Recent study shows a large number of homeowners hate their HOAs.
Written by: Raelene Schifano, Michelle Darnell and Patrick Johansen Edited by: Desiree Lindsay
17% of baby boomers, 32% of Gen X and 27% of Millennials feel negative about their HOA. This equates to roughly 25% of total HOA property owners who are unhappy with their associations, mostly due to feeling that the benefits they received from their HOA were not worth the extensive and surprise fees, but mostly the any freedoms that they give up without knowing it at first.
The study also indicates that property owners who have participated on the board of their HOA, were much happier than those who had not. This makes sense, as board members would have more access to know what was going on and more control over the decisions that were made.
Retaliation from HOA
But WHY are they unhappy? In Surfside HOA in Ocean Park, WA, several owners were forced to take down their shed roof extensions, some had been up for many years, even though the board could find no covenant that they violated. One refused and fought them in courtover a period of about 5 years. In the end the HOA dropped the suit, apparently knowing they could not win, leaving the property owner with about $10,000 in attorney’s fees. The property owner sued in court and recovered their fees, but this created severe and unnecessary stress spanning 5 years. The property owner sold his property and moved to a property outside the HOA.
Another property owner who took their roof down (before realizing he was lied to about the CCRs), sued the HOA and they were required to pay him back for the cost of taking his shed roof down, the cost of putting it back up, his attorney’s fees and the court costs. According to the property owner, after he won, he was approached by one of the board members. The board member threatened him, warning that if he put his shed roof back up (despite the court ruling in his favor) the HOA wouldn’t leave him alone until he took it down. As you’ll see, fear of retaliation from HOAs are not unique to this case.
In another case of HOA retaliation, a HOA board member wanted to buy some wood from one of the property owners, who turned down his offer. A few days later the board member trespassed on the property owner’s property, took pictures of his property and filed four false complaints against the property owner. The property owner showed the HOA that none of the violations were valid but the HOA continued to send him threatening letters and eventually attempted to fine him. They later attempted to sue him to force him to comply with the non-existent covenants. Dropping charges just before court proceedings were to begin, the HOA left this property owner to pay attorney fees to protect himself against felonious charges. He also filed in small claims court and was able to recover his fees.
A woman in a different HOA forgot to pay her annual dues of a little over $300. She was not contacted by the HOA before they put a lien on her house and attempted to foreclose on her home. She ended up paying over $8000 in late fees, attorney’s fees, and interest.
According to NRP, Capt. Mike Clauer was serving in Iraq last year as Company Commander of an Army National Guard unit assigned to escort convoys in Iraq. Clauer’s $300,000 home was completely paid for when his HOA foreclosed on it because his wife had missed two association payments. The 3,500-square-foot home was sold for $3,500 on the courthouse steps.
Unconstituational Power Given to HOAs
An alarming number of these horror stories occur every year to unexpecting homeowners throughout Washington state and even, nationwide. Washington, along with many other states, allow non-judicial foreclosure. This means that one’s home may be taken away, with no opportunity for the homeowner to defend themselves in court. Many people lose their homes and don’t realize they are being foreclosed until they receive a notice of the Sheriffs sale.
The current HOA laws appear to violate the Washington Constitution. HOAs are corporations that have been given the right to violate our Constitution and are being treated as public government bodies, (according to the Uniform Act, HOA and Condo Laws), independent of the oversights that all other governmental bodies in the USA have. HOA/Condo Associations have been given the power of the municipality by legislators and is unconstitutional per this WA State Constitution:
“Washington State Constitution Article I Section 12 SPECIAL PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES PROHIBITED. No law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporation other than municipal, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens, or corporations.”
If corporation or classes of citizens, like those that live in HOAs, can have privileges or immunities unequal to other citizens, then how can HOAs have the authority to fine homeowners for issues on their own property? This practice certainly appears to violate this section of the constitution and your constitutional rights:
“Washington State Constitution Article I Section 7 INVASION OF PRIVATE AFFAIRS OR HOME PROHIBITED. No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.”
Developing Penalties and Holding HOA Boards Accountable
As members of an HOA, we have no privacy and no sanctuary. The COA/HOA boards refuse to do their duties, violate our constitutional rights, break trespassing laws, and the attorneys and property managers allow and encourage their harassment of the homeowners.
Penalties should be added to the law that fine and prescribe jail time for board members who knowingly violate or vote to violate the laws or the governing documents of the HOA. The laws should also provide compensation for damages suffered by property owners due to the illegal actions of the board member(s). Board members should also be responsible to same government ethics authorities as their state legislators. Since property managers and attorneys are automatically held harmless, they allow the board to violate the CC&Rs for profit.
Adding penalties to the law would change the entire dynamic. The property owner’s money would no longer be at risk, the Board Member could no longer hide behind the corporation when knowingly violating laws. Instead of the property owner’s money being against the HOA’s collective funds or the HOA’s Insurance Company, it would be the State Prosecutor against the violating Board Member. This would offer much more protection for property owners, and would likely eliminate most of the problems, which should be the goal of our legislators.