Sensible compromise needed on problem of abusive HOAs
Article Courtesy of The Scottsdale Tribune 
January 28, 2002 

If this is the year the Legislature finally provides some needed relief for people abused by tyrannical homeowners associations, those on each side of this polarized issue will have to compromise a bit.
While there undoubtedly are some horrible HOAs that abuse the rights of some members, some zealous activists would sweep away or cripple all HOAs for the sins of a few. The solution is to provide some reasonable recourse for people with legitimate gripes about HOA abuses without hampering the ability of other HOAs to carry out their contractual obligations.

One commonly cited abuse is the use of excessive fines and property liens to force compliance to nit-picky rules or to even force out residents deemed unsuitable. Tyrannical HOA officers can wreck a lot of havoc with the authority ultimately to seize one’s property.

There ought to be checks and balances. One presumably is already in place through HOA bylaws that essentially are democratic. But extremist factions can cause a lot of harm before they’re uprooted; and no one’s fundamental rights should be trashed, even if a majority of neighbors goes along.

State Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, has introduced a bill taking away HOAs’ power to seize property to satisfy unpaid fines and liens. While that would help people victimized by their HOAs, it also would provide a safe haven for deadbeats who thumb their noses at authority. 

It thus would seriously undermine the efforts of conscientious HOAs to enforce their codes and rules fairly.

Instead of gutting all HOAs, the Legislature should provide an avenue of recourse for residents who sincerely believe their rights are being violated. The responsibility to take and review complaints —- along with some authority to resolve certain kinds of cases — should be placed with county attorneys or with the state attorney general.

Presumably, many cases could be resolved quickly — as happens with many consumer complaints handled by the AG’s Office. In cases where residents’ rights were blatantly violated, authorities can and should prosecute the offending HOAs.

Wronged residents would have recourse, and rotten HOAs would be on notice to clean up their acts for face serious consequences. Meanwhile, a few deadbeat homeowners wouldn’t be able to spoil the efforts of good HOAs to enforce their codes.