law.
The writers of the U.S. Constitution never contemplated that the housing industry would saddle millions of Americans with non-negotiable “contracts” that circumvent their inalienable rights.
An Equal Protection provision is long overdue. However, the focus should be on making unconstitutional Covenants, restrictions, rules derived from the Declaration unenforceable by HOAs AND any neighbor or other authority. ♦
A PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE LAW THAT HAS DANGER WRITTEN ALL OVERIT By Eric Glazer, Esq. | Published February 3, 2020 (Florida HOA & Condo Blog)
OUR CONSTITUTION SHOULD BE SACROSANCT!
By Jan Bergemann | Published February 7, 2020 (Florida HOA & Condo Blog)
Gilbert HOA board backtracks on social media fines, after using HOA fees to fund legal costs (Arizona)
Posted: 10:39 PM, Jan 30, 2020
Updated: 6:47 PM, Feb 01, 2020
By: Cameron Polom (ABC15)
(Check out the reaction of the HOA board President in this eye-opening video)
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