I care deeply about private property rights. And I bet you do, too. In fact, given the reaction I’ve gotten each time I’ve written here about the threat to private property rights posed these days by Arizona homeowner’s associations, it would seem that a lot of East Valley residents care deeply about the right to private property.
That’s why I’m glad to pass along some good news, as the battle to protect homeowners continues.
In its current state, the legislation is called SB1162, and is likely to go to a full vote in the Arizona Senate. Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, helped lead the way for this bill to get passed in the House of Representatives — now it’s up to the Senate and the governor to determine if this will become law.
For more details on this legislation, I caught up again with Clint Goodman, the president and founding attorney at the HOA Institute, a statewide organization headquartered in Mesa. I interviewed him once before, and was happy to do so again, as Goodman has been carefully monitoring the progress this bill has been making.
Hill: If indeed it becomes law, what sorts of problems could SB1162 remedy?
Goodman: There are a couple of problems that this bill is designed to address. One of these is the tendency of HOAs to amend their rules after they have been sued, only to have judges dismiss the lawsuits after the rules amendments. We’re talking here about cases where a homeowner has sought a means to an end of a dispute with their HOA, and the HOA refusing to budge until it reaches a point of a lawsuit. Then, after the homeowner has gone to the trouble and expense of filing a lawsuit, the HOA amends their rules, to avoid conflict in court, and a judge dismisses the homeowner’s case.
Hill: Does this actually happen very often, in your view?
Goodman: Yes, I believe it does. And it’s maddening for the homeowner. We’re not just talking about an isolated incident here and there.
Given the experiences I’ve had representing homeowners in disputes with HOAs, I’d say it’s a clear trend.
Hill: What else does this bill accomplish in strengthening the rights of homeowners against HOAs?
Goodman: The other benefit of SB1162 has to do with the process of resolving homeowner/HOA disputes at the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings. Previous legislation stipulated that a homeowner could resolve claims made against him by his HOA at the Office of Administrative Hearings, rather than going to court. This is a good thing, because taking a dispute to the OAH is a lot less expensive than going to court.
But despite this advancement in the rights of homeowners, we began to see another alarming trend with HOAs. Even if a dispute was taken to the Office of Administrative Hearings and resolved, HOAs began appealing the decisions that they didn’t like to the Arizona Superior Court, where the private homeowner would incur even more legal costs. In fact, I had a client to whom this happened, and when his HOA appealed the case to Superior Court, the HOA also threatened my client, telling that if he lost the case in Superior Court, the HOA would sue him to try and recoup their legal fees.
Hill: Would you call this problem a growing trend, as well?
Goodman: I would, yes. I frequently have people contact me at the HOA Institute and tell me “I have a problem with my HOA, and I want to resolve it without an attorney. What can I do?” I tell them that they can take their dispute to the Office of Administrative Hearings, but even if they win the dispute there, they still might be subject to further harassment from their HOA. SB1162 can help remedy this problem.