Legislator, activist put homeowners associations in cross hairs

Rep. Farnsworth seeks to restore homestead right


Article Courtesy of The Arizona Republic

By Cary Aspinwall
Published Feb. 8, 2005

Much of a new batch of pro posed state laws dealing with neighborhoods and homeowners associations could pack a heavyweight punch to the power of local HOAs, which are mandated in most of Gilbert.

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, has again decided to take on what he sees as the imbalance of power between HOAs and homeowners' rights by introducing a bill that would restore the homestead exemption to protect homeowners in disputes with their HOAs.

Under the bill, HOAs would not be able to foreclose on someone's home for unpaid assessments and fees. They would have to wait to collect on a lien until sale of the home, like most other creditors.

A law Farnsworth sponsored last year stripped HOAs of the ability to foreclose on a resident's house because of unpaid fines for code violations. He also fought last year to restore the homestead exemption to property owners under HOAs on that bill, but it was removed as part of a compromise.

It's a battle Farnsworth has vowed to wage for homeowners for some time, saying he wants to limit the power of what have become "quasi-governmental agencies."

"People shouldn't be homeless because they have weeds," Farnsworth has argued.

One person thrilled to see Farnsworth begin waging that battle again this session was Pat Haruff, president of the Coalition of Homeowners for Rights and Education.

Restoring the homestead exemption to property owners under HOAs is something Haruff of Mesa has lobbied for with CHORE for years. If it passes, along with another bill that would create a panel at the state level to mediate and enforce laws in HOA/homeowner disputes, Haruff said two primary goals would be achieved.

"We will never go away until we have both," she said.

Last year, several state laws ushered in reforms to Arizona's homeowners associations. Most of Gilbert's estimated 167,000 residents live in neighborhoods with HOAs because the town mandates the associations for all developments with common areas.

Among the bills this year:

 HB 2214 - Homeowners association and planned community board. Would create a planned community hearing board to enforce state statutes regarding HOAs.