Written By Jodi Brooks

DENVER (CBS4)- There are more than 7,500 homeowners’ associations in Colorado. They govern more than 2 million people. HOA’s are big business. And when neighbors are governing neighbors there are bound to be problems.

“Spending my money for other people’s expenses, didn’t sit well,” Karen Templeton said of her homeowners’ association.

“They wouldn’t let me see the books… could not see the books. I questioned financial statements, they wouldn’t tell me answers,” Jim Burneson said of his HOA.

“Where did the money go? What’s going on?” said Sue Williams about her HOA

A group of homeowners met with CBS4 to discuss their problems with their various homeowner’s associations. They represent several neighborhoods but describe the same sort of issues. Conflicts in homeowner’s associations can get petty and personal.

“It had gotten so tenuous, they hired an attorney and got a PPO from the court, permanent protection order, that I was not to annoy the board of directors,” Burneson told CBS4.

In the state of Colorado, HOA’s are free to regulate practically anything, as long as they don’t violate state and federal fair housing laws regarding age, race or handicapped access. They’re very powerful with the authority to assess fines, impose liens, and even foreclose on a home.

In 2005, Colorado lawmakers tried to balance the power with the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act, a bill of rights for homeowners. Since the Act went into effect, lawmakers have found that it’s not enforceable. A violation doesn’t fall under the criminal justice system. State regulatory agencies have no jurisdiction. A homeowner’s only recourse is to take civil action and that takes money.

“The money and financial resources tends to reside with the HOA and the board. If you fight them they’re using your dues,” said Colorado Senator Morgan Carroll.

There are certain steps a homeowner can take when they’re about to engage in battle with their HOA.

  • Read the bylaws – they change and update on a regular basis, so make sure you have the latest version
  • Engage your neighbors – the more people who back you – the more likely the HOA will come around to your way of thinking
  • Write a letter – try to persuade your board and keep a record

Carroll recognizes homeowner’s frustrations with HOA’s. In January, she helped create the HOA Information Office through the Division of Real Estate at Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). The office provides basic information about HOA’s, tracks complaints, and requires all HOA’s to register with the state.

“We’ve got tremendous positive feedback from the information we’ve been providing to homeowners regarding their rights and responsibilities under the law,” said Aaron Acker of the HOA Information Office.

The office has no authority under the law to fix problems and that is a cause of concern for homeowners with complaints.

“That office is just collecting complaints, they can’t do anything. What’s the point?” said Williams

“Does the HOA Information center… does it go far enough?” CBS4 Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks asked Senator Carroll.

“No,” Carroll replied.

But the Senator points out that for the first time problems are being identified and recorded. That means that if further legislation is needed, the data to back up the new laws will be there.

“It tells policy makers how broad and deep is this problem? Is this happening in one or two HOA’s or is this something that appears to be more system wide?” Carroll explained.

Mediation is another option for those homeowners who are fighting their HOA. Colorado has an HOA Mediation Board through the State Judicial Department. It requires two willing parties and costs about $75 an hour. If mediation doesn’t work, you can resort to the courts.

Civil litigation doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Jim Burneson sued his HOA and lost. He even ended up going to jail.

“I called him a tort twister, and they found that that was an annoyance, so they sent me to jail for 60 days in the Arapahoe County jail.”

He served 31 days. He and other Colorado homeowners hope to see the day when lawmakers pass sweeping reform of HOA’s.

“I want to see state oversight, “ said Stephen Richardson, an HOA member.

“You need checks and balances. There is no checks and balances,” said Dan Garcia, an HOA member.


Comments (19)
  1. Steve says:

    HOA’s can be the worst thing Home Owner’s can experience, the one where I live sure has been, between them losing $140,000 to a crooked Property Manager to them making up rules constantly that aren’t in our By-Laws. We need more rights for Home Owner’s with corrupted HOA’s.

    1. Sam Judie says:

      Steve? EXACTLY!
      We are helping our local HOA Advocate: Jonathan Friedrich, an unpaid Lobbyist, to change Nevada’s NRS116 Laws to make them more ‘Homeowner-Friendly’.
      Say? Do you have a Web Cam? Join Skype for FREE and participate in our Weekly HOA TV Shows! http://www.HOATV.co
      Sam in Henderson/Las Vegas

  2. Bridge says:

    I agree…we need ANY rights. Right now HOAs are out of control. I sure wish I had known about the ridiculous amount of power our HOA can have before I moved into one. The property manager is the most lacking in “customer service” person I have ever met in my life…most here don’t think she is suitable for our community but the volunteer board of directors (even though they also agree she is not right) do nothing to fix the obvious problem. It is like talking to a high security prison guard or perhaps a debt collector doing business with her. She is always threatening residents with various pettiness and her vile sarcasm. Then when there is a problem that usually she causes by her complete lack of tact she uses an attorney that we as residents pay for in dues. Additionally the method of voting by proxy is completely abused by the board….people don’t know by sending in proxies that basically the president of the board gets to decide your vote. I so wish I could move out of here! Never buy into an HOA unless you have the ability to vote and the Board/management does not assume all power leaving you completely stripped of most any rights!

  3. ellsie says:

    It seems as though HOA’s have allowed the lack of accountability processes go to their heads, and they take full advantage of this. Although there are laws and regulations that are supposed to make them accountable for their actions (or lack thereof) there is no enforcement; it is like having traffic laws without police officers to enforce them – and it seems as though the HOA’s are doing 110 in a 55 all the time. The HOA’s (Boards and management companies) need to be held accountable without the Homeowners having to put out a bunch of money.

  4. AK says:

    This exact issue with the Nazi-esque behavior I’ve seen from HOA/Property managers that friends have to deal with is why when I was house hunting in 1998 I specifically told my realtor I would NOT consider ANY home governed by an HOA.

    I totally understand the reasoning behind wanting an HOA to prevent that scary neighbor who paints their house pink and keeps a couple cars up on blocks all the time, but sadly these HOAs are merely little fifedoms for those who are powerless elsewhere in their lives to exert power over others.

    I can not understand why people put up with it. Seriously, this is America people. We have a national heritage of standing up to the big ‘ol bully and asserting our freedoms, why haven’t all these neighborhoods risen up against all these little Hitlers in our midst? Guess most of the sheeple in these neighborhoods don’t really care until it’s their turn to be tortured by the tyrants, eh?

  5. Joe Tee says:

    Another bunch of criminals, recognized by the state….unbeleivable!

  6. Number 6 says:

    The only good HOASS is no HOASS! I used to live in Highlands Ranch and their covenants books was like a phone book in size. I moved to a semi-rural area and although the covenants book is thin; the HOASS itself is the absolute worst when it comes to petty vindictive behavior. The HR HOASS left me alone; the semi-rural one doesn’t except for last year and we’ve been here 11-years now. I wish we could afford to get the heck out of this Communist gulag.

    The sad part is if one wants a newer home in a neighborhood; you’re pretty much stuck with a HOASS.

    Personally I think all HOASS’es should be required to have a vote of the homeowners every five years whether to renew the HOASS or disband it. Without some sort of accountability; these no life busy-bodies will continue making people’s lives miserable.

    Don’t even get me started on Special Districts that the state setup in the mid 1940’s as the “Special District Form of Small Government.” This is another mess that needs serious reform.

  7. mike says:

    had a group of nazi hoa in castle rock. sold the house. dont move to bell mountain ranch or you will be sorry!!!!!

  8. tim says:

    i will never again buy a home that has an hoa

  9. denvervet says:

    Our HOA is really good, maybe we just have nice people in our buildings. People make the HOA. There seems to be a lack of “reasonableness” amoung many people, they are “entitled”. They need to get lives. I am glad the state stepped in and has this new entity.

  10. Jim says:

    I moved from a non-hoa community to an hoa. I have never regretted it. In our old neighborhood weeds that were a foot tall, junk vehicles, houses in need of painting were the norm.

    I am very glad to be a part of a community that is trying to protect property values NOT destroy them.

  11. Gary says:

    We live in a mixed community of single family homes and townhouses. We are a single family home. For the first 20 years, our HOA was working well and provided property value protection and use of a common swimming pool and tennis courts. About 4 years ago we got a combination of a bad management company and a wannabe dictator from the townhouses for our HOA president. Through use of deceit and outright lies, the single family homes are now paying for townhouse maintenance, the HOA does not follow our covenants, covenants are changed without obtaining required votes, periodic audits are not performed and requests for audits (allowed by our by-laws) are ignored. We have obtained, along with our neighbors, legal help but we are paying both our own attorney as well as the HOA‘s attorney through our fees. I only wish there was a way to individually opt out of the HOA.

  12. Felicity Parker says:

    I appreciate someone looking out for property values and keeping the neighborhood nice. It’s a thankless job to enforce rules. I know from my own job in a hotel that those breaking the rules don’t like those that enforce rules. I also appreciate the fact that the Board of Directors is a group of volunteers, who work to oversee the rules and financials that most other folks in the neighborhood don’t understand. The bottom line is the policies, rules and guidelines are there for the benefit of the entire community, and they weren’t a secret when the home was purchased so why be angry when they are enforced?

    1. Number 6 says:

      There’s a difference between enforcement and petty vindictive Nazi like behavior.

  13. CJ says:

    I serve my community -as a volunteer – on the HOA board. The HOA board is not ‘them’ or ‘they’ I am a homeowner, just like the other board members and the complaining homeowners in your story. It is unfortunate that you chose to tell only one side of the story. HOAs are required to have their records publicly available and budgets are shared with homeowners regularly. We are required to follow ethics rules and procedures consistent with any Board of Directors. HOAs complete tax forms and audits. We have homeowners who want to see all the financials including which accounts are in arrears, which is not ethical. I have also experienced homeowners who don’t want their money being spent on community items that are “benefitting” another homeowner, like repairing lawns and shrubs in the common areas in front of someone elses front door. Boards are chosen by the homeowners in elections. Homeowners who are concerned are welcome to step up, make a difference and run for the board. However, I have found that many of these complaining owners refuse to stand up when there is real work to be done. It amazes me how much energy some people can focus on petty neighborhood concerns rather than remembering we are all neighbors and can act in a civil fashion with our neighbors. Because of my service to my community I have been treated like a pariah by some of my neighbors without just cause. Even their children shake their fists at my family. I’m sure there are some valid examples of mismanagement, but remember that these people are your neighbors and are trying to make things better. Remember, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

  14. Mike says:

    The Meadows in Castle Rock, is governed by two hoa’s I am in the Meadows Neighborhood Company, these people are the most petty, corrupt bunch I have ever dealt with, won’t show books, attempt to you for parking on drive way,

  15. SM Williams says:

    FILE YOUR HOA COMPLAINT WITH DORA, using the link below:


    Get your on file!!!

  16. Stephanie Smith says:

    I HATE HOAs. They are nothing but a bloody nuisance, like when the sphincter police at my mother-in-law’s sent her a letter telling her she HAD to park her car in the garage. Hel-LO?!? It’s her place, and if she wants to park in the driveway it’s none of their bloody business. This is why some very hot places will freeze over before I ever get a condo or a home in a covenant-protected community.

  17. Not all HOA’s are bad. They are much like unions or any organization. They’re as good as the members make them. If members are uninterested and don’t participate in them, they are probably not going to do a good job and the members will be dissatisfied.

    We are a small HOA on the Western Slope and have found the State to be totally useless. We had a board member that has embezzled over 2 years worth of money from our association. NO one has helped us. I love that the state has given us all kinds of new rules and regulations (many which are stupid for a small HOA) yet have given us no assistance at all.