Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Most Under-Represented Group of Voters in Colorado

The most under-represented group of residents in Colorado is the HOA (Homeowner’s Association) homeowner.  By conservative estimates there are over 1.3 million people residing in over 8,000 HOA’s in Colorado.  Unlike advocates for the poor (or rich), animal rights, child education, the real estate or gambling industries, HOA homeowners have no organized lobbying group or legislative champions.  You would think there would be at least a handful of politicians surfacing to coalesce this group into their support group?  Then there is the media that might advocate HOA homeowner’s rights.  Not a chance.  Such a topic can’t compete with stories about the grave dangers that coyotes pose to the public.  
Those following problems of HOA homeowners, such as the Colorado HOA Forum (, know there is no lack of disputes/controversy relating to HOA’s.  Fraud, waste, abuse, and financial irregularities are frequent consumer complaints.  Add to this HOA Boards and property management companies that refuse to obey HOA by-laws with impunity.  Conflicts of interest between HOA Board members who award contracts and hand out favors are not uncommon.  Our Courts hear volumes of HOA vs. homeowner cases each year.  The number of HOA's falling into bankruptcy due to dishonest HOA Boards and Property Management Companies is not uncommon leaving homeowners with the debt and little capacity to sue those inflicting financial ruin.  Then there are the over 500 complaints received by the newly created Colorado HOA Information Officer’s Office.  Is all this enough to gain the interest of someone in government? 
The primary legislation in Colorado to provide oversight of HOA’s is officially known as CCIOA (Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act).  Nearly 20 years old.  This piece of legislation has very sound principles most of which serve as a “guide” to developing HOA by-laws.  Related legislation such as House Bill 11-1124 addresses conflicts of interest with members of HOA Boards and House Bill 10-1278 that created an HOA Information Officer to focus on HOA complaints.  Appears the State is on top of HOA issues and ensuring homeowner’s rights?
The reality is that all this legislation to date has resulted in the “illusion of good governance for HOA’s”.  Others call it throwing the HOA homeowner under the bus.  The attempt to represent HOA homeowners via legislation was admirable but to date has fallen short.  All this legislation has one thing in common: it is basically non-enforceable from a homeowner’s perspective.  There are no enforcement or penalty provisions in any of this legislation.  Your HOA Board can pick and choose their compliance with this legislation, really!  The Courts are of no help to homeowners unless you have very deep financial pockets to fight the total resources of the HOA and their lawyers (which you pay for via your dues).  Then you will find the Courts highly reluctant to instruct any HOA on what they should do even if stated in their own by-laws.  Oh yes, you will need a lawyer in Small Claims Court as the previous ban on their appearance in this Court was changed  to further turn the hand of justice against the homeowner.
It’s not that our legislatures are unaware of the need for HOA legislative reform.  Our group has talked to many State politicians on this issue but they simply find the issue of little interest or priority and indicate not much support exists in the legislature to gain approval on simple changes to existing State Bills to improve homeowner rights. 
Like all efforts to influence State law, HOA homeowners attempting to gain political influence must compete with well-funded lobbying interests from the real estate and property management company industries/trade groups.  Money (influence) trumps HOA homeowner rights issues especially when this voting block is not organized or informed on the importance of ensuring their own HOA by-laws are enforceable.