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Property owners in homeowners associations across the state of Virginia have been mercilessly betrayed, first by their elected state leaders, and second by the elected boards of directors of the HOAs--their neighbors.
The rewrite of HOA governing documents will make this a reality for all, as soon as Gov. McDonnell signs the Common Interest Community Ombudsman's regulations.
In 2008, the General Assembly established the CIC board under the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation.
The office of ombudsman was also created, staffed by an attorney, and a mandate established for the HOAs to manage their own complaint procedures with the homeowners.
The "final decision" in conflicts, if unacceptable to the homeowner, would be forwarded to the CIC board, whose director would have jurisdiction over violations of CIC laws and regulations (not over HOA governing documents). The director's decision is nonbinding.
So not only are homeowners now subject to the judgments of HOA boards for violating their self-concocted rules, but also to their punishment.
These can take the form of anything as mundane as revoking parking privileges to monetary fines tied to your assessment. And you know what happens if you don't pay the assessments.
In 2011, the General Assembly increased the power of the HOA boards, placing owner violators under the jurisdiction of general district courts (just based on the board of directors' sworn testimony) and giving officers immunity from lawsuits.
On top of this, the attorney general rendered an opinion stating that "a homeowners association may covenant to limit the number of housing units within the association that may be offered for rent by the owner to tenants."
A lobby group called the Virginia Legislative Action Committee evidently didn't feel that the ombudsman regulation would be a strong enough tool for the HOA boards to force their wills on residents, so they lobbied to change the Virginia code in a way that usurps homeowners' rights. The committee listed these achievements as "triumphs."
This can be very abusive. The legislation will inhibit legitimate gripes against boards and will serve as a mechanism for effortless retaliation by entrenched board members.