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Arizona bill aims to make homeowners groups more open

By The Associated Press
01.17.04

Editor's note: On April 1, 2004, the Arizona State House approved House Bill 2177. The state Senate passed HB 2177 on April 7, and the bill became law on April 19 when it was signed by Gov. Janet Napolitano.

MESA, Ariz. — Learning from past legislative failures, advocates who want to reform homeowners associations say their first aim is to open records and meetings to its own members.

Some lawmakers have been trying for three years to curtail the power of associations to foreclose on homes or control the way residents decorate their houses.

But association advocates have defeated those measures as unreasonable attacks on the ability of associations to protect their members’ property values and quality of life.

Rep. Wally Straughn, D-Phoenix, has introduced a bill (H.B. 2177) that would require association boards to further open their meetings and financial records, such as budgets, to any association member.

However, the bill also allows association boards to maintain the privacy of some records if they follow certain guidelines.

The boards would also be able to place “reasonable time restrictions” on people who want to speak at meetings under the proposal.

As a condo owner, Straughn said he has been denied an opportunity to speak at meetings of his association’s board.

That’s troubling, he said, because the association has more influence over his life in some ways than both Phoenix and Maricopa County, bodies that are required to provide him information under the state’s open-meetings and open-records laws.

“I don’t think (association meetings and records) need to be open to the general public,” Straughn said.

“But to people who live there and have a financial interest, you have the right to know what’s being done with your money.”

The bill’s concepts have bipartisan support with the endorsement of House Majority Leader Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, a strong advocate of homeowners association reform.

“What we are trying to do is balance the quasi-governmental power they have now with some accountability,” Farnsworth said.

The bill is “limited in its scope,” Farnsworth said.

Mitch Menlove, executive director of the Central Arizona Chapter of the Community Associations Institute, said he couldn’t comment on the bill because he hasn’t seen the draft language.

As the leading lobbying group for homeowners associations, though, the institute generally supports laws that promote openness and providing information to association members, Menlove said.


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