|Legislators shift tactic on HOA reforms|
|Article Courtesy of The Arizona Republic
By Chris Fiscus
Published Feb. 9, 2004
One bill would make homeowners associations wait seven years before they could foreclose on a home for unpaid fees. Another would apply the open-meetings standard used for governments to HOAs.
Still others would open up the books to
residents while making it easier for homeowners to speak out at meetings.
If anything, he adds, many of the association's members demand more enforcement. "They say, 'We want you to enforce stronger, harder, faster.' "
There is an increasing interest in the Legislature to take action. There are more bills introduced, more lawmakers signing onto those bills, even lawmakers testifying about their own HOA nightmares during hearings.
"I think everyone down here knows HOAs are an issue that has to be dealt with," said House Majority Leader Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert. There is growing support "for reigning in these quasi-government entities."
HOAs can be a police force of sorts with the power to foreclose on homes.
"That's a tremendous, tremendous power," he said. "It has been abused by people with very little accountability."
The proposed bills include:
• Farnsworth's House Bill 2402, which would make HOAs wait at least seven years from when a lien is recorded before foreclosing on a home for unpaid fees. It also would require that the house be sold for fair-market value, rather than at a fraction of its value at auction as is now often the case, to try to protect a homeowner's equity. His bill will be heard this week.
• House Bill 2381, which would block association board members from entering into contracts that would benefit them or their relatives. The bill is in response to concerns about boards handing lucrative management, landscaping, construction or other contracts to relatives.
• House Bill 2378, which would apply provisions of the state Open Meetings Laws to HOAs.
• House Bill 2177, which would make it easier to view association records and speak during HOA meetings.
The bill would allow members to have designated representatives at association meetings and would allow any attendees to speak. It also would change the criteria for when a meeting can be closed.
Other proposed bills would tackle HOA rules such as allowing residents to display political signs on their property (some now prohibit the signs) or remove the use of proxies in HOA voting.
Four of Gray's HOA bills cleared a House committee last week and will be heard by a new committee today.
Other HOA bills are pending in the state House and Senate.
Pat Haruff, a retired businesswoman who lives in Mesa, spent the better part of four years lobbying at the Capitol and launched a grass-roots group to protect homeowners' rights from overzealous associations.
She said the various bills have a better shot at surviving this year.
"A message is finally getting to the legislators," she said. "They're finally beginning to listen to reason."
She also applauds the one-slice-at-a-time approach to reform. "What happens when you get a huge bill, 25 or 30 pages? The bill usually dies because there are so many issues and so many conflicts, they don't know what to do with it, so they just vote it down."
But this time, she adds, "This is our year."