The Valley of the Sun is a fine way to describe this expansive desert, but the Valley of the HOA isn’t far off either. And like so many things in constant flux, homeowners associations need to keep up with the ever evolving world their residents live in, with changes always swirling, ranging from technology to fair housing.
Attorney Beth Mulcahy recently spoke about the “Emerging Trends In the Community Association Industry” in Peoria, laying out a variety of topics HOAs will be dealing with in the coming years.
Top issues include short-term rentals such as Vacation Rentals By Owner, sex offenders living in associations and electric car charging stations.
Many of these issues are being addressed by the Arizona State Legislature right now.
As of press time, state law makers had already introduced at least 12 bills under ARS Title 33, which covers HOAs and property.
“The legislature just opened, and guess what, there are already a number of bills that have been proposed dealing with a variety of (HOA-related) subjects,” Ms. Mulcahy said.
Short term rentals have been big in the news over the last year.
The Arizona State Legislature passed SB 1350 in 2016, severely limiting a city, town or county from prohibiting or restricting the use of short-term rentals. As a result, Ms. Mulcahy said, associations can no longer rely on local code enforcement, rather they need to rely on their own governing documents.
Following a wave of complaints against VRBOs and party houses, HOAs, cities and municipalities are doing what they can to restrict short term rentals.
Ms. Mulcahy said the legislature passed last year a law requiring short-term rental property owners provide the city or town and the county, with contact information for the owner or owner’s designee who is responsible for responding to complaints in a timely manner before offering to rent the property. In addition, the 2019 law states a short-term rental may not be used for non-residential uses such as special events or for a retail, restaurant, banquet space, event center or other similar uses.
Arizona law requires that a convicted sex offender register with the sheriff in the county in which they intend to reside.
Ms. Mulcahy said associations and residents cannot harass or otherwise intrude upon the offender’s privacy — such acts would create criminal liability for the resident. As such, community associations cannot discriminate or otherwise harass a known sex offender in an effort to prevent the offender from residing within the community association or neighboring areas. However, some HOAs have tried to prohibit sex offenders from living in associations.
Ms. Mulcahy said a community association has the right to notify its residents of any registered sex offenders residing within the association or in the neighboring areas.
It is a good idea from time-to-time to go to the Arizona Department of Public Safety web page to get a listing of sex offenders in your neighborhood, Ms. Mulcahy said.
The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on a person’s race or color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment), national origin, familial status, or disability, which includes those with mental and physical impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities. Those impairments could include blindness, hearing impairment, mobility impairment, HIV, alcoholism, drug addition, chronic fatigue, learning disability, head injury and mental illness.
Ms. Mulcahy said Federal Fair Housing Act complaints are increasing.
In 2018, more than 31,000 housing discrimination complaints were filed, representing an 8% increase from 2017, according to a National Fair Housing Alliance report released last year.
This was the highest of any year since NFHA started collecting data in 1995.
Ms. Mulcahy said landlords and HOAs must provide a reasonable accommodation to provide the disabled equal use and enjoyment their homes.
This may include a modification or alteration to a building, common elements or limited common elements to afford the disabled the equal use and enjoyment of his or her home.
Ms. Mulcahy said a resident claiming they are being discriminated against under the Fair Housing Act rises to the level of a serious matter and should be addressed immediately. She suggested that if residents are claiming they are being discriminated against, the HOA should consult its legal council.
These are serious cases, and to defend one is usually $10,000 in legal fees and that is on the cheap side, she said.
“An owner or tenant can go to the attorney general’s office in Arizona and file a two-page complaint,” she said. “They immediately open a file and start an investigation.”
More than 1.18 million electric vehicles are on the road in the U.S., as of March 31, 2019, and total electronic vehicle sales for 2018 were up 81% compared to 2017, according to the Edison Electric Institute.
Ms. Mulcahy said it is estimated there will be millions of highway-capable electric cars on Arizona roadways by 2023, which means the need for more charging stations in housing communities.
Additionally, the Arizona Corporation Commission is developing guidelines for electric vehicles regarding infrastructure, education and outreach, rate design, incentives/rebates, as well as cost recovery.
Ms. Mulcahy said condominium boards should anticipate this growth and plan ahead so it isn’t stressful when homeowners request a charging station. She said failure to allow the installation of a charging station for a condominium owner could lead to bad publicity or a lawsuit against an association.
She does not foresee planned community boards installing free electric car charging stations for its residents on common areas in the next five years because it is too expensive.
“However, I do foresee condominium boards being approached by owners asking what the procedure is for an owner to install an electric car charging station where they park their electric vehicle in the condominium,” she said.
Some HOA boards have a rocky relationship with their members, while others seem to get along smoothly.
Ms. Mulcahy said the boards that are the most transparent, have the least problems, and boards should follow the Open Meeting Law and fulfill records requests.
“Sometimes people ask me, ‘what’s the secret sauce?’ Why are some associations always in turmoil and other associations seem to run smoothly with no problems? I think the common factor I see for stress-free and easy-board living is that the boards that are the most transparent have the least problems,” she said.
“So if a board is doing a lot outside the scenes, behind the scenes, you are going to have more problems. But if you’re out there telling everybody what is going on, here is what we are doing, we welcome your feedback, then people are more likely to go along with the board and be less agitated about changes.”