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I am a nationmally recognized homeowner rights advocate, and author of "Establishing the New America of independent HOA principalities."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Analysis of 2005 CAI HOA survey

Below are my comments on some important issues, most of which were not directly addressed by the survey. The questionnaire is not numbered, so I am forced to refer to the opening line of the question as a reference.


This was a survey of planned community or condo residents, and non-HOA residents were not included. How the random list was generated is not given. I presume from CAI member organizations. Neither are we told the number of different HOAs, or their size and makeup. How many different HOAs were included? One? Five? 100?

As I wrote some time ago, I classify planned communities as either Residential, Resort or Retirement. With the last two categories, home buyers have a higher acceptance of rules and regulations, and the obligations to conform in these "institutionalized" settings. With respect to Residential, buyers expectations can run from "just buying a home" to "a property value protection association", as the proponents argue as a reason for HOAs as a choice. Which category, and to what extent, comprise the respondents?

About two-thirds were from single family homes.

1. Government Control / HOA purchase impact

In response to this question, 78% said no to "more government control." That's understandable. How about this question instead: Should homeowners in HOAs be subject to constitutional protections under the 14th Amendment as people not living in HOAs?

This response, aside from the form of the question posed, may be explained by the response to the question of "more likely to purchase" in an HOA, where 62% said that being in an HOA had no impact on their decision. That, alone, says that there is a severe lack of information about the consequences of owning a home in an HOA, or that there was no free market alterative available as a result of planning board requirement for an HOA in new developments.

2. Reason for buying
Surprisingly, only 23% said property maintenance was the main reason for buying. Another 15% said a "clean/attractive neighborhood", and 13% said for safety reasons. Only 4% said for property values. This is confusing in view of the propaganda coming from CAI and other special interests, especially if the respondents are indeed CAI members.

3. Assessments &enforcement (What should be done regarding nonpayment?)
The response, 78%, to the question asked avoids the issue of foreclosure, just that "insist that every homeowner pay the assessments." No one woud disagree with that reply. However, nothing was asked about unjust foreclosures and the failures of the HOA to manage its financial affairs like any other business.

4. Questions on Personal Involvement

Contrary to other data, the respondents show a high degree of involvement on HOA affairs -- 72% have attended a board meeting, and some 60% did so more than 3 times. An important factor in this question is the time frame. The time frame was not included in the question (last year? last 5 years?).

5. Questions related to the General Satisfaction and the homeowner's experience with his HOA:

("Have you ever brought a complaint", "anyone complain about the homeowner", "did you complain about another", and "overall HOA experience").

Over 75% have not filed a complaint or were not subject to a complaint, and therefore some 71% are quite pleased with their HOA. That means that most people obey the rules, just or unjust, perhaps because of a fear of severe financial consequences or of losing their home through foreclosure. The question is not posed. Of the 25% who were involved in the complaint process, approximately 75% were satisfied with the results of the complaint, about equally whether the homeowner filed the complaint or was the "defendant."

This is a surprising result. It give the impression that the respondents were "Charley good guys" -- innocent parties -- and it was those other people who were not team players. In an unbiased survey, one would have expected an equal occurrence of "I'm right" whether the respondent was the plaintiff or the defendant. Here, the respondents are always right, whether or not they complained or were the culprits. This is not what one would expect.


I've always been disturbed by these questionnaires that assume a voluntarily made, fully informed consensual decision with all the facts laid out on the table, with free market forces at play -- the ability to choose a similarly property not in an HOA. No question was asked "If a similar property was available, would you choose the HOA?", which assumes full discloure has been made to the buyer.

Also, these surveys are used to avoid the more serious issues of constitutional law -- should state governments be promoting and encouraging undemocratic, authoritarian, private contractual governments that operate without accountability to the state and its laws -- the lack of enforcement for violation of state laws question.