Courtesy of Green Valley News
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
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
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.
on the agenda was HOA reform, Epperson said.
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
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
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.
"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:
right to be free from fines imposed by the board of directors.
right to use the services of the association lawyer in any dispute
initiated by the board.
right to free speech through the use of the association newsletter; and
others, including "the right to initiate dissolution of the
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
"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.