Thursday, February 26, 2015

Colorado Construction Defects, SB 15-177: "protect the home owner" opposition in question

Let's be honest by acknowledging that any proposal on Construction Defects legal reform will not be ideal for either home owner or developer.  The high costs of unrestrained litigation, all fully funded on the backs of home owners without their knowledge or approval, simply needs change. Too often HOAs have their reserve funds depleted for legal costs and too often home owners are left with costly special assessments to pay for legal fees.  Then there is the argument by contractors that the proliferation and high cost of litigation associated with and instigated by HOA's thwarts the building of affordable housing. The system is broken, let's progress towards fixing it.
The predictable opposition to the Bill is from the Community Association Institute (CAI) and HOA trial lawyers.  They enjoy the current legal environment that results in a plethora of HOA court cases and unlimited funding of these cases through HOA bank accounts (and all without any involvement, knowledge, or approval of home owners).  The other opposition also comes from legislators on the "protect the home owner" band wagon. Their arguments are simply not consistent with their legislative actions.  Those legislators opposing SB 15-177 under the guise they want to "protect HOA home owners" have continually refused to support or sponsor Bills that would save home owners money, make current ineffective HOA laws effective, and improve HOA governance.  This legislative session they were asked to sponsor legislation to allow for an out of court binding dispute resolution process that would empower home owners in enforcing HOA laws with an affordable, expeditious, and accessible venue to resolve disputes (a process recommended in a State HOA Study);  end the abusive, excessive, and illegal HOA Transfer fee on home sales that costs home owners millions of dollars each year; to limit the excessive collection of fees and lawyer assessments on HOA debt; and most recently provide financial relief to small HOAs in the property manager licensing program.  It is difficult to understand and accept the "protect the home owner" argument when they have avoided every opportunity to do so in the past.  This is called being inconsistent.
The latest legislative contention is that this Bill would require a home owner to "seek a majority vote from all other home owners in the HOA to acknowledge their construction defect claim".  This is at best a half truth.  SB 15-177 does not to require home owners to acknowledge the validity of the construction defects claim but requires a Board to inform home owners of their intent on litigation (for any one or all home owners) and gain a majority of home owner approval to use HOA funds for litigation.  Thus, a vote is required if the individual home owner wants the HOA to use HOA funds to sue in their behalf.  This will mitigate the practice of HOA Boards and their lawyers taking on narrow and special interest litigation that is funded by home owners without community approval or benefit.  This is called open governance and protecting home owner interests.
Legislators on the "protect the HOA home owner" bandwagon must be challenged as to the validity of their opposition to SB 15-177 and also why, if they are so concerned about helping HOA home owners, they have failed to sponsor any substantive HOA reform over the past several years.

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