Friday, September 12, 2014

HOA complaint resolution requires HOA homeowner involvement

Silence is not golden!  Seems that too many Homeowners Association (HOA) home owners can get long on complaints but short on acting on their concerns.  If you have/had an HOA complaint or feel you’ve been wronged by your HOA Board or property management company (PMC) you’re not alone but you must be heard.  The State HOA Office and your State representatives have received thousands of HOA complaints over the past two years.  This represents but a fraction of HOA complaints.

HOA home owner apathy is no different than in our general population.  What drives apathy in HOA disputes is an inability of  home owners to successfully exercise their rights.  In Colorado we have many HOA laws and nearly two-thirds of our population live under HOA governance.  Home owners encountering problems and simply trying to get their HOA to comply with their own governing documents quickly find out that what is in the law and their by-laws is not always enforceable from the home owners perspective.  The number one reason for our HOA laws being basically unenforceable is that they all lack a viable, affordable, and accessible means for dispute resolution except our costly, time consuming, litigious, and “pay to play” court system.  This dilemma on HOA governance increases home owner apathy and disengagement but doesn’t dampen individual disenchantment with the HOA living concept.

The solution to enforcement of HOA home owner rights rests with implementing an out of court binding dispute resolution process.  A process that is affordable and accessible and has a definite beginning (filing a complaint) and end (a decision).   Such a process was recently passed into law for HOA home owner complaints with PMCs that will go into law in July 2015.  This process is also used when filing complaints against licensed professions in the State via the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).   Why not for HOA home owner complaints?

The State of Colorado completed a study that identified out of court binding dispute resolution for home owner complaints.  This process would handle 95% of home owner complaints that involved non-compliance with HOA law and HOA governing documents but not be applicable to felony cases or those over a certain dollar limit in damages.  Home owners could still opt to go to court vs this process and thus no one’s legal rights to a court case are forfeited.  The process levels the playing field by not requiring lawyers and costly court proceedings, decides cases on current HOA law and HOA governing documents not legal maneuvers in court, allows for home owners to have their “day in court”, provides no advantage to those with financial resources, keeps frivolous complaints out of court, saves home owners and HOAs in court costs, and provides finality to complaints.  It is the solution to HOA complaints.

Implementation of an out of court binding dispute resolution process only awaits  legislator sponsors in the upcoming Colorado legislative session.  I can assure you that those opposed to reform such as the Community Association Institute (CAI), property managers, and HOA lawyers are already at work with their lobbyists, lawyers, and financial influence to stop such HOA reform in Colorado.

Our organization, Colorado HOA Forum, knows your State legislators are finally beginning to understand HOA issues from the home owner’s perspective.  They know what should be done but to date have no done it.  In the past, legislators only listened to well paid lobbyist such as the CAI to craft legislation and pursue HOA issues.   Of course this ensures nothing changes.  HOA home owners must contact their legislators asking them to support the State HOA study and implement an out of court binding dispute resolution process.  This can easily be done by visiting the Colorado HOA Forum’s web site.

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