By Art Thomason
|Let sun shine on HOAs as
it does now on flag
Article Courtesy of The Arizona Republic
Posted Aug. 24, 2002
It took an act of the Legislature so more
than 800,000 Arizonans could fly the American flag in their yards.
Think of it.
Until Thursday, when the law went into
effect, homeowners associations could prohibit members from raising Old
Glory. Some actually did.
But the Legislature didn't go far enough.
Homeowners associations, which are becoming
the rule instead of the exception in the East Valley, still have too much
power, and nobody in government is looking over their shoulder. Or wants
Thanks to our lawmakers, HOAs are still
empowered to collect dues, assess fines and seize property. And do it while
remaining a far cry from what most of us expect from open government.
"All we want is accountability and responsibility,"
says Pat Haruff of Mesa, a self-appointed HOA watchdog. "The door is wide
open for abuse."
Justice of the Peace Tom Freestone says
HOA disputes now account for 30 percent of his small-claims caseload. Many
of those cases, says Freestone, are the result of homeowners failing to
pay their dues.
"Most of the time," he said, "the defendant
doesn't show up. They've either lost their job or can't find the means
Fortunately, none of the actions has moved
as far as the Aug. 1 eviction of a 77-year-old Peoria woman from her home
so it could be sold at auction.
Freestone's South Mesa-Gilbert district
includes the entire Town of Gilbert, where the HOA per capita ratio is
among the highest in the state because the municipality requires all new
developments to have HOAs.
Perhaps it's an irony that Freestone, of
all justices of the peace, is trying so many HOA disputes.
Before he was elected to the bench, Freestone
was a state senator who called for HOA reforms.
One of them would have subjected HOAs to
the Arizona Open Meeting Law.
Every other governmental entity, including
HOAs, is under that sunshine statute.
Now it's time for HOAs to strictly adhere
to that law.