Posts Tagged ‘UCIOA’

Las Vegas’s HOA Scandal: Bringing Out The Best In HOA Crooks

August 10, 2012

I have argued before, and often, that we need more laws in Idaho for homeowner associations and condominiums: Just a few guidelines to keep boards, accountants, and managers on the straight and narrow.  So, when the hokey pokey that is known as the Las Vegas HOA Scandal (it looks better in neon) came along, I thought I’d found a gift that would keep on giving.  Fake elections with straw buyers and counterfeit ballots, millions stolen, suicidal lawyers, all this needed was a some official cover-up, and you’d have a world-class headline.

It made my job easy.  Throw up the latest development, and “jackpot!” Arguments for reform don’t come much easier.

The problem is that Nevada already has HOA legislation.  A lot of it.  If anything, Nevada’s law only drove the sheisters to new levels of creativity.

Here in Idaho, we don’t get big HOA scandal headlines, because our scammers are low-profile and uncreative.  All you have to do to skim a little off the top is write some checks, take some vacations and spend as you go.  If the board is not paying attention, you can get away with it for years.  When you get caught, it is barely news, because who hasn’t heard of a treasurer or manager running off with association funds before?

In the Gem State, you are on your own.  But don’t pack for Idaho yet, potential scammers.  That can cut both ways.  We also love our guns.

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The Unspoken Rule: Discrimination in Unenforced Covenants

August 9, 2012

Can something discriminatory written and recorded in your Idaho CC&Rs decades ago still pose a liability for your association today?  Today, a blog for the Orlando Sentinel discusses the state of the law in Florida, and recommends a professional review of governing documents to find and remove offending restrictions. Not surprisingly, in Florida’s litigious society, there are municipal and county fair housing regulations.  Florida associations have been found liable for discrimination for “publishing” rules and regulations that caused a tenant “emotional distress,” even where those rules are not enforced.  That 1997 decision is online here.

The question remains how to regard that decision and legal advice here in Idaho, where the legal climate is as different from Florida’s as Idaho’s high desert climate is different from Florida’s coastal humidity.  Certainly the federal fair housing laws still apply, even if we do not see much additional municipal and county fair housing regulations.

Idaho’s Supreme Court found in a 2002 case, D & M Country Estates v. Romreill, that Idaho statutes restricting discrimination in zoning laws do not apply to covenants.   The Court found that because the governing documents in question were specific and unambiguous in limiting housing use to two “families,” the Idaho association was acting within its rights to prohibit use of a house by eight unrelated adults in a group home setting.  Unfortunately, in that case, claims based on the Idaho Human Rights Act were not properly before the Court, and so did not factor into the decision.  Indeed, the Human Rights Commission no doubt would urge Idaho courts to follow the Florida ruling that recorded “published” governing documents indeed can have a discriminatory effect.

In my experience, unenforced clauses in Idaho governing documents have not led to court liability.  However, I have seen such unenforced clauses lead to discrimination charges against associations and their boards.  Even unsuccessful fair housing claims require legal representation and defense.  Rather than face that uncertainty and expense, a preemptive review and amendment of governing documents is still as good an idea here in Idaho as in Florida.  But it may not be the only option.

An option that has not been explored here in Idaho is the use of a recorded cover sheet, as is required in California.  This would involve recording a statement that any discriminatory language in the remaining covenants is to be ignored.  The cover sheet would explicitly void any discriminatory covenants.

Either amending covenants to change language or to add a cover sheet would require the same supermajority vote by the owners.  In Idaho, we have no uniform common interest ownership act to make the process any easier than it sounds.  At the moment, either approach would require legal assistance and membership participation.