(Editor’s note: The following email was sent to homeowners advocates earlier today after the Community Associations Institute (CAI) decimated some pretty good proposed legislation in Colorado. This is a sneaky and litigious organization with billions of dollars in profits at stake.)
Guest Blog by Shu Bartholomew
CAI’s national headquarters are in Virginia along with the Northern Virginia chapter of CAI. These groups include many of the national folks you hear about. And they include those who are not quite seasoned enough to be on the national level, but they’re being coached, mentored and assisted by the pros. You are not going to find a more industry saturated market than Virginia.
In terms of the CICB, because of complaints to the legislators about abuses, especially after Koger management embezzled MORE THAN $2 Million from associations, CAI proposed licensing of managers and an ombudsman which is how the CICB came about. Believe it or not, I actually went to Richmond and testified AGAINST this charade because, as I said, it is nothing more than smoke and mirrors and of absolutely no real value to homeowners.
The chair of the CICB, Pia Trigiani, wrote the laws that established the CICB. Because they are the so called experts in HOA law, ALL proposed legislation goes through the CICB for its input. The panel is made up of CAI affiliated attorneys, managers, developers and Realtors, time share pros and a couple of homeowners who do not have to be members in an HOA.
Where are you going to find homeowners who live in an HOA in a state that mostly mandates the damned thing?
We did get that one thing changed. Now, one of the homeowners has to have lived in an HOA. But you still have people who don’t live in these things making the rules under which they will not have to live.
The Virginia ombudsman is not allowed to do anything other than advise you about the laws. Most disputes are not about the laws but about boards exceeding the scope of their authority. Homeowners who have contacted me have told me that they had called Heather Gillespie, the ombudsman, and said she was “useless”. Not one single person was satisfied.
In order to get your license to be a manager you need to be accredited and take classes – offered by CAI. CAI’s code of ethics says that anyone with CAI accreditation must be a member of CAI. Guess what? They found a way to increase their membership by force. In order to get your license through the state you have to cough up money. How is the CICB funded? Annual fees charged to associations. It is nothing more than a direct transfer of funds from the homeowners’ coffers to the industry’s and the state’s.
If you live in Virginia and have a problem and you contact your legislator, you will be sent to the ombudsman where you will be swallowed up by the industry vortex. You see, the government has already taken care of the problem for you by making a whole panel of people “who understand HOAs and know what they are doing” available to help you.
Keep in mind the old saying, “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it”.
Read the stuff about Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR). Just know that there have been several cases in Virginia where the homeowner has won in court by arguing the law. ADR will not protect your rights, will not set a precedent and will not be conducted in the light of day. AND, it is often as expensive, if not more expensive, than going to court. AND the homeowner mostly loses because the arbitrator knows that to get repeat business he will have to be nice to the association which is more likely to be back before them than the homeowner.
Suggestions? We need to have attorneys who are willing to represent homeowners. In Virginia the prevailing party is entitled to fees and costs, and in all the cases the homeowner collected all their costs from the association, in one case bankrupting the HOA. That case is still evolving so stay tuned.