Lawmaker has plans to tighten grip on HOAs

Article Courtesy of The Colorado Springs Gazette

By Bill Vogrin

Published January 9, 2013

When Sen. Morgan Carroll sponsored the Homeowners Bill of Rights in 2005, it turns out she was just getting started in her efforts to rein in rogue homeowners associations boards and property managers who abuse HOA residents.

Stricter reforms followed.

Now, as the 2013 Colorado General Assembly opens this week, Carroll is poised as incoming Senate Majority Leader to tighten the state’s grip on HOAs.

Carroll, an Aurora Democrat, said bills will be introduced in the Democrat-controlled House designed to give homeowners a powerful new ally in their battles with dictatorial HOAs by creating what I’m calling a state HOA czar.

Carroll said she wants to energize the HOA Information Office and Resource Center beyond its current role collecting data and informing people of their rights.

She hopes to transform the office and its leader, HOA Information Officer Gary Kujawski, into a robust investigative and enforcement agency.

Lawmakers, led by Carroll, created the agency in 2010. It spent 2011 registering HOAs — single-family neighborhoods, condo and townhome associations, voluntary improvement associations, property owners associations. And its staff fielded dozens of calls each day from HOA residents reporting claims of abuse.

Early in the 2012 session, the agency delivered a devastating 24-page report to lawmakers chronicling the complaints and sparking calls for strict regulation of the state’s 8,000-plus HOAs.

“When we created the HOA Information Office, we were wanting an ombudsman with investigative authority and enforcement authority,” Carroll said.

“This year, we’re definitely looking at making the HOA info office more robust. There’s a list of things we can do to put more teeth into the office.”

Carroll said it’s only fair to give HOA residents someone to call when going up against well-funded HOA boards and property management companies and their attorneys.

“Even with the law on their side, most people don’t have time or money to go to court,” she said. “It’s a minimum $10,000 investment.”

Another bill would require individual property managers be licensed by the state. She prefers it to licensing management companies as a sunrise review recommended in 2012.

“We think it would go a long way toward better compliance with state law,” Carroll said.

“Managers are more likely to advise them to run open meetings, to comply with disclosure laws and produce documents as required if they know their professional license is at stake.”

Carroll has more ideas for protecting the 2 million Coloradans living in HOAs.

And she’s hopeful of winning passage, given the predisposition of House Speaker Mark Ferrandino toward HOAs. (See Saturday’s Side Streets column.)

“I’m really looking forward to this session,” Carroll said.

This could get interesting.