Saturday, February 19, 2011

Nevada HOA inmates rally against "bully boards," call for legislative curbs

Used to be some odd symbol of “belonging”—or for some, status—to be a part of an HOA (no trailer trash here!) neighborhood. What with all the cookie cutter neatness, lack of individuality and security gates, it’s the facade of a picture perfect community. And a mere facade it’s seemingly become for some folks in Nevada—with a rather ugly behind-the-scenes picture.

An article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal shares what basically boils down to a case of schoolyard bullying—only the playground is now the development, and the bullies are the HOA boards. Those who feel they’ve been bullied (e.g., one homeowner was unjustly fined for the transgression of erecting a fence for which the HOA had previously approved the plans) have now joined voices, if not forces, to rally last Monday against HOA “bully boards”. They’re mad as hell and they want the folks in Carson City to do something about it.

After several years of silence, Silver State HOA inmates are letting their voices be heard in Carson City. I imagine Phil "The Ghostbuster" Testa, who organized a similar revolt a dozen years ago, is cheering them on from the grave.


Communisty Associations Institute said...

It is unfortunate that a small minority of malcontent home "owners" are ungrateful for the work that the volunteer board of directors has done to preserve property values and foster a sense of communisty.

While these trouble makers are certainly entitled to their opinions (except where void by adhesion contract), they should not be allowed to disrupt their neighbors.

Repeated polling by the Community Research Unit shows that 112% of homeowners who live in HOAs are happy with their HOA. And that number is growing, according to our secret data and hockey-stick graph which we can't make public.

This small group of people, who don't take pride in following the rules they agreed to live under, are hurting their common-interest neighbors, such as the woman in who declared, "I thought I'd never live in a planned unit development but then I realized I wanted a single-family detached home with some control over my neighbors." *

If they don't like it, they should move elsewhere. Owning a home in an HOA is privilege, not a right.

We support legislative efforts to reform HOAs. However, there must be a balance, which is why we support legislation that gives HOAs more power and individual homeowners fewer rights. Anything else would be government interference in a private contract.

* quote from Robert Nelson's Private Neighborhoods and the Transformation of Local Government (Urban Institute, 2005), p. 7)

Intruder2u said...

I find the last two sentences of the above comment most paradoxical.

If I read this comment correctly, they seem to only support legislation that interferes or limits with a home owner's private contract rights but not an association's private contract rights.

Either legislation that affects private contract rights is constitutional or it is not. You can't just pick and choose what laws you like and do not.

Also would you please explain the 112% that makes me wonder if someone stuffed the ballot box.

gnut said...

> Either legislation that affects private contract rights
> is constitutional or it is not.
> You can't just pick and choose what laws you like and do not.

Why not?

It is well known that liberals have been doing so for decades, but anyone knowledgeable about HOA issues is aware that conservatives and libertarians are just as hypocritical.

See my comments (here and here) about the dichotomy of conservatarian thought regarding labor unions vs HOA unions. And here about the tort-reform movement, another conservatarian cause.

Granted that a lot of the current right-of-center punditocracy is focusing on public sector unions. But their desire to regulate private sector unions has existed for as long as I can remember, although it has taken a temporary back seat for the time being.

And even if one removes private sector unions from the equation, it still doesn't explain the conservatarian support for government-mandated HOA unions (not withstanding that HOAs also fail so many tests of Rational Choice Theory necessary for free market to work).

In stosselland, workers aren't free to leave their jobs, so they must be protected from unions (the only type of worker protection conservatarians favor). But homeowners are free to move from their HOA whenever they feel like it, because changing homes is as trivial as changing brands of breakfast cereal.

Sadly, conservative and libertarian thought has descended into a parody of corporatism. Or, as the Professor described it a few years ago,

"repressive libertarianism," where certain people who call themselves libertarians invariably side with property owners who want to limit other people's liberties through the use of contract law. Property rights (usually held by somebody with a whole lot of economic clout) trump every other liberty. The libertarian defense of HOAs is the perfect example. The developer writes covenants and leaves. Everybody who lives there has to obey them forever, even if they lose due process of law and expressive liberties. As private corporations take over more functions of government, this position could lead to gradual elimination of constitutional liberties.

Beth said...

Intruder2u, the first comment was a (very clever) parody. Hence "Communisty" Associations Institute.

Intruder2u said...

OK, now I get it......

All kidding aside. Eons ago there were thousands of horror stories of abusive employers that seeded the needs for unionization in this land. I can't help wonder if abusive associations won't eventually seed a for unionization of home owners someday that will challenge the bullies. Horror stories just seem to be growing at an exponential rate and the weight of the thumb seems to be squashing too many individuals.

The "you knew what the rules were" before you bought the home or took the job just goes so far before people will start looking for their rights.

Evan McKenzie said...

There have been several attempts to get a national organization started to represent the interests of owners in common interest housing developments of all types--condos, HOAs, and co-ops. I have been involved with two of those efforts and I thought both of them had a good chance of succeeding. In both cases the individual who would have been primarily responsible has abandoned the effort. The problem is participation by owners. Despite all the intense outrage on the part of some activists, the fact is that most owners don't care about any of the issues we talk about here, unless and until their own ox is getting gored. And when that happens, their concern is short-lived and rarely carries over to anybody else's grievance. Few and far between are the owners who would contribute any time or effort to organizing on behalf of CID owners.
Unions got over that hump by federal legislation giving them the right to bargain collectively on behalf of members, to collect dues directly from pay checks, and other pro-union legislation. Let's see somebody come up with a way to overcome the collective action problems of CID owners. I don't have the answer. I wish I did.

Fred Pilot said...

There isn't collective action because there isn't a collective interest in private local government, i.e. mandatory membership HOAs. (I omit condos because they are not IMHO a form of private local government but instead a form of common real estate ownership).

With public (muni and county) local government, there is a history of local activism (typically involving land use issues) and taxpayer organizations. The difference is the legitimacy and authority of this form of government is generally accepted. The same can't be said for HOAs.

Bottom line, people aren't going to join forces to reform HOA governance because the simply don't believe in private local government. If they do act collectively, their goal will be not be its reform but rather its abolition.

Ellen Ripley said...

> If they do act collectively,
> their goal will be not be its
> reform but rather its abolition.

I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Communisty Associations Institute said...

Homeowners across the country are already represented by a union -- their homeowners associations.

There is no need for another organization to represent their interests.

As Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman wrote in Free to Choose,

"The smaller the unit of government and the more restricted the functions assigned government, the less likely it is that its actions will reflect special interests rather than the general interest. The New England town meeting is the image that comes to mind. The people governed know and can control the people governing; each person can express his views; the agenda is sufficiently small that everyone can be reasonably informed about minor items as well as major ones. . . Currently in the United States, anything like effective detailed control of government by the public is limited to villages, towns, smaller cities, and suburban areas."

If Common Interest Communisties had been as prolific in 1980 as they are today, it is a certainty that Milton Friedman would have included HOAs in his list of effective democratic institutions.

On the the state and national scale, the interests of homeowners are advocated for by the C.A.I. and its state chapters.

Public governments, with their inefficient government bureaucracies and controlling special interests, are burdened with the requirement to respect the pesky constitutional rights of all its citizens -- even the troublemakers and delinquents who threaten your property values.

HOA privatized governments are free to operate like a business without the burdens of government regulation. As a result, they are much more efficient at activities such collecting "taxes", seizing private property, ensuring the proper outcomes of elections, and micromanaging the lives of its citizens for the betterment of the communisty.

Working together with volunteer boards, professional property management companies, and HOA law firms, these three elements of the C.A.I. triad are creating a socialist-utopian future in which individual private property ownership -- but not individual obligations and responsibilities to the collective -- will be a thing of the past, allowing Americans to live together in peace and harmony in communisties across the country.

Because if left to themselves without a heavy-handed corporate structure, your neighbors just wouldn't be very neighborly.

PS -- to Ellen Ripley above, we take offense to your comparison of HOAs to the endoparasitoid extraterrestrial species you encountered on LV-426, and your wanton disregard for the property rights of Weyland-Yutani.

Anonymous said...

"Unions got over that hump by federal legislation giving them the right to bargain collectively on behalf of members, to collect dues directly from pay checks"

HOAs need legislation that would allow them to collect dues directly from pay checks.

Ellen Ripley said...

> to Ellen Ripley above, we take offense to your comparison
> of HOAs to the endoparasitoid extraterrestrial species you encountered on LV-426

One is a parasite that has no purpose other than to perpetuate its kind. Once attached, it has a perfect defense mechanism. Any action against the parasite endangers the host. The longer its allowed to gestate, the more dangerous it becomes. In spite of the threat these things pose, sociopathic corporations will do whatever is necessary to create more of them for their own nefarious purposes.

The other is an extraterrestrial species from outer space.

gnut said...

The conservative/libertarian/Ayn Randian web site Pajamas Media has a short criticism of "One Wisconsin Democrat says…if people don’t like paying union dues that are used to support Dem candidates, they can always get another job." (via Instapundit, who observes that "yet they’re shocked when people call them crooks and thugs").

My reply to the PJM column (comment # 7) is:

Yet that is exactly the conservative/libertarian/Republican/Ayn Randian response to complaints about mandatory membership in an HOA union as a condition of home ownership.

Even though HOA unions are creations of government policy [ ], and represent another layer of government, double taxation, serve the interests of parasitic lawyers who threaten the private property rights of millions of American home owners, and are communist in nature.


Not as long-winded as I can be at times, but I was in a hurry to post a comment near the beginning of that thread.

This whole dichotomy about the Right's attitudes toward labor unions vs. HOA unions is something worth writing about in detail, if I ever have the time. Or I can just leave it as an exercise to others.

As the Professor once said, "Talking with libertarians about HOAs is like discussing evolution with a young earth creationist."

gnut said...

> This whole dichotomy about the Right's attitudes toward
> labor unions vs. HOA unions is something worth writing about

Somebody at, in a thread about "Common Mistakes By Economists," explained it to me:

My problem with this comparison is that in the case of the home purcharser the buyer goes into the transaction knowing that there is a HOA and having a chance to read the contract etc. In the case on unionization the government comes along and tells the employer that they must deal with their workers through the union, can’t simply replace them etc. I am anti-union from the employer’s side, not from a potential worker’s perspective.

If unionization came about through the mutual agreement of the parties I would not be nearly so opposed. But when government comes along and says that employees suddenly have some vested right to their job, that I do have problems with.

At the moment, I'm speechless.