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Gazette Premium Content SIDE STREETS: HOAs not a favorite subject of incoming House Speaker

BILL VOGRIN Updated: January 4, 2013 at 12:00 am

Incoming Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino brings a very personal perspective on homeowners associations to the Colorado General Assembly when it convenes next week.

He’s not a fan.

In fact, when I mentioned HOAs to Ferrandino during his newsroom visit Thursday, he had this response:

“Don’t get me started!”

Seems the leader of the Colorado House had a rude introduction to life in covenant-protected communities. You know, neighborhoods with volunteers to enforce architectural and landscaping rules to maintain community standards and protect property values.

“When I lived in an HOA, I thought of my HOA as being paid as part of my mortgage,” Ferrandino said. “Our HOA fees were $25 a month. They didn’t do much so it wasn’t really a lot of money.

“After living there about six months, I get a notice that there’s a lien on my property. I didn’t realize I wasn’t paying my HOA.”

The Denver Democrat was echoing a complaint I’ve heard often by folks who felt ambushed by the very existence of an HOA in their new neighborhood and the need to pay dues.

Ferrandino was shocked that his HOA board would take such a predatory approach to a new neighbor.

“The president of my HOA wasn’t smart enough to just walk down the street, knock on my door and ask for a check,” said Ferrandino, a fiscal analyst who has a master’s degree in economics. “I could have just written the check for $75.

“I was good for it.”

Instead, he ended up spending upwards of $500 to cover the court costs and legal fees associated with satisfying the lien.

“So you can understand my attitude toward HOAs,” Ferrandino said. “I actively look for areas that do not have HOAs where I will live.”

It will not surprise anyone, then, that Ferrandino welcomes greater regulation of HOAs, their managers and volunteer boards and expects several bills to be introduced.

“There needs to be much more accountability and transparency in HOAs,” he said. “We’re supposed to be a democracy. But sometimes they have dictatorial authority within communities.”

So I asked how he felt about giving the new HOA Information Officer, Gary Kujawski, power to investigate and enforce the 2005 Homeowners Bill of Rights as well as subsequent efforts by lawmakers to rein in HOAs, led by Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.

“I’m open to it,” he said with enthusiasm. “I’d love to see a bill that gives people in HOAs a way to enforce their rights. So they have someone to complain to that can hold HOAs boards and managers accountable.

“We can pass all the laws we want, but if people don’t have a way to complain and enforce those laws, they aren’t worth the paper we printed the laws on.”

Coming in Monday’s Side Streets, incoming Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll outlines her legislative agenda for HOAs. Key words: enforcement and licensing.

 

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