Silver-Haired Legislature calls for more HOA reform measures


By Tim Hull

Article Courtesy of Green Valley News

Published October 22, 2004

GREEN VALLEY -- The Arizona Silver Haired Legislature (ASHL) is calling for more homeowners' association (HOA) reforms in the state, looking to add to the progress made on the issue during the last legislative session.

The ASHL's priorities relating to HOA reform in the coming session will be to restore the Homestead Exemption to residents of HOAs, and the creation of a "Homeowners' Bill of Rights," according to Barbara Epperson, a Green Valley-based delegate to the ASHL and a long-time advocate for HOA reform.

"There is still a lot of concern out there with HOA members because they are having their individual rights infringed on by their HOAs," Epperson said this week.

The ASHL is a non-partisan body of citizens 60 or older that holds mock legislative sessions during which elected delegates set aging policy priorities for the state.

ASHL delegates draft resolutions on issues, then the issues are presented to state legislators to possibly be drafted into bills.

The ASHL met last week in Phoenix to discuss and draft resolutions that delegates hope will be considered, in bill form, when the 47th Arizona State Legislature convenes in January.


High on the agenda was HOA reform, Epperson said.

Reform measures

The 46th State Legislature last session passed some eight bills having to do with HOA reform into law, including one that prohibits foreclosure on an HOA member's home for unpaid fines.

That bill, though watered-down in its final form, came out of an ASHL resolution.

Four new resolutions calling for further HOA reforms came out of last week's session, Epperson said, and she is currently talking with members of the state Legislature who are interested in introducing related bills.

The most important of the recent resolutions is one calling for the restoration of Homestead Exemption rights to homeowners living in HOAs, she said.

The Homestead Exemption says simply that a citizen's home must be exempted from forced sale to meet general debts, up to a certain amount.

The law does not extend to HOA members, however, as their property can be foreclosed on if they fail to pay the assessments (dues related to the communal ownership of HOA property) levied by the HOA.

With about 80 percent of the homes currently sold in Arizona being linked to HOAs, reformers say that the power the associations have to take members' property needs to be checked.

"Homeowners' associations have the power to foreclose on a person's home for nonpayment of assessments, sometimes amounting to less than $1,000," The ASHL resolution reads.

No exemptions

"The Legislature has increased the homestead rights of independent owners, yet on the other hand fails to recognize the fact that homeowners in homeowners' associations have no homestead exemption relative to assessments, fines, and penalties by such associations."

Another resolution calls for more protection for HOA members against trespassing by agents of their HOA.

Most HOAs have enacted rules allowing their representatives to enter a member's property without permission, Epperson said.

"The community documents of many homeowners' associations give the association some limited immunity from civil or criminal liability for trespass on members' property," the resolution reads. "Some HOAs abuse this authority."

The resolution calls for legislation establishing that "under no circumstances may an officer or agent of an HOA enter onto a member's property without permission, and that they shall be criminally liable for trespass, criminal damage, or theft" if they do so.

Bill of rights

Another ASHL resolution would create a Homeowners' Bill of Rights, which Epperson said would provide more checks and balances in HOAs with boards of directors that consider themselves "as adversaries of the members of the association rather than as responsible stewards of association assets."

The Homeowners' Bill of Rights calls for:

  • The right to be free from fines imposed by the board of directors.

  • The right to use the services of the association lawyer in any dispute initiated by the board.

  • The right to free speech through the use of the association newsletter; and others, including "the right to initiate dissolution of the association."

A fourth HOA-related resolution calls for the right of HOA members to initiate, block, or terminate litigation on behalf of the HOA by a vote of a simple majority.

"In many associations legal expenses represent 20 percent or more of the association's annual expenditures," the resolution reads. "The director or directors who may have initiated a particular action may not be director long enough to follow through with the issue at hand. This leaves the real power in the case to a law firm rather than to the association who is paying the cost."

Other, non-HOA resolutions enacted last week by the ASHL included a call for the state of Arizona to oppose the USA Patriot Act and related executive orders; a call for stiffer penalties for hate crimes; a resolution to keep old computers out of landfills, and several others.

The first Silver Haired Legislature was established in 1973 in Missouri. In 1998 Arizona became the 27th state to form a Silver Haired Legislature.