Homeowner or HOA? - Tucson Local Media: News

Homeowner or HOA?

Who has the final say when it comes to decision-making?

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 3:00 am

Owning a home has been the traditional American dream, but succumbing to the iron-fisted rule of a homeowners association on a power trip can quickly turn that dream into a nightmare.

Recent activities inside some local HOAs have led some home-owners to ask what rights they have when the elected board of directors is making questionable decisions for the community.

The answer can be somewhat discouraging when HOAs are compared to elected officials or a corporation. A homeowner is considered a voter or stockholder, but the power lies with those directed to make decisions on the community’s behalf.

Laws, rules and regulations are oftentimes established to help the HOA and the community management firm hired to oversee operations.

Fines can be levied, attorneys are retained to enforce payment, and as collateral, there have been cases where the home is taken due to unpaid fines. Fines are levied for the wrong house colors, weeds, trash cans in the street and anything else outlined in the community’s Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, otherwise referred to as CC&Rs.

“Oftentimes the CC&Rs do dictate what members can vote on,” said Wendy Ehrlich, a Tucson homeowner association attorney. “Board members have the right to sometimes implement special assessment fees or increase assessments.”

The Sunflower Community Association continues to work on sorting out the legalities of a $65,000 contact signed by outgoing board members to build a pickleball court.

In that case, many residents thought the March election where many voted against the proposal spoke loud and clear; however,

wording in the community’s CC&Rs allowed the board to implement a special one-time assessment fee of $47 to build the court.

The contract to build the court was signed days before three board members resigned rather than facing a recall.

Just like elected politicians, most homeowners can recall board members who are not meeting performance standards. A recall may be the greatest power homeowners wield inside an association.

“In Arizona, members also have the right to attend board meetings and voice concerns,” said Ehrlich. “Ultimately, homeowners must elect the right people to manage their HOA.”

However, like many politicians, some will say the power that comes with the position can change people.

A study conducted by Nevada psychology professor Gary Solomon suggested that oversight over a homeowner’s living conditions creates a two-tailed psychiatric disorder called “HOA Syndrome.”

Talking about his experience inside an HOA in Las Vegas, Solomon said, “I learned that residents, primarily principal homeowners, were living in a war zone, not identifiable by bombs, guns and burning buildings. Rather, a war zone masterfully orchestrated by a few fellow homeowners attempting to control their companion neighbors while making a few bucks on the side and gaining sadistic pleasure from watching their neighbors live in pain.”

While Solomon statement describes the most extreme result of an HOA’s power, others will say they are satisfied with their board of directors who aren’t out to spend a lot, increase fees and spend money on projects homeowners don’t want. Many boards are elected to just maintain a certain level of quality in the community.

In the end, Ehrlich said, while homeowners may not have voting powers, they do have the power to initiate recalls and make sure their voices are heard by speaking up at meetings, sending emails and being outspoken about projects at hand.

© 2017 Tucson Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More about

More about

Welcome to the discussion.


  • stop HOA abuse posted at 1:35 pm on Thu, May 26, 2011.

    stop HOA abuse Posts: 1

    Someday I will write a book about how I bought a home in an HOA thinking I would be living the American Dream which is a nightmare. I have lived in a beautiful neighborhood for several years and learned that you cannot tell a book by it's cover. The community is run by a bunch of narrow minded..personal objective individuals that will bend over backwards not to follow what everyone thought they were buying into when we signed the CCR's. Our only recourse is to sue this bunch of selfish individuals who really don't care about the lives of the people who live here. They sweep problems under the rug and you cannot get an intelligent answer from them, the Board or their hired thugs the Management company. It is a form of racketeering and as long as you are a homeowner who hides in a hole and never questions what they are doing they will leave you alone. If you dare speak up, you are marked and harassed and despised. This is not the American Dream...these are evil and controlling people. I agree that the values of HOA homes will decline because of the pestilence that keeps running the community.

  • JudithCoreyMD posted at 9:38 pm on Wed, May 25, 2011.

    JudithCoreyMD Posts: 2

    Mr. Ehrlich promotes the same old Pollyanna-like fantasy world that the CAI does...Implying that by 'speaking up, sending emails, going to meetings' a homeowner can be 'heard' and be part of the great democratic process. When in fact, in a great many 'communities', there is NO pretense of anything remotely approaching a democratic process - and all it serves to do is to paint a bright target on the speaker so they can be singled out and made 'an example' of to keep everyone else in line. The fines the Board and its kangaroo court levy so heavily don't have to be valid - but just try to fight them and it can easily cost 100X more or ultimately your home. And those elections don't have to be 'real'...nor is the Board held in any way accountable for any myriad of abuses short of overt criminal acts. That's the 'reality' of these 'communities'.
    I lived in one - never again. Instead of fighting tooth and nail against any form of regulation the CAI really should try to concentrate on self-regulating and helping to pass sane laws preventing Homeowner abuse. Because in these times, with everyone connected and easily able to access the thousands of HOA horror stories that they try
    So mightily to sweep under the rug, I think the time is coming when you won't be able to give away a home in an HOA. I promise you already couldn't give me one.

  • hoagov posted at 6:21 am on Wed, May 25, 2011.

    hoagov Posts: 1

    The Tucson attorney is not telling it like it is. When was a business board of directors ever considered a democratic government? And that's the legal basis of HOAs. The HOA "constitution" and "laws" are unconscionable adhesion contracts favoring the HOA legal person that is independent of the owners. Is Cuba or China democratic because the people can vote?

    Learn more at http://pvtgov.org


Featured Videos


Online poll



Follow us on Facebook