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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.