Articles Posted in Homeowner’s Association Regulation

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A Lis Pendens is authorized by A.R.S. §12-1191 to be recorded when a lawsuit is filed that affects title to real property. The purpose is to give notice to prospective buyers and lenders that a title issue may exist.

It has come to our attention that some Phoenix Homeowner’s Associations have aggressively used a Lis Pendens when filing lawsuits against homeowners. In our opinion, this was done for its coercive effect. The recording of a Lis Pendens clouds a homeowner’s title and the home cannot be sold or refinanced until this cloud on title is removed.

Homeowner’s Associations that choose to use this tactic do so at their own risk. There is a fine line between lawsuits that will support the use of a Lis Pendens and those that will not. If a HOA errs, it can be subject to a lawsuit to collect $5,000.00 in statutory damages plus costs and legal fees pursuant to A.R.S. §33-420, the Arizona Statute dealing with wrongful recordings.

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Homeowners associations, or HOA’s as they are commonly referred to, are governed by Arizona Revised Statutes Title 33 Chapter 16 under planned communities. These statutes deal with various components such as Penalties, open meetings, exceptions, financial and other records to name a few. Although these statutes exist, oversight is often minimal. Most homeowners find themselves dealing with their HOA in regards to the codes, covenants and restrictions, or more commonly known as the “CC&R’s.” The CC&R’s are restrictive covenants that “run with the land” and thus, if one member sells a home he is no longer part of the association and the new owner takes his place, and is subject to the restrictions that attach as well.

All homeowners in a given development have to follow the restrictions set forth in the CC&R’s. The general purpose for HOA’s is to protect the property value of the owners. However, this often comes at the expense of abdicating rights a homeowner would otherwise have control over. Things like home color, landscaping, additional structures and even parking. HOA’s have control over most aspects of ownership and the have many methods to enforce these restrictions including the threat, or actual levying of fines, liens and legal action against an individual homeowner. Given the broad powers of an HOA to enforce its goals, an individual homeowner can be faced with a daunting task of defending themselves if the association deems them to have run afoul of the CC&Rs.

If an HOA is trying to enforce restrictive covenants on you as a homeowner, it is important to know what they can do, and perhaps more importantly, what they can’t. Most HOA’s have general review or architectural design committees charged with the task of making sure homeowners requests are in line with the CC&R’s. When an HOA seeks to enforce a restriction, it must do so in good faith and not act in a manner that is arbitrary or capricious. Moreover, the enforcement procedures must be fair and applied uniformly to all homeowners.