Home Owner Associations Attacking More Property Rights

I wrote last week about the assault on property rights by the comprehensive land use plans currently being developed around the nation, with identical goals and terms based on environmental protection, land preservation, conservation easements, and other elements found in Agenda 21, a document signed by 179 countries in 1992. http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/61542

Home Owners Associations (HOAs) and Condo Associations are also coming after your property rights. While you acquiesced to certain terms in a Deed of Declaration when you moved into a certain subdivision, you did not envision the power that HOAs would try to gain over the use of your home, the property surrounding it, or your condo.

Virginia lawmakers are currently under fire for House Bill 791 that, they say, “Curbs powers of homeowners associations.” Those who reject the bill say that it does “the exact opposite and could even lead to homeowners losing their electricity for infractions.”

Sen. Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax) told Watchdog.org that “Somewhere George Orwell is rolling over in his grave. What we’re doing here is saying that a homeowner association, even if it doesn’t have power stated in [its] charter, will be allowed to exercise additional powers.” Peterson, an attorney, said that the fine print of the bill allows HOAs to fine homeowners $50 per day for simple things such as leaving out toys or hanging Christmas lights.

Sen. Chap Peterson said that HB 791, passed by the Senate 31-9, would overturn the “traditional Virginia law stating that HOAs only held that power conferred by their authorizing document, i.e. the Deed of Declaration.” This limitation is almost gone, replaced by HOA Boards and Condo Boards that can levy fines and penalties against homeowners even if that power is not stated in the original documents. “These boards now have the power which is not even held by City Councils or County Boards, i.e. the power to assess and collect fines (and assert a lien against property) even without a court order.” https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152305071561255&set=vb.698576254&type=theater

Delegate Jim LeMunyon (R-Chantilly), the co-sponsor of the alleged HOA-friendly bill, said in a letter sent to a constituent that “The origin of the bill is a conversation with a woman I met knocking on doors last fall. She is in her 60s and wants to retire with the equity in her town home. Unfortunately some neighbors have left their town homes in disrepair, reducing the value of her home – and trampling on her property rights – by tens of thousands of dollars. And her HOA is virtually powerless to do anything about it because of the conflicting court cases.”

Democrats and Republicans in northern Virginia are objecting to HB 791, “a bill giving draconian extra-legal powers to homeowner associations.” Critics call it “an end-run around property rights.

If this bill passes, HOAs have the right to “suspend a unit owner’s right to use facilities or services… for nonpayment of assessments” and to “assess charges against any unit owner for any violation” or regulations committed by their visitors, unless expressly prohibited by written contract.

Anybody who owns a home in an HOA-controlled subdivision can understand the frustration with the Board of Directors who is often composed of power hungry volunteers who like to control other people’s lives in an asinine manner. HOA power grab goes beyond the directive to keep grass mowed and property in decent repair.

HOAs tell owners when to power-wash driveways, decks, fences, paint, cut down trees because of squirrels, replace dull sconces, change the color scheme of the mail boxes each year, which side of the house to install TV antennas on, whether you can have a deck, a patio, pending their approval of the builder’s plan, a storage shed, a vegetable garden, a flower garden, fly the American flag, have Christmas or Easter decorations, etc. The HOA directives can be hundreds of pages long.

My friend’s HOA has made her life a living hell. She was told to replace her expensive fence although two contractors said that it did not need replacing and it was in much better condition than most fences in the community. They backed down. One of her neighbors was fined $900 for not switching a sconce and post lamplight from brass to “shiny” brass. Another neighbor did not finish on time his forced staining of his deck, resulting in a fine that continued to add up. Some homeowners were fined because the mail boxes were not identical. And the list of “infractions” seems endless. The residents who complain about the abuse of power are treated extra rudely, unfairly, with disdain, and prejudice.

If HB 791 passes in Virginia, instead of curbing the out-of-control power of HOAs and Condo Boards, it will give them almost unlimited power over private property, homes, and condos.

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