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Gazette Premium Content SIDE STREETS EXTRA: New video of HOA town hall meeting

BILL VOGRIN Updated: March 23, 2013 at 12:00 am

The new state HOA boss wants Colorado Springs residents to know he’ll help them any way he can in their dealings with their homeowners associations.

But he won’t give them legal advice or investigate allegations of rogue boards, illegal elections, secret meetings, unfair covenant enforcement or discrimination because the  Colorado General Assembly hasn’t given him that authority.

Yet.

That could change depending on what lawmakers do with several pending bills. And about 75 people ignored the snow Saturday morning to spend three hours talking about the possibilities with Gary Kujawski, the HOA Information Officer.

Kujawski outlined the duties of his  HOA Information Office and Resource Center — mainly registering HOAs, dispensing informations about the laws governing HOA boards and managers, and fielding complaints.

And he tried to gauge audience interest in proposals before the Legislature, such as House Bill 1134, a major bill that would expand his office and grant him investigative and enforcement powers.

For example, a large majority of those in attendance agreed there is a need for mandatory licensing and bonding of professional HOA managers and their companies.

But no real consensus emerged over the idea to require mediation in HOA disputes or to create a referee system for dispute resolution.

Other ideas included creating an online rating system of HOAs and management companies, and allowing for monitoring of elections and term limits for board members.

The session was a wide-ranging conversation that at times was a how-to-govern workshop and other times a question-and-answer session.

Many in the crowd were experienced HOA board members who were defensive of complaints and challenged the need for state regulation of their activities. Others were residents who complained of the need to punish rogue boards.

Early in the meeting, one man in the crowd demanded to know: “What’s prompting all this talk that HOAs are such demons?”

Another attendee said she “takes exception” to the notion all HOAs are run by control freaks who simply want to punish people and steal from residents.

Many seemed surprised when Kujawski told them his background as a longtime HOA resident and board member. In fact, he was president of a large HOA because: “I was afraid to get off the board, afraid of what would happen in the community.”

In his new role, however, Kujawski said he is neutral on HOA issues.

“I am not a member of a consumer advocacy group or a trade group,” he said, insisting that no one in state government wants to regulate HOAs “just for the sake of regulation.”

But he gets 25 calls a day, on average, from folks with questions and complaints. Some are frivolous and can be resolved by simple conversations, he said.

“But a lot of people call me in tears,” Kujawski said. “They are dealing with some tough issues. They are frustrated. Some are complicated problems and they need legal counsel.”

As expected, many in the crowd wanted advice on their personal problems with HOAs, such as a woman who said her HOA president is a dictator who adjourns meetings, sends everyone home, locks the doors then “finishes the meeting in the dark.”

Kujawski said some of the horror stories are extreme and are examples of the types of cases he might investigate and take enforcement action against if lawmakers decided to grant him the authority.

Some in the audience were upset they had to register their HOAs every year and pay dues, about $16 this year. Others noted just 309 individuals filed complaints with the office in 2012 and suggested there was no need for regulation given upwards of 2 million Coloradans live in 8,300-plus HOAs statewide.

But Kujawski noted that few callers bother to file formal complaints since there’s nothing he can do for them.

And Kujawski promised to return in May or June for another town hall meeting, in perhaps a larger venue with a panel of experts to field more questions.

Attendees on Saturday gave him warm applause at the end and generally praised his presentation.

“It was really valuable,” said Eric Fitz. “If nothing else, now we know where to go for help.”

That opinion was shared by Marylyn Massey, who gave Kujawski a written complaint about her HOA after the meeting.

“I learned a tremendous amount today,” she said. “It was very helpful. And I’m hoping to talk to him about my concerns with my HOA at the Arbors at Mountain Shadows.”

Kujawski also urged everyone to stay tuned to action in the final weeks of the General Assembly because he expects several HOA-related bills to come up for debate and action.

Be sure to read Side Streets for updates on all HOA legislation.

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