I’m quite sure HOA warriors like George Staropoli and Evan McKenzie have written about this subject. But it’s really kind of spooky to chart the parallels between Civil Forfeiture laws and seizure of private property by Homeowners Associations.
Civil forfeiture laws are a horrendous holdover from the American Civil War and prohibition. They allow police the power to seize vehicles or property of people suspected of carrying on some kind of illegal activity. in the 70s and 80s police began seizing private homes that were suspected of being crack houses. At no time were the police required to prove guilt. Many times a homeowner who unknowingly leased his house to bad people ended up with no rights, no house, and no way to get it back.
In the 1980s Congress allowed police agencies all over the country to keep what they seized, even if there was absolutely no proof that a crime had been committed. Try to board a plane with too much cash in your wallet or purse the money? It can be legally seized. When do you get it back? In most cases, never. All the cops have to do is claim they suspected the money was involved in some kind of crime. No proof of guilt was needed. What rights do you have? You have the right to hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit to get it back. Anything else? No. No due process, no way to prove your innocence. The money simply disappears into what’s little more than a police slush fund.
It’s stunningly evil. In a country where the Constitution created rights to protect citizens against the government, justice has been turned on its ear.
Across the country, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of homeowners have been victimized in much the same way. Wrong kind of window shades or a kid’s toy left out overnight? A big fine, then a lien, then forfeiture of your house. Your rights? You get to hire a lawyer and sue to try your stuff back. The boards of Homeowners Associations have absolutely the same power of civil forfeiture as the cops. And the money they seize also goes into HOA slush funds, or into the pockets of embezzlers.
What have we done to ourselves, folks?
(link to booklet on civil forfeiture)
Excellent question Ward, “What have we done to ourselves, folks?”
A long time ago in the Clinton era, Bill Bennett (Secy of Education, 1985-88) wrote, “The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals .” There are many reasons for this lack of outrage in HOAs as we all are aware when homeowners are under a authoritarian regime with little effective political power. CAI calls it “apathy,” and blames the homeowners for not getting involved in the rigged HOA governance “game.”
Today, as others have pointed out, advocates must change the mindset of the legislators to see the light. But first, they, themselves, must see the light and the path to effective HOA reforms.