Posts Tagged ‘Hot button issues’

‘Tis the Season

December 20, 2012

One more colorful HOA-light blow-up for the holidays, this time from Pennsylvania.   Maybe it’s an Amish thing?  “No electricity?”

All their windows were dark. No one knew he was there. All the Whos were all dreaming sweet dreams without care… when he came to the first little house on the square.

I have occasionally wondered why my own quiet, typically strict and well-managed association lights up like the Las Vegas strip every Christmas season.  We have synchronized lights, LEDs and old school yellow bulbs, inflatables, and, since we’re in Boise, even Blue and Orange -themed lights.  The HOA even encourages the extravagance with an informal competition.  One could certainly read the declaration to ban all of it.

Even as a lawyer and self-appointed grinch, I have to admit that walking our streets this time of year feels festive.  Hopefully that admission won’t be used against any of my clients.

The colored glow lights up entire blocks.   I wonder if our  HOA could save some money by at least turning off the common area lamps.  They probably aren’t needed until January.

http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/3165100-74/lights-association-homeowners

This banned Pennsylvania display would be considered downright grinchy in our corner of Boise.

http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/3165100-74/lights-association-homeowners

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All-You-Can-Eat Politics

October 18, 2012

The other morning I was driving my kids to school here in Boise, and I was surprised to notice that a political sign right outside my neighborhood was not a political sign at all.  It was a sneaky ad for Tucanos restaurant.  Now, I love Brazilian barbeque, and I like a good funny ad, but immediately after I chuckled I started to think, not about grilled pineapple, but about whether advertisers were really permitted the same leeway in placing signs as political candidates are granted.

The Albuquerque Tucanos is also apparently actively campaigning, and the local news covered the issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsdW1arRFe4 .  I did not see media coverage here in Boise, even though we got the same ad coverage.  I suspect the answer is the same here:  This is just littering.

It is election season, and those signs are everywhere here in town.  I’m not going to discuss what individual property owners do on their own land, as that is a topic for another day, but HOAs often own prominent roadside common area.  HOAs are just like any other owner, and they can enforce sign-placement laws.  In Idaho, those laws are here: http://legislature.idaho.gov/idstat/Title18/T18CH70SECT18-7029.htm.  So an HOA should act like any other responsible property owner and make a decision to clear the signs off or let everyone have their say.

The law:

18-7029. PLACING POSTERS OR PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL ON PUBLIC OR PRIVATE PROPERTY WITHOUT PERMISSION. It shall be unlawful for any person to erect, install, attach or paint, or cause to be erected, installed, attached or painted, election posters or signs upon public or private property, real or personal, in the state of Idaho, without permission from the owner or occupant of such property, and it shall be unlawful for any person to place or leave any literature or other political, promotional or sales materials upon public or private property, real or personal, in the state of Idaho when the owner or occupant of such property, by a sign conspicuously posted on the property, or by other written or audio communication to such person, has forbidden the placing or leaving of literature or other political, promotional or sales material upon that property. Provided, however, that the granting of such permission by any public utility company on behalf of any candidate for public office shall constitute the granting of like permission by such public utility company to all other candidates for the same public office. Any violation of this section shall be a misdemeanor.

Imagining HOAs’ Future

August 7, 2012

A while back, I enjoyed author Neal Stephenson’s imagining of a United States where neighborhoods exercised virtual national sovereignty, with extreme border security and visa requirements restricting even the movements of a high-speed katana-wielding pizza deliveryman.  While this would certainly be an unexpected evolution of today’s covenant-based associations, there has been some evolution of HOAs over the years.  I sometimes wonder how HOAs will evolve in the near future.

First, I think we can all agree that homeowner associations are inherently conservative organizations.  They are based on covenants conditions and restrictions that are recorded on real property and that often remain unchanged for decades.  Usually CC&Rs can only be amended by a supermajority of the owners: an action that takes coordination, participation, and consensus.

It is no surprise then,  that HOAs are not weather vanes of social change.  Instead, we see conservative covenants challenged by owners with particular agendas, be they environmental responsibility, political activism, or the like.  Those who challenge covenants no doubt see precedent set in federal legislation that has retroactively outlawed covenants creating racially segregated housing communities, age-specific restrictions (except in retirement communities) and other fair housing issues, in addition to less-obvious federal rules regarding satellite dishes.

It would be interesting to see if HOAs could play a leading role in even more politically-charged social areas.  For instance:

  • Could an HOA ban undocumented residents?
  • Could an HOA ban guns of any kind?
  • Could an HOA require smart meters, solar panels, or laundry lines?
  • Could an HOA dive into the marriage debate?

Of course, we always advise our clients to avoid issues that might lead to litigation.  But that doesn’t mean attorneys can’t enjoy imagining legal problems yet to arise.

Update: These Colorado HOA attorneys just blogged about another social topic:  smoking bans.