HOA Renters Beware!

guest blog by Dave Russell

Do you think homeowners are the only ones being abused in HOAs? We have long blogged and discussed about the abuses of homeowners in HOAs. But what about those who rent in an HOA? Are they subject to the same HOA abuse? You bet they are!

Actually, renters are sometimes dealt a double whammy when it comes to renting in an HOA. I have heard it time and time again, “Oh great, another slum rental property, with more trashy renters!” Trust me when I tell you, rental properties and HOAs mix like oil and water. HOAs certainly do not roll out the red carpet for renters. Becoming a renter in an HOA is probably about as popular as playing leapfrog with a Unicorn, in most cases – “there goes the neighborhood!”

If the unfounded hostility towards renters isn’t bad enough, what if the landlord adds to it? Some landlords simply fail to inform their new renters that they are a little behind in their HOA dues. Now Mr. and Mrs. Renter, who are just thrilled with all of the amenities in their new humble HOA abode, that’s until they get what I call the “Nasty-Gram” from the HOA stuck to their front door.

Ah, the Suspension of Privileges Notice, that simple and short piece of paper informing the renter that their privileges to the pools, saunas, clubhouses and sometimes parking, have been suspended by the HOA for nonpayment of mandatory dues by their landlord.

Now you may be asking, what is a renter to do? Has the landlord violated the Tenant Landlord Act? In most States the answer to that question is no. The Tenant Landlord Act usually requires the landlord to keep the property in habitable condition. Most of these Tenant Landlord Acts do not address the issues regarding HOA amenities and simply state that the property has to be clean, safe and bug free.

Just like homeowners, the renters in HOAs are left with but one choice, which is suing the landlord. And just like with homeowners in associations, who has the time and money for that? The only difference between renters and homeowners is that the renter can simply move on while the homeowner is stuck in HOA purgatory.

Now just imagine this scenario, you are renting a condo, the doorbell rings and it’s a process server with legal papers. You see, the HOA is foreclosing on the property because your landlord has failed to pay his portion of the mandatory HOA dues. As we all know, some folks live from paycheck to paycheck, and many are already on the verge of homelessness. This leaves renters scrambling for a new place to live as well as paying for the cost of moving, deposits and time off of work to find another place to live.

Here is another frightening scenario where the HOA renter is once again victimized and stuck in the middle of the HOA vs. their landlord. The doorbell rings, again its Mr. Process Server with some more scary legal papers. The HOA has decided that they are going to do an assignment of rents because your landlord has failed to pay his/her mandatory HOA assessments. The court order directs you, as the renter, to send off your rent payments to the association’s law firm. Oh, did I mention that even though you are now paying the HOA, that you are still barred from all of the amenities?

HOA rental properties also seem to attract conmen and scammers. Here in my community, a single mother came in to introduce herself and requested keys to a specific unit. She stated that she just rented the unit through a “house sitting program.” The new renter stated the condo was in foreclosure and she paid a service $500 in exchange for free rent until the unit foreclosed. I personally knew the owner of this unit, and knew that the condo was not under foreclosure. I did some research on the person who signed the lease, to my amazement; it was a conman that I had seen on the news about a year ago.

I can’t tell you how bad I felt when I had to tell this single mother that she was the victim of a rental scam. I did contact one of my reporter friends at KPHO News Phoenix, who promptly blasted this conman’s scam and face during the evening news. This conman’s victims all had one thing in common — every scam he ran just happened to be in an HOA. I suppose it’s preferable to run a scam in a place where the biggest scams in history take place.

HOA Renters Beware! those gated communities, with those glorious amenities, may be a lot more, or a lot less, than you ever bargained for.


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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

4 thoughts on “HOA Renters Beware!

  1. Nila Ridings

    Great information, Dave. Again, things that most people would never think about when renting in an HOA. Once they see the swimming pool and playground can’t sign up fast enough.

    With you as the manager it’s doubtful the scam artists will be sending their ‘customers’ over to pick up keys from you! Way to go on getting the media involved, too. You probably saved countless people from being scammed.

  2. Deborah Goonan

    Excellent overview of issues faced by tenats in HOAs, Dave.

    I used to own a home in a FL HOA. We had families with children rent many of the single family detached homes. These were on the higher end of the rental market for the area. Families found the homes an attractive alternative for the extra space and privacy they needed.

    The problem was that, even though the community was not age restricted, most homes were occupied by resident owners who were near or past retirement. Frankly, many of my neighbors did not like or want children or teens in their gated utopia. So families quickly discovered they were not welcome by most neighbors. The rules against play structures, skateboarding or riding bikes on the sidewalks in the park, and neighbors that complained about noise from kids being kids led to hassles for these tenants. Most moved out after less than a year.

    The other tenant issue in HOAs is who is respinsible for repairs. There are often gray areas where owner and HOA disagree on certain repairs, especially in multifamily units. The tenant has to deal with two layers of bureaucracy – the landlord and the HOA – in an attempt to get matters resolved.

  3. robert

    > Becoming a renter in an HOA is
    > probably about as popular as playing
    > leapfrog with a Unicorn, in most cases
    > – “there goes the neighborhood!”

    I’ve seen this too, when I first tried to organize my neighbors. No matter how much they complained about the H.O.A. corporation, they always came back to “but we have to do something about renters”. It seems that some home owners will tolerate any amount of corruption and oppression, as long as they can be made to feel superior to the “other” class of resident. It makes trying to organize home owners at the H.O.A. level a pointless waste of time.

    H.O.A. policies to restrict renters are even more pointless, given that in major markets renters make up 30% to 50% of residents:

    Studies at Harvard University reveals that Los Angeles actually has the highest percentage of renters in any major US metro area: 52 percent of Angelenos were renters in 2012, compared to 35 percent nationwide (and 30 percent in St. Louis, which has the lowest percentage). (Curbed. December 10 2013)

    A quick search on the interweb returns headlines like

    “Are Millennials Destined To Be A Generation Of Renters?”
    Forbes. March 01 2012.

    “Are We About To Become A Nation Of Renters?”
    Bankrate. April 24 2013.

    “US Risks Becoming A nation Of Renters: Bank CEO”
    CNBC. May 22 2014.

    And let’s not forget that one of the major-Party candidates for U.S. President in the last election thought that a solution to the housing crisis was to turn owners into renters. If H.O.A. corporations restrict renters, where are these people supposed to live?

    America seems to be schizophrenic when it comes to housing policy, in so many ways beyond the scope of this comment and this blog. But here’s just one example: there is an ideology which believes both that

    – home ownership results in stable families and a sense of responbility which helps to create stable communities, and

    – Americans must be willing to migrate to wherever their jobs move to.

    Yet these two ideas are diametrically oppossed. Why would anyone purchase a major non-liquid asset like a house (or worse, a condominium) when they may have to re-locate across town, across the state, or across the country in a few years? It made sense in the job market and housing market of the 1990s, but an entire generation has witnessed that this hasn’t been true in the 2000s. Add in burdening of property with perpetual liens and obligations to H.O.A. corporations — which turns home owners into H.I.N.O.s : Homeowners In Name Only — and laws which place the interests of banks and H.O.A corporations above the interests of individual home owners, and suddenly home ownership isn’t always the American dream, it’s often an American nightmare. But there is a certain social status to being a home owner (even a H.I.N.O.), and a certain social stigma to being a renter. So, like a moth to a flame, we continue to engage in destructive behavior and policies. Freedom is slavery, or something like that.

  4. robert

    > Here is another frightening scenario where the HOA
    > renter is once again victimized and stuck in the
    > middle of the HOA vs. their landlord. The doorbell
    > rings, again its Mr. Process Server with some more
    > scary legal papers. The HOA has decided that they
    > are going to do an assignment of rents because your
    > landlord has failed to pay his/her mandatory HOA
    > assessments. The court order directs you, as the
    > renter, to send off your rent payments to the
    > association’s law firm.

    To paraphrase the Madison Hill H.O.A. corporation, “We don’t need no stinkin’ Court Order”.

    As I documented in my blog post “Darth Vader” (March 13, 2014), the board of directors of the Madison Hill H.O.A. corporation unilaterally amended their collections policy to give themselves the authority to “intercept” rent payments without a court order!

    18. Rental Interception. To the extent permitted by the Declaration, the Association may, without court order, notify the tenant of any unit where the Owner is delinquent in the payment of assessments, pursuant to the Declaration and Colorado law, that rents shall be paid to the Association effective immediately and continue until such time as the Owner’s account is current. Such notice shall be in writing to the tenant and the Owner. All funds received by the Association shall be credited to the Owner’s account as set forth herein.

    As far as I am aware, the only state where this is legal is Florida, although feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. There is nothing in the so-called “Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act” (C.C.I.O.A.) which permits this. Nor the C.C.&R.s of the Madison Hill H.O.A. corporation. So why did they put this clause in their collecton policy?

    Think about this:

    1. We’re told that “rules can’t be changed without approval of the home owners”. This is one of the Big Lies that HOApologists and Useful Idiots tell us, even though it is demonstrably false, time and time again.

    2. The HOApologists and Useful Idiots also preach about the “sanctity” of so-called “contracts”; i.e., any fine print in an adhesion document that a lawyer can slip in, where the consent is a legal fiction known as “constructive notice”, has Great Moral Authority. A tennant has no contract with the H.O.A. corporation. Yet an H.O.A. corporation believes that it can demand rent from a tennant without a court order.

    Even though this is not legal to so in Colorado, the board of directors of the Madison Hill H.O.A. corporation

    – Randy Schneider, president
    Lannie Hagan, vice-president
    – William D. Worrell, a.k.a. “Dan Worrell” – treasurer
    – Christine Kehres
    – Keith Carmen

    not only decided that they could at least try to intimidate renters into paying them instead of the property owners, but were confident enough in their ability to avoid punishment that they put it in writing. Should they actually illegally intercept rent payments — and they haven’t done it to me yet, I wonder why — it would meet Colorado’s statutory defintion of “Theft”; C.R.S.§ 18-4-401. Of course, since they get to “hide behind the corporate veil” and externalize the costs of their malfeasance onto the other home owners, there is no incentive for them not to try and break the law.


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