State committee holds hearings to discuss possible regulations for homeowners' associations

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Posted at 6:29 PM, Oct 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-08 20:35:05-04

DENVER -- A state committee convened for the last time Tuesday at the Colorado State Capitol to hear public testimony about whether new legislation is needed to regulate homeowners’ associations.

The committee was created by Governor Jared Polis in an executive order after he vetoed a bill during the past legislative session that would have extended a licensing program for community association managers.

In a veto statement, Governor Polis said House Bill 19-1212 does not address the broader issues with regards to homeowners’ associations that he believes need to be addressed. Governor Polis tasked the committee with looking at ways to improve transparency in HOAs, reduce fees and promote homeowner rights.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the committee heard testimony from more than a dozen people who called on something to be done to protect the rights of property owners, some sharing horror stories of fighting with their HOAs.

Holly Crystal has been fighting her four-home HOA in Frisco for five years and has spent $7,000 in legal fees.

“I always knew I wanted to be a homeowner. I just knew it was a good investment,” Crystal said.

Two weeks before closing on her townhome however, Crystal received updated documents from the HOA that had changes she didn’t agree with. The HOA allegedly wanted to create an easement across Crystal’s backyard.

“There really are no checks and balances in Colorado for HOAs, so I was shocked. I mean, it’s the biggest investment you’re going to make in your life,” she said.

Five years later, Crystal is still fighting with her four-person HOA over property rights and turning to lawmakers for help to lay out what these associations can and cannot do.

In particular, Crystal would like to see small HOAs of six homeowners addressed differently from bigger ones.

For now, no trespassing signs litter Crystal’s yard in an effort to keep her HOA off of her property.

“When you go to buy a home and save up all that money, the last thing you want to do is live in a situation where you have no trespassing signs all over your property and security cameras, where you’re always on the defense; it’s a very disheartening situation,” Crystal said.

Other homeowners at Tuesday’s hearing talked about the need to rethink the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA) and give the HOA Information and Resource Center the right to investigate complaints filed against the associations.

Many expressed concerns about a lack of transparency in HOA finances and decisions and said they want more accountability for these groups.

A handful of people who signed up to speak at the meeting disagreed, saying most people who live in controlled communities are happy with them and that the people who shared horror stories are the exception, not the standard.

Now, it will be up to lawmakers to compile the data and testimony they collected over the past four hearings to come up with legislation for the upcoming session.

“(The hearings) have just kind of really given us a really good indication of where the concerns are and where the loopholes are and what we need to work on,” said Democratic Rep. Monica Duran.

Duran was one of the co-sponsors of the bill Governor Polis vetoed last legislative session. She sat in the front row of the audience along with Democratic Rep. Brianna Titone Tuesday and spoke with constituents afterward about their concerns.

One of Duran’s priorities for the upcoming legislative session will be to focus on consumer protections for homeowners.

“One of the most important things they brought up was making the boards accountable. Having training for the boards but then making them accountable, which is something, I think for myself I hadn’t thought about,” she said.

After lawmakers come up with some legislation proposals, Duran says they plan to approach the Governor’s office with their ideas in an attempt to avoid another veto.

“This is one of our biggest, largest investments in our life that we make, and we are listening; we want to give them the protections they need,” Duran said.