Get Involved… NOW is the time!

Here’s the reality. For many years homeowners were not actively protecting their rights in Austin. The Texas Legislature responded to pressure from attorneys who represent associations, management companies, and boards that wanted more power. They got more power. More power for associations means fewer rights for homeowners.

In recent years, homeowners have rallied. At the start, one group gathered important data at hoadata.org. While some of that information is out of date, its important basic observations remain valid and that site still has useful advice on organizing to protect your subdivision. Certainly that site taught many of us that associations repeatedly cause significant problems for homeowners, and motivated responses to secure homeowner rights.

For several legislative sessions now, we have been going to Austin and speaking to legislators. Many times the legislators have responded favorably — though not always. Those association lawyers, managers, and boards employ multiple lobbyists, some very well paid. They go door-to-door at the Capitol, early and often. If we do nothing, they win.

The good news is that most politicians actually like people. And most would prefer to help people. But they need to hear what’s going on, from us! Otherwise, they will listen to the lobbyists.

Please do not rely on ‘the other guy.’ There is no ‘other guy.’ No one pays homeowners, or me, or anyone else I know, to lobby for homeowner rights. Fortunately, few, if any, politicians expect real people to pay for access. What they expect is for us to call, write, e-mail, fax, and — whenever possible — visit to tell them about problems that must be fixed, visit in Austin or when they hold “town meetings” in the district. Here’s where you can find your elected officials. Let’s do it!”

Homeowners also have been organizing in their subdivisions and condominiums. Sometimes they have persuaded board members to recognize their rights. Sometimes they have elected good board members. This has been done in communities large and small, in all parts of Texas — though HOA resistance continues.

I also encourage people to join the effort to educate legislators. You can do this in Austin. You can do this in your home district. United, we will certainly gain better laws.

There have been several fine homeowner advocacy organizations over the years, and many individuals have done excellent work. The advocacy group I most often work with, in Texas, is the HOA Reform Coalition. For links to other groups, including groups that work inside and outside Texas, On the Commons provides an excellent resource — as well as an engaging weekly talk show with guests on all aspects of homeowner associations. If you want a place to start reading on how homeowner associations evolved to this point, you may enjoy reading Privatopia by Professor Evan McKenzie, who blogs regularly on these topics.

If you’ve reached this point, that’s wonderful! Existing organizations can help you organize in your community, or join together for statewide advocacy. They may know people who live near you; none of us can do this alone. I sincerely hope that you get involved!