Tyrannous HOAs must be tamed 
January 16, 2004

Pat Haruff is president of CHORE, Coalition of Home Owners for Rights and Education, in Mesa (www.chore.info)

    In 2002, a Valley homeowners association kicked elderly widow Marie Brown out on the streets. Took her home. Her life savings invested in that home instantly evaporated, leaving her dependent on the kindness of strangers, charities and government safety nets. 

    In 2003, a Valley HOA tried to foreclose on Evelyn Lyles who, while battling cancer, had to forego paying her HOA assessments in order to pay for medical care, food and mortgage for her children and herself. Only after Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman stepped in was she able to save her home. Of course, the HOA attorney and the HOA never wavered in their mission to take this family’s home. 

    And we tolerate this. In Arizona, failing to trim a bush or hide your garbage can is a "nuisance" worthy of having one’s home foreclosed and being tossed out of it. 

    The battleground against tyranny is not in Boston Harbor, on the meadows of Gettysburg, or even on the road to Baghdad, but in local newspapers, on the Internet and in the state Legislature. 

    CHORE works to inform homeowners of their rights and Arizona lawmakers of the problems. CHORE advocates reform, not demolition of the HOA concept, promotes accountability to reduce fraud and abuse, and other common sense solutions. 

    Because of the phenomenal population growth we’ve seen in Arizona and because new residential developments almost exclusively come with HOAs, consumer choice — the freedom to choose not to live in an HOA — is diminished for the average consumer and HOA problems become most  urgent. 

    Leave the issue up to the cities and towns, their lobbyists, or the opportunistic attorneys that have made windfall fortunes off Arizona’s HOAs by taking the homes of those who dare to think they still have "rights" or intimidating others to pay the obscene and unproven "penalties" to avoid foreclosure and nothing will ever be corrected. 

    How and why do the hundreds of thousands of Arizona HOA homeowners not realize their vulnerability to embezzlement, to arbitrary and capricious actions of boards of directors, or to foreclosures that amount to private government "takings." We put up with it by believing the "Special Interests Myth" that  HOAs protect property values. 

    HOAs should only have power and jurisdiction over the common areas! 

    How, when it is so American to hate taxes, do we allow people who are not scrutinized by the press (as most candidates for official public office are) to raise our private government taxes (HOA assessments) or write citations and issue fines (like our city police departments) when, in practice, the homeowner’s due process rights are effectively taken away? 

    Could it be that we are so under a spell that our awareness is dulled to such traves ties? If enough homeowners wake up and smell the coffee, it will be time to cut through the contradicting cries to demand changes to protect the property rights of all Arizona homeowners, even those in HOAs. 

    Want to solve the problems? 

    Give us two things: enforcement of Arizona statutes for  HOAs and the return of the $100,000 Homestead Exemption taken from the unsuspecting homeowners in 1996 through lobbying of the Arizona Legislature.