Rein in HOAs  

Editorial Courtesy of Arizona East Valley Tribune
October 10, 2003

The attempt by a Gilbert homeowners association to seize a terminally ill woman’s home because she fell behind on her payments ought to provide the impetus the Legislature needs to finally enact HOA reforms. 
If this doesn’t, nothing will. Property owners will remain vulnerable to abuses such as those heaped on Evelyn Lyles by the Western Skies Estates 4 homeowners association. Lyles, a single mom who is terminally ill with breast cancer, was slammed with several thousand dollars in legal fees after she fell $400 behind in HOA dues. The HOA moved to foreclose on her home even though she had been making payments on the dues and fees. 

The HOA officers’ heartlessness and audacity are stunning. 

As we have said repeatedly in the past, the aim of HOA reform must not be to neuter these neighborhood organizations, most of which operate democratically and reasonably. For the most part, they do a good job maintaining common areas such as community centers and neighborhood parks and enforcing property maintenance standards that help keep everybody’s property values up. 

But as we see from time to time, an HOA can use its statutory powers to persecute a property owner for anything from unpaid dues to untrimmed hedges. Punitive enforcement of rules that don’t take into consideration the exigencies of life is unconscionable. People get laid off, or get sick, or face any number of personal or family hardships. Most will keep their commitments if they can — and are given a chance. 

HOA dues are contractual commitments, and associations must not be prevented from collecting them from the occasional scofflaw. When reasonable collection efforts fail, sometimes property liens are the proper recourse. In the rare, extreme case where a property owner clearly has reneged on obligations with no effort to make good on those obligations over several years, foreclosure is a justifiable last resort. 

A bill introduced in the last legislative session that would have allowed foreclosures only after seven years of fruitless collection attempts failed because extremists on both sides of the HOA issue refused to compromise. It’s a perfectly reasonable reform that would allow HOAs to provide their vital services without subjecting homeowners to the kinds of abuses Evelyn Lyles has had to endure. 

It is time for the Legislature to ignore the extremists and enact responsible HOA reform. 

HOA battles dying woman over fees