As posted on the Colorado Homeowners Association Forum Website
Who or What is the Community Association Institute (CAI):
You May be Surprised (a Colorado and Nationwide Perspective)
Homeowners Associations (HOAs) are comprised of three entities: home owners, the HOA Board and its’ legal counsel, and the property management company (PMC). Problems can arise from any of these but for those who follow HOA issues the involvement of PMCs can be most problematic. PMCs affect HOA governance with their direct involvement in operational and financial matters and through their trade organization, the Community Association Institute (CAI), which has undue influence in HOA legislative activities.
For decades the sole source for Homeowners Association (HOA) information for the media and State Legislature has been the CAI. Why not? Their name implies they represent the concerns of community associations and home owners: aka HOAs. They have been the main/only source sought and invited to the table for input and wisdom on HOA matters by Government Agencies, legislators, and the media. This group is so well “respected” it has been asked to write or participate in writing HOA legislation to ensure participation of a knowledgeable and “unbiased” authoritative source. Government regulatory agencies invite this group to write industry rules and regulations and mostly adopt without challenge. The media goes directly to the CAI whenever an HOA problem surfaces to get the reason why and for them to provide a “correct” solution. HOA legislative proposals will see this group’s lobbying machine swarm and be welcomed at the Capitol to ensure the “right” and “workable” legislation is crafted. Visit this organization’s web site and read their literature. Unless you do so carefully you would think they altruistically represent home owners vs being the trade group that represents HOA property manager interests. This group is often invited to Legislator’s Town Hall Meetings (without the same courtesy extended to home owner groups) and represented as the expert and protector of home owner’s rights.
The actions of the CAI, however, reveal it is a well-financed and marketed machine that is the most anti-HOA home owner group in the country. In Colorado, and in other States, over the past decades this group has legislatively intervened to ensure HOA laws proposed or passed have been watered down to be ineffective from the home owners perspective and/or written to ensure CAI’s profitability and increase costs to HOA home owners. This group represents property managers, HOA Boards, legal and real estate interests, NOT home owners. Recent examples: killing an HOA Transfer Fee Bill that costs home owners $15 million a year in unjustified and unauthorized fees; direct intervention in a property manager licensing Bill to ensure it served to sell their educational courses, increase membership and dues and ensure licensing rules and regulations were reflective of their own legislative proposal that protected
HOA Boards and property manager interests; opposed any legislation to provide HOA home owners an affordable and accessible venue to dispute complaints out of court; supported a Bill to authorize HOA’s to levy fees against home owners even when not authorized to do so in the governing documents; opposed limiting fees and add-on charges to HOA home owner debt; opposed full and detailed disclosure of property manager fees assessed on home sellers; obstructed legislation to minimize home owner protections against liens and foreclosure for HOA debt; and the list goes on and all anti-home owner.
In 1989, California homeowners discovered an advertisement put out the CAI headlined ‘Strike It Rich’ – an invitation to other vendors and politicians to come to their trade meetings to learn about financial opportunities available to them in planned (HOA) communities. A similar ad appeared again in 2007 in Illinois, with an invitation to ‘Hit the Jackpot with Community Living’. (This paragraph added by JCTadmin.)
The beginning to HOA legislative reform and improved governance begins with dispelling the belief that the CAI represents home owners; revealing their history and actions in HOA legislative reform; curtailing the CAI’s influence with our Government agencies, media, and legislators; and having HOA home owner groups recognized in our legislature and in the media to offer a home owner centric perspective to improving HOA governance.
I spoke to Gary Solomon about his and he said much the same as Jill–that if you take the money out of it for attorneys (vendors of the CAI and their collisionary relationships), you will gain a footing in protecting the homeowner. I contributed to a CAI legislation action committee years ago and argued vehemently with the attorney writing some HOA law which would allow a board to incorporate a community without even informing the members! I explained to the attorney how no one should be involuntarily put in a corporation and it is even against corporate law to do so–he said it was for the protection of the members! Corporations increase homeowner liability they don’t decrease it!!! (think Zimmerman). the only protection by turning into a corporation means that state law can trump your documents if they conflict (which some corporate law does) and it gives the attorney an extra layer of law to try and refuse things to the homeowner. He managed to get the law enacted so that in Utah boards can incorporate without even telling their members and he is now president of the CAI in that state. there was NOTHING in that part of the law that protected homeowners. Can you imagine being inducted to a system without your knowledge or consent and then finding you had LESS rights than before and it was the law? CAI protects itself, its vendors and ensures that members are powerless against boards unless they sue. I don’t know about other chapters of the CAI but in Utah it is run, controlled, and sponsored mostly by high-end law firms that make a LOT of money off of HOAs.
CAI is real problem with home owners rights and create a top down authority and lobby legislations for there own existence. Better off to get a manager that has a real estate license with the correct rules for property’s management. CAI is not regulated nor subject to any authoriry now education, but to themselves, bad people.
It seems a conflict of interest that the HOA attorney claims to represent HOAs yet they lobby with the management companies (which is why they are unlicensed and unregulated), and when there is a problem with the PMC good luck if that attorney will represent your HOA against them. It is nice to see them in action, holding classes (while serving property managers lunch) and advising them on how to protect themselves…such as when an HOA doesn’t follow a reserve study and fails to make capital improvements, just note it in your file to protect yourself…this is what my HOA attorney tells them – shouldn’t he advise them in a way that protects the HOA? Try to change the situation!! I was the only one in a class NOT LAUGHING because an HOA story was given by the attorney about an HOA that lost a ton of money because they had not insured their clubhouse sufficiently…I don’t understand how this was considered funny. What I think is funny is how everyone profiting off the HOA further undermines the homeowners in getting protections in the law and fixing a failed system. Meanwhile many owners will face excessive special assessments in the future. New build communities all have HOAs and many people are paying 1k per year for a community park, which could be paid for via a special tax district and cost a lot less. Once you see what’s going on, you can’t deny that the relationship between HOA managers & attorneys is the root of the problem.