Categorized | News, Opinion


Here is what Sen. Chap Petersen (Sandy’s Favorite Democrat) said about the HOA bill:

HOA Powers Multiply, with Passage of HB 791

A few moments ago, the Senate on a 31-9 vote passed HB 791, giving enhanced powers to homeowner and condo association boards. This was after the Senate had rejected my substitute version of the bill on a closer (26-14) vote.

Somewhere, George Orwell is rolling over in his grave …

I wrote a few weeks ago about HB 791, which overturns traditional Virginia law stating that HOA’s only held that power conferred by their authorizing document, i.e. the Deed of Declaration. No more, no less. In that way, they are the same as any state or local government which must follow its constitution or charter.

With the passage of HB 791 today, that limitation is almost gone. Instead, HOA Boards and Condo Boards can levy fines and penalties against individual homeowners, even if that power is not stated in the original instruments.

In other words, these Boards now have a power which is not even held by City Councils or County Boards, i.e. the power to assess and collect fines (and assert a lien against property) even without a court order. This power can instead lead to $50 a day fines for offenses as mundane as leaving out toys or hanging up Christmas lights.

Faced with this expansion of power, I filed a floor substitute to HB 791 which did two things: (i) specified that homeowners have an equal right of access to courtand (ii) limited the ability of HOA’s to levy fines to violations involving the common areas, unless that power was specifically stated in the Declaration. In essence, I tried to bring the bill back into line with traditional Virginia contract law.

In the floor debate today, it was stated that HOA’s and condo associations can serve as “mini-governments” which perform valuable services. That is true up to a point. However, there are significant differences: local governments are governed by a constitution, they are subject to open government requirements, and only actual residents can participate in choosing the leaders.

There is no set of democratic institutions in an HOA. Even the best ones are run on an ad hoc basis. Again, this is not to slam the good people who run them (trust me, I don’t have that kind of patience). Rather, it’s simply to point out that these decisions should not be entitled to the same deference as decisions by elected officials.

The matter goes back to the House which has to approve the Senate amendments. Assuming it does, the bill will be approved by the House — and will represent a landmark change in Virginia’s property laws.

Don’t expect everyone to be excited about this.

I agree!  Ask Governor McAuliffe to VETO this bill – go here!

UPDATE:  Here’s my email to the Governor sent just a few minutes ago:

Dear Governor McAuliffe:

I have not written you about a bill yet; I pray you and yours are well.  You are in my prayers.

I urge you to veto the HOA powers bill – it increases the powers of largely unaccountable homeowners associations to inappropriate levels.  HOA boards can get filled with people who have a little bit of power and misuse it.  “Lower property values” are used without any sort of proof to justify extensive, nit-picky regulations on neighbors.

What is needed is a HOA Bill of Rights for property owners!

Thanks for your time,

Sandy Sanders

Here’s the video of Sen. Petersen’s speech on the Senate floor.  Petersen is showing some political courage standing up to the HOAs when virtually everyone in Fairfax County/City lives under an HOA.  (BTW, I do not due to a mistake in filing that caused the HOA declaration not to attach to the land!  YAH!


From the Petersen State Sentinel:

HOA’s Reign Supreme:

Live in a HOA or condo association? Pay attention. HB 791 would greatly expand the powers of these associations, giving them powers outside their charters. This is a violation of our traditional law on contracts. While HOA’s can provide valuable services, they need to be constrained against over-reach. There is also no reason to grant an HOA powers that we would not grant a local government, such as the ability to fine a homeowner over a violation such a hanging Christmas lights – even where that power is not in their charter.

I proposed a more moderate version of the bill that would grant reciprocal rights to homeowners and limit the fines imposed by HOA’s. In my floor speech, I rallied a motley coalition of right and left wingers to my side. (See my speech here). Yet we failed on a vote of 30-9. However, our message traveled to the House, which has to accept our amendments under the Assembly rules. The House voted down the Senate version 55-39. So the bill is currently in “no man’s land.” With the unhappiness now surrounding this legislation, that may be a good thing.

This is good news.  It sometimes is better to defeat a bad bill than to pass a good one!  RAH again for Sandy’s Favorite Democrat:  Sen. Chap Petersen!



About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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