Friday, June 20, 2003

Colorado Supreme Court says HOA can force people to join and tax them
Here's a summary of the case, from Patrick Randolph's DIRT-L list:
Supreme Court of Colorado,
En Banc.
EVERGREEN HIGHLANDS ASSOCIATION, a Colorado non-profit corporation,
Robert A. WEST, Respondent.
No. 02SC242.
June 16, 2003.

Subdivision lot owner sought declaration that amendment to restrictive
covenants requiring membership in homeowners association and assessing
mandatory dues was invalid. The District Court, Jefferson County, Tom
Woodford, J., entered judgment for homeowners' association. Owner appealed.
The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, 55 P.3d 151 (2001). After grant of
certiorari, the Supreme Court, Rice, J., held that, as a matter of first
impression: (1) modification clause in covenants which stated owners "may
change or modify any one or more of said restrictions" was expansive enough to
allow adoption of new amendment, and (2) homeowners association, as common
interest community by implication, had implied power to collect assessments.
Reversed and remanded.

This looks like a major case and I will have more to say about it after I have read it more carefully.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Florida: Alliance forming between HOA activists and a fair housing group
This is from the Cyber Citizens for Justice website:
"The Florida based grassroots organization Cyber Citizens for Justice, Inc. is proud to announce that another great consumer organization, FHC (Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches), is joining their growing consumer alliance. Both organizations pursue many common goals, especially the improvement of housing conditions in the State of Florida. While CCFJ, Inc. is more specialized in pushing for necessary legislative reforms regarding mandated properties, FHC is a "Private" Enforcement Agency with the mission is to ensure equal and affordable housing opportunities for all people by promoting culturally diverse communities through open housing and the elimination of all barriers to that goal.

"Vince Larkins, President/CEO of the FHC, says that phones are ringing off the hooks at the FHC offices from residents who live under Condo and Homeowner Associations. 'We are excited about the great opportunity we have to come to the needs of residents under assault by unscrupulous individuals at the helm of many associations in Palm Beach County and throughout the State'."

Add this sort of alliance to the Nevada idea of an owner-funded oversight commission and you have the potential for a framework that could protect homeowner rights. That would be good for everybody--owners, boards, professionals, and developers.
HOA Oversight Commission for Nevada Becomes Law
From the Las Vegas Sun of June 13:
--quotation begins here---
Homeowners with complaints about their homeowners associations -- ranging from missing funds and kickbacks to harassment of residents -- now have a place to turn.

With the signing into law this week of Senate Bill 100, a state commission will be established to hear complaints about association boards of directors. The law goes into effect Oct. 1.

"These are governments and they have the power to tax and fine," said Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, who sponsored SB100. "And we have got to get them under control."

Eldon Hardy, ombudsman for the homeowner association, says his office receives 1,500 telephone calls a month from dissatisfied homeowners who feel they are abused by the elected board that rules the units.

Hardy, with his staff of three, try to mediate some of the complaints but there is no enforcement power.

"Big changes will soon be available to the homeowners," with the bill, Hardy said.

Schneider said SB100 will level the playing field and serve as a model for the rest of the nation.
--end of quotation---
Read the whole thing here. This could turn out to be a major event. If the commission proves to be more effective than the ombudsman's office has in curbing abuses by HOA boards, it could be a significant step toward a working reform model. Senator Mike Schneider has taken the lead on HOA issues in Nevada for a number of years and has a lot to be proud of. Congratulations, Senator Schneider!

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Watch for Bankrate article on HOAs
Bankrate will have an article about homeowner associations sometime in July. Their website gets about 3 million hits per day. I expect a balanced treatment of the issue from the consumer's perspective.
O'Reilly Irritates the Blogosphere
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly is whining about the internet. As usual, it's all about him. Somebody somehow erroneously reported that some radio station dumped his show. Nobody would have known without O'Reilly screeching about it, of course. It wouldn't matter to anybody except that now this is the occasion for him to fulminate about how awful it is for a medium to exist that allows people to speak without their words being screened by a corporate editor. This, from a person who brags constantly about how the great Himself cannot be controlled by the "mainstream media," and how great that unfettered competition has been for America. On that point, he may be right. But when this freedom trickles down the food chain to people like Matt Drudge and a million other people, and somebody occasionally has the temerity to do to O'Reilly what he gleefully does to the broadcast networks and CNN, suddenly the internet is the end of civilization. That sounds pretty much like what the major media have said about Fox News, doesn't it? I have enjoyed O'Reilly's bombastic style and often intelligent treatment of issues, but he's losing his perspective. Equating a fairly technical mistake about his radio show (which is in fact not doing well here in the Chicago area) with child pornography and using that false equation to lambaste the entire internet is, itself, irresponsible, and I wonder where his editor is.

The internet is making it possible for people to connect with each other who in the past would probably never have known of each other's existence. The impact of blogs and other internet publications on politics is enormous and overwhelmingly positive. Three refutations of O'Reilly's screed can be found at Lileks, Instapundit, and The Volokh Conspiracy.

And that's the memo.

Monday, June 16, 2003

So now we hear from Norway:
"A homeowner in the southern Norwegian city of Kristiansand is seeing red because his front door is green. His family of four now faces eviction because their green door doesn't satisfy the board of his homeowners' association. The board of the Brattbakken homeowners' association (borettslag) only allows doors to be painted blue, red, gold or white. Green isn't an approved color, and thus has unleashed the eviction threat."
Read the whole thing here, and thanks to Fred Pilot for the pointer.

Co-housing is an alternative to developer-created private communities. The people who find it co-housing attractive tend to be white liberals, and they are trying to diversify themselves a bit. This week the National Co-Housing Conference is taking place in Boulder, Colorado. As an article on the conference observes, "Planners brought the biennial event to Boulder because Colorado is one of the hottest co-housing markets in the country. Colorado and Washington state share the distinction of having the second-largest number of completed co-housing communities in the nation, with nine each. Only California has more, with 14 finished projects." The plus side is said to be a stronger sense of community and lots more personal interaction with neighbors. As one co-housing consultant said, "Instead of going next door and asking for a cup of sugar, you go next door, open the cupboard and get the sugar."
In some neighborhoods, that could get you shot.