Sunday, March 1, 2015

Construction Defects Legislation: home owners await final version, changes required!

To date, the Colorado HOA Forum, Colorado's largest HOA home owner advocacy organization,  has mostly commented on the Colorado Construction Defects Bill, SB 15-177, by refuting empty contentions from the opposition.  We favor the Bill in principle as it could provide protections and empowerment for home owners in the use of their funds for litigation.  This Bill is still in the development stage and our FINAL approval must await the FINAL Bill.
It appears the primary purpose of this Bill was to mitigate the number of construction defects law suits and to provide for an environment to promote the building of affordable housing.  This is to be accomplished by changing State HOA law and further defining the rights of home owners and authority of HOA Boards.  Our recommendations, listed below, have been submitted to the Bill's sponsors and Legislative Committees that will review the Bill. Our final support for this bill will be determined by the inclusion/exclusion of our recommendations.
1.  This Bill will modify State HOA Law and thus should not limit the requirement for home owner approval on the use of HOA funds in litigation and/or approving legal action to only construction defects litigation but all litigation/court cases.  This will provide home owners with broader protections against using HOA funds on costly litigation without their knowledge or approval and still accomplish the intended purpose of reducing the number of law suits.
2.  The process to gain home owner approval through voting on the use of HOA funds in litigation and/or to pursue litigation must include a process of voting similar to that used by the HOA for other referendums and  this includes the right to proxy vote.  Without the use of proxies those not capable of attending a meeting in person to vote on litigation will have their rights violated as described in their HOA governing documents.  The specific groups to be harmed by precluding proxy votes are the disabled, seniors, and in particular military personnel (who quite often are deployed and not available for in person voting.  Additionally, proxy voting precludes using scheduling as a means to control the outcome of a vote whereby a date/time is chosen to conduct the in person vote when most can't attend.  Thus gaining a majority outcome, pro or con, is highly unlikely; this is an anti-home owner practice. We also find no precedence in HOA law to exclude proxy voting.
3.  It should be clear in the Bill that both plaintiff and defendant must agree upon the arbiter.
4.  A clause indicating that any sole home owner can pursue litigation using their own funds to bring a law suit in their behalf.
5.  Defined procedures to give both developer and home owner opportunities to resolve the construction defects issue prior to proceeding to litigation.
6.  The Bill indicates that a vote of home owners can't negate/remove the mandate in the original Declaration to use arbitration for construction defects litigation.  Although this is problematic as it limits the right of home owners to change the governing documents it also can serve to keep costly litigation out of the time consuming and costly court system.  There is no evidence that such clauses are changed in significant numbers so the impact of this mandate may be more insightful than have any real impact.  Also, home buyers are made aware of this restriction when they purchase the home like any other HOA restriction.

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