Re: The Tyranny of Homeowners Associations
From: David L. Mandel (
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2013 12:40:52 -0800 (PST)
Neighbors in a development banding together to maintain, repair and facilitate 
use of their common property in a collective manner, in the spirit of mutual 
aid and support, is one thing. It can promote efficiency, sustainability, 
diversity and community, as cohousing at its best demonstrates.

A private, undemocratic* association taking on functions that traditionally 
belong to local government, lacking the latter's wider vision, accountability 
and constitutional limits on suppression of free expression and private 
behavior, is quite another. This constitutes privatization of the public sphere 
and is generally pursued to facilitate development and management for profit, 
not the needs of all residents, let alone the broader neighborhood and society. 
Not surprisingly, fiscal issues often become the main motivating factor for 
such associations, making them easy and willing partners, for instance, to 
debt-collection corporations that contract with them to harass owners of less 
means who may have fallen on hard times -- up to the point of foreclosure for 
relatively small fee arrearages. I saw this many times in my previous work as a 
legal aid attorney for seniors -- and the arrearages themselves were frequented 
caused by hard-headed decisions to
 increase fees drastically or institute large special assessments without 
regard for some residents' ability to pay. 

Bottom line: This is one aspect of the phenomenon in our society that makes 
housing a commodity for profit, as opposed to a human need and right. People 
are pushed to buy into the "American dream" whether it makes sense for them or 
not, and CIDs can appear to be attractive options. But the complications as 
conditions and majorities change can add untenable complications for those of 
lesser means subjected to an HOA's authority.

*Undemocratic because typically, each owner has one vote, regardless of the 
number of people living in the unit and regardless of whether the owner, for 
whom it may be only an investment motivated by profit, lives in the development 
at all -- not to mention the lack of oversight and accountability required in 
elections to public bodies. While state CID law may dictate this structure for 
cohousing communities too, I suspect that most of them, like mine, limit 
non-owner occupancy from the start and find other ways to give voice to 
additional residents, including non-owners. Not to mention the attention we pay 
to democratic, even ultra-democratic process under a consensus regime.

--- On Sat, 2/23/13, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> wrote:

From: R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]>
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ The Tyranny of Homeowners Associations
To: "Cohousing-L Cohousing-L" <cohousing-l [at]>
Date: Saturday, February 23, 2013, 4:43 AM

HOAs have powers and duties similar to governments?  Omigosh, how did this 

Well, it happened because that's how we, the American people, wanted it to 
happen.  HOAs — or condominium associations, as in Massachusetts — represent a 
system of reciprocal rights and responsibilities that are meant to facilitate 
both segregated ownership of specific parts of a building, and also the use and 
enjoyment, sharing and maintenance of other parts (the "common" areas) of the 
building, by the community as whole.  Rules for HOAs are promulgated at the 
State level, according to the wisdom of each State's legislature.  Decisions 
about assessments, insurance, maintenance, rules of access, etc, are made via 
representative democracy, i.e., a "Managing Board" (or some such term) of 
member / owner / residents elected by their peers.  These, then, are your 

The false premise underlying this pseudo-problem is that the Managing Board is 
somehow "those other people" — people not like us, but who are meddling with 
our lives and our property rights in inappropriate or illegal ways.  But this 
is not correct: Those people are indeed us, and we (members of the HOA) can 
change them out if we want to.  In theory, this is true for elected officials 
at State and federal levels as well; in practice, however, dumping out 
incumbents is very hard in State and federal politics.  Not so in HOAs, 
however; members of the Board are shuffled around all the time, for a whole 
bunch of reasons.  Would that Libya and Syria could dispense with their tyrants 
so easily as HOAs.  If your HOA Board is obdurately tyrannical, maybe it's 
because you never go its meetings, and didn't participate in the last five 

Don't want to get involved in your HOA politics?  Well, good news: ; This is 
America, and you don't have to live in an oppressive HOA community.  You can 
move to another one where your Board and your neighbors are more reasonable, 
and can be left to their own devices.  You can buy a single family home.  You 
can be tenant, hopefully in a unit owned and run by a kindly landlord.  Play 
your real estate cards right, and you can become a kindly landlord yourself.  
Lots of alternatives here.


On Feb 22, 2013, at 10:47 PM, Thomas Lofft <tlofft [at]> wrote:

> There has been a lot of discussion of HOA's and their authority and their 
> responsibilities as they may be required to perform by state law and whether 
> local cohousing community ethics might prefer dfferent options.This article 
> recently published in Planetizen offers one writer's perspective of the 
> Tyranny of HOA's and how local governance options may be incrementally 
> eliminated as state law infringes more and more upon personal property 
> rights. FYI:                           
> _________________________________________________________________
> Cohousing-L mailing list -- Unsubscribe, archives and other info at: 

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