America’s Hidden Layer of Government: Homeowner Associations
“No man undertakes a trade he has not learned, even the meanest; yet everyone thinks himself sufficiently qualified for the hardest of all trades, that of government.” -Socrates
The US has the most complex government ecosystem in the world. We have an unusually inextricable labyrinth of politicking with at least three full levels of paternalism for the tax payers to support: Federal, State and local. And in many townships there is a 4th layer of bureaucracy that demands palimony: The metro governments.
But are you aware that there is a hidden bureaucratic vulture feasting on many of your rights and pocketbooks that is costing you thousands of dollars a year?
Yes, it is the elusive hidden layer of government: the homeowner association, or HOA. “No one tells buyers what they are really getting into: It’s a government within a government.” (George Staropoli) That is sad!
Although Homeowners’ Associations were supposedly created by some “Real Estate God” to fundraise for overseeing neighborhood “maintenance only,” they have morphed into an extension of County and City Governments with almost impenetrable “corpus juris” over your mere existence.
In most cases this compendium of laws and its varied interpretations of them actually have more autonomy over your personal rights than our state and federal constitutions!
“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” -Thomas Jefferson
These HOA’s do not even operate as democracies: They are “oligarchies” at best. Most decisions are made by a three person committee. They tell you “like it or not, it is our decision.” Rules and regulations are enforced arbitrarily and it is almost impossible for you to challenge a misguided decision.
When you do vote, the officers are the ones who count the votes! And elections are never challenged. And those who are running these “mini governments” have no legislative training at all! “People running these associations can get into real power trips” says Janet Portman, author of ‘Every Landlord’s Legal Guide.’ “And some act like they are dictators rather than elected officials.”
HOAs have become infamous for imposing arbitrary fines and liens on select homeowners, making up rules as they go along, arbitrarily interpreting them and acting irrationally and illegally. The people on their boards often have never even read the “Bill of Rights.”
And homeowners have no recourse if they are the victim of their wrath because our governments have given them a bullet proof shield to hide behind. There is no government agency that they are accountable to. They have deep pockets filled with your money and your only recourse is to challenge them in court: Good luck!
“In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?” -St. Augustine
They are legalized, privatized governments with their own “Gestapo” of professional management companies and lawyers. And there are no checks and balances in this system. Once at the helm, these people relish the powers our governments have gladly bestowed upon them.
And, after all, who votes to curb their own power? Your only escape is to move, but odds are high that you’ll just end up in another HOA fiefdom since they are almost everywhere in the country today. There is no escape! “Totalitarianism is feudalism in the twelfth century sense of the word.” (Barbara Amiel)
Homeowners’ Associations can be your best friend when they prevent your neighbor from painting their house purple, and from parking a disabled 1972 Buick on milk crates in their driveway, but they will be your worst enemy when they over regulate your mere existence.
They can deprive you of your civil liberties and your constitutional rights. By imposing rules that conflict with 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Acts this happens repeatedly.
And most HOA’s today even forbid you from putting up a tastefully placed political sign to support your candidate in an election! This is pushing the envelope too far in today’s sensitive political environment.
“In a healthy nation there is a kind of dramatic balance between the will of the people and the government, which prevents its degeneration into tyranny.” -Albert Einstein
Harry Houdini himself could not have done a better job at deceiving our citizens into permitting this hidden layer of government to “magically appear” before us. And since the early 1960’s they have become a thriving oligarchy that we have bought into as a literal fact of life!
Yes, “They are one of the most significant privatizations of local government functions in history.” (Jonathan Nettler)
In the 1960’s competition for the almighty development dollar was at a peak, driven by the Federal Housing Authority and the Urban Land Institute, and a modification of federal mortgage insurance rules to increase home ownership. Municipalities saw a tremendous opportunity to unload many of their financial responsibilities into the lap of willing developers.
They lobbied their states to enact legislation that would allow them to create this quagmire. And few citizens even cared. Nobody lifted a finger to make a phone call in protest as this was happening.
“Despotic governments can stand ‘moral force’ till the cows come home; what they fear is physical force.” -George Orwell
The development of HOA’s was a “deal with the devil”: A collusion between state and local governments. They saw an opportunity and jumped on it.
They knew since the federal government was pumping money into the home industry, developers would welcome the opportunity to create their own de facto governments and pass on the cost to their subjects to finance.
This was a win, win for everyone accept those at the bottom end of the financial chain: The homeowners. “Of all our natural resources, the first one to be exhausted may be the taxpayer.” (W. Proxmire)
HOA assessment fees are used to pay for what should be the municipality’s responsibility, such as roads, electricity, sewage, and water. Developers now create high-profit taxable commodities for the municipalities who do next to nothing to service them!
Yet, the homeowners keep paying taxes to local governments for the infrastructure and services those authorities didn’t actually provide for them. No wonder cities and developers love them!
“When a new source of taxation is found it never means that the old source is abandoned. It merely means that the politicians have two ways of milking the taxpayer where they had one before.” -H.L. Mencken
Does this sound familiar?
Government has grown so much in our country that the increased demand for public services and redistribution of wealth can no longer be met by ordinary tax revenues alone. They must now use trickery and illusive tactics and continued ridiculous borrowing maneuvers to pay their bills.
Can you imagine how much further in debt our local governments would be if they could no longer depend on the HOA’s to finance their communities. “You balance the budget by restraining the growth of government and encouraging the growth of the private sector.” (Mitt Romney)
The 10th Amendment embodies federalism. Federal and state governments have separate areas of activity and federal responsibilities are “few and defined.” Buying into ludicrous federal programs is killing our budgets. DC is out of control. Our only hope is to limit government growth in our own cities and states.
It is not how much we spend, but how we spend it that matters. And everyone needs to start paying their own way. Every time we let someone else assume our responsibility for us we give up our freedom.
As Ronald Reagan said, “As government expands, liberty contracts.”