In a town composed almost entirely of homeowners associations, it’s no surprise Gilbert’s legislators have a focus on HOA legislation. Homeowner advocates have applauded the efforts of incumbents now running for re-election and HOA laws that have passed in recent years.
A new law, for instance, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, will allow HOAs and residents to resolve disputes by filing with the Office of Administrative Hearings. Residents, and HOA boards, who otherwise would have had to file lawsuits or hire attorneys to resolve any dispute, can now pay $500 and have an administrative hearing judge hear their cases.
Some of the challengers for Farnsworth’s District 22 seat applaud the efforts, and say their agenda and support would fall similarly in favor of homeowner and HOA rights. Others say the legislation is not even keel enough, and makes it harder for homeowners who are, themselves, the HOA.
“I think on one hand, we certainly should be protecting homeowners in what we do,” said Terri Tobey, a Republican candidate for the House. “But the association is made up of homeowners. We’re protecting ourselves against ourselves.”
Republican House challenger Karl Kohlhoff argues that while the legislation sounds good, it has made the job of an HOA board member more difficult and less attractive. HOAs are not the enemy, he said, adding they largely benefit residents by keeping home values up.
“What Eddie’s done is really wrong,” Kohlhoff said.
Other legislation Farnsworth supported that now requires all HOAs to send out postage-paid letters during HOA board elections has not made a dent in HOA apathy problems, but simply cost the HOAs more money, Kohlhoff said.
“It’s caused us a lot of time and effort, and we don’t get a 10 percent return,” said Kohlhoff, who sits on his HOA’s board.
Glenn Ray, a Democrat and Senate candidate, said he’d like to see more homeowner rights. He said he’d be interested in investigating whether a new law could be created to make HOAs optional.
Senate Republican candidate Joe Bedgood said he supports going further than he says Farnsworth and other current legislators have been willing to go in favor of resident rights.
Farnsworth’s failed legislation that would have allowed residents whose homes were being seized by an HOA to retain $150,000 of equity fell short, Bedgood said.
Bedgood said he would like future attempts at that legislation to go further and protect the entire value of a home.
Farnsworth, though, said he had chosen that figure because it’s the standard number all other homeowners now retain if they lose their home. He argues that his legislation is delicately drawn up to ensure that both homeowner and association rights are protected, such as with the arbitration process which goes in effect Sept. 21.
“The HOA is in itself a unique animal,” said Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, who is running as an incumbent team with Farnsworth. “The past legislators may have given it too much power. Hopefully, we’re getting to the point of equilibrium here.”
Libertarian write-in candidate Edward Schwebel is also running for a House District 22 seat, and Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, is running for re-election.