Sunday, July 26, 2015

Colorado HOA Forum Issues "HOA Manager Complaint Guide"

The Colorado HOA Forum has made available on its' web site a DRAFT copy of its' HOA Property Manager Complaint Guide for use by home owners who want to file a complaint against an HOA property management company under the new Community Association Manager (CAM) Licensing Law.  The Guide will make it easier to complete the State's on-line complaint form and also will help home owners write the justification for the complaint using references to State HOA laws.  For example, if a home owner is denied access to HOA records, has issues with the way meetings and elections are conducted, if their HOA is in total disrepair, or if the HOA is charging home buyers/sellers an HOA Transfer Fee they can file a complaint with the State Office (DORA).  The Guide provides legal references that can justify these issues as a violation of law requiring disciplinary action by the State.

The Forum understands this Guide is an ongoing process to develop additional legal references to support a laundry list of home owner complaints.  It has submitted a list of changes to DORA concerning changes to the on-line complaint process and to add additional features such as allowing complaints and documentation to be submitted via email and U.S. mail and a process to track and give feedback to home owners about filed complaints.

The Colorado HOA Forum also is available to help home owners on filing their complaints by filling a contact form on their web site: .

Friday, July 24, 2015

HOA Foreclosures Allow for Selling Your Home for Pennies on the Dollar

Homeowner's Association (HOA) legislative reform has proven to be extremely difficult in Colorado. Whether the recent HOA manager licensing law, HOA debt collection policy, limiting HOA Transfer Fees, or requiring the justification of HOA fees the result has been watered downed or "killed" Bills by interest groups such as the Community Association Institute (CAI) to the detriment of home owners.

Possibly one HOA issue can gain success in our legislature with support from home owner's groups and the CAI: HOA foreclosure reform.   The abusive and not uncommon practice of HOA's foreclosing on properties for pennies on the dollar is financially devastating to home owners and financial institutions. Too often HOA's foreclose on a property and questionably, but legally, sell the home to speculators, investors, and sometimes privileged parties for a fraction of the home's value to gain payment of HOA debt. The buyer pays off all liens and obligations encumbered on the property, gains title to the property free and clear, and can then proceed to sell the home for fair market value. No requirement to for the HOA to pursue or accept fair market value offers. No net proceeds on the sale go to the bank to mitigate the loss on the defaulted loan nor will any proceeds be used to pay down the home owner's mortgage balance. Too often these foreclosures turn into absentee landlord rentals to the detriment of the community. All this courtesy of Colorado's HOA "super lien" law.

Nevada has recently addressed this problem with legislation. Basically, when an HOA sells, for example, a $400,000 home for $25,000, the mortgage company will have a 60 day period after the sale to intervene and pay off all previous liens, reimburse the purchaser of the property for the sales price plus identified costs incurred. Home ownership would be reverted back to the mortgage company and placed on the market for sale at or near its' fair market value. The net proceeds from the sale would reduce the outstanding mortgage balanced owed by the home owner, reduce the banks losses, and most likely result in a full-time home owner in the community. Thus the practice and incentive of foreclosing/selling HOA homes for pennies on the dollar is mitigated.

Colorado has an HOA "super lien" law promoting this predatory practice. In general, the law allows HOA's to foreclose on homes ahead of first-mortgage providers, giving HOA assessments “super-lien” status that extinguishes first deeds of trust upon foreclosure. Thus if the HOA lien is not paid and HOA foreclosure is completed the buyer is free and clear of any mortgage obligation. HOA legislative reform similar to the Nevada law would address this abusive practice. The Colorado HOA Forum,, will be asking our legislators to sponsor a Bill similar to the Nevada legislation to mitigate this abusive and destructive foreclosure practice

Thursday, July 9, 2015

HOA Home Sellers/Buyers Improperly Paying HOA Transfer Fees

The HOA Manager Licensing Law effective July 1, 2015 provides HOA home buyers/sellers the opportunity to challenge their payment of the HOA Transfer Fee.  The Law is very weak on home owner consumer protections and purposely avoided requiring HOA property management (PM) companies to provide justification and documentation of fees assessed home owners.  The law does, however, require all fees, charges, and assessments imposed and collected between a PM and an HOA and its' home owners to be authorized and fully disclosed in their contract with the HOA and/or in the HOA's governing documents else the fee is illegal.  Yes, this is a big deal as HOA home owners shell out upwards of $10 million a year with this erroneous fee.

The authority of an HOA to assess and collect dues and special assessments are defined in HOA governing documents and State Law and are legal financial obligations of the home owner and should be disclosed to home buyers.

Fees assessed HOA home owners by a third party (PM) but not authorized in an HOA's governing documents/declaration or defined in an HOA contract are illegal.   Thus, PMs are not legally justified to assess home owner fees simply because the home owner's dwelling is in the HOA they service.  The new licensing law requires all HOA fees collected and retained by the PM (including the HOA Transfer Fee) to be documented with the HOA.  State HOA law does allow PM's to bill home owners for unreimbursed expenses related to the sale of a home if such action is authorized in HOA documents.  The key point is reimbursement of only additional and extraordinary expenses incurred by the PM from the sale of a home and such expenses must be justified by work performed and not otherwise paid to the PM in its' contract with the HOA .

The HOA Transfer Fee is rarely if ever defined, justified, or authorized in any HOA governing document or contract between the HOA and PM or disclosed to home buyers.  The new licensing law makes this fee illegal if not fully disclosed in HOA official documents.  The issue of a legal Transfer Fee based on unreimbursed expenses is also a basis for contesting this fee.  PM's argue the legitimacy of the fee relates to: 1) expenses incurred to provide a copy of the HOA governing documents and a "status letter" (indicating the home owner's financial status on obligations to the HOA such as dues, special assessments, fines) to the buyer and 2) updating HOA records to reflect the change of ownership and issuing credentials to the new owners such as security keys, entrance gate remote controllers, etc.).  PM's charge between zero to over $1,000 for these "extraordinary" services without having to justify, explain, or document charges.  The fact is that these services are not extraordinary and are base line services the PM is already compensated for in their contract with the HOA.  Further, HOA governing documents are free to home owners/Realtors on HOA web sites or for only a small service charge.  The "status" letter is no more than producing a final routine billing to the home owner.  Finally, updates to administrative records are routine and no more labor intensive than when a divorce, death, rental, or marriage occurs and are considered baseline services in the HOA contract with the PM.

Thus the legitimacy of the HOA Transfer Fee can fail on several counts:  1)  if the fee is not for extraordinary and unreimbursed expenses 2) if authority to assess the fee is not documented in HOA official records 3) if the home owner doesn't receive full and detailed documentation of work performed  and 4) the fee can't include charges for work already compensated for in the PM contract with the HOA.  Home owners should protest this fee to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Services (DORA) if any of these conditions exist.  The State complaint form can be obtained from the DORA and the Colorado HOA Forum ( web sites.