Tuesday, February 17, 2015

CAI Threatened Over Empowering HOA Home Owners on the Use of Their Own Funds in Litigation: SB 15-177

The Community Association Institute (CAI), long incorrectly identified as a home owner centric organization in the press and by State legislators, is at it again in attacking HOA home owner’s rights.  The CAI represents the interests of property managers and HOA lawyers and not home owners.  This time they are objecting to a provision in proposed Colorado SB 15-177 (construction defects) that requires HOA home owners to approve the use of HOA funds in litigation.  Why the opposition?  The CAI and HOA lawyers view the HOA as a profit center and easy money and empowering home owners on decisions on the use of their own funds is considered disruptive and meddling.

Too often HOA lawyers raid HOA bank accounts for legal fees and costly legal cases that should not have been litigated leaving home owners with depleted reserve funds, special assessments to pay legal costs, and/or increases in HOA dues to replenish reserve funds. HOA Boards can currently enter into litigation without apprising home owners of their intent, the cost and consequences of litigation or how they intend to finance legal fees. Boards can incur unlimited legal expenses and even take out debt instruments to pay legal fees. Home owners in too many cases only know of the financial consequences after the case has been litigated and they are stuck with the bill.  This Bill simply reins in the authority of an HOA Board (that is highly influenced by HOA lawyers and property managers) in making decisions on litigation that can have significant if not catastrophic financial impact.

SB 15-177 would not preclude legal action but require a majority of home owners to approve litigation. This would mitigate the number of law suits and the abusive practice of an HOA Board suing in behalf of a very few (as few as two) vs the community at large.  More cases would be handled in the less expensive legal venue of arbitration thus saving HOA’s significant sums of money. Home owners could still pursue individual actions using their own funds.

The CAI is fabricating a tall tale in contending that any legal fees paid to an HOA lawyer related to routine advice and counsel would take a majority vote of home owners. This Bill doesn’t get involved in regulating or interfering with the operations and daily functions of the HOA. Legal counsel on enforcing covenants, controls, restrictions, and debt collection or other issues involving common and routine HOA issues would not require a majority vote of home owners. It’s just not in this Bill.  Payment of routine legal counsel doesn’t require a law suit today nor would it under this Bill. This Bill is directed at legal cases filed in a court of law that are specific, unique, non-recurring and financially impacting. The CAI is attempting in what should be an embarrassing statement to say that any payment to an HOA lawyer would have to be voted upon: this is called desperation.

The winner in this Bill will be home owners in HOA community associations (not the Community Association Institute) who will now be empowered with more control over the assets of the HOA and still retain the right to litigate construction defects.  This Bill does not impair the ability of any HOA Board to govern but contributes to open governance.

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