By Victor Skinner, The Center Square contributor
A Louisiana lawmaker wants to limit the authority of homeowners associations to ensure contracts respect constitutional rights.
State Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Mandeville, has filed House Bill 9 for the upcoming legislative session to insert language in state law in reference to “community documents” between homeowners associations and lot owners.
“Any provision of a community document which restricts a constitutional right of a lot owner or a person residing in a residential planned community shall be null and void,” the addition reads.
Currently, community documents of residential planned communities have “the force of law,” though provisions exist that ensure the Louisiana Homeowners Association Act doesn’t violate state or federal constitutional rights.
Hollis said the legislation was inspired in part by a dispute with his neighbor, who installed a camera peering onto his property and taunted him about it on social media. Hollis put up an 8-foot fence to block the invasion, and his homeowners association is threatening him with fines if he doesn’t take it down.
“They didn’t do anything to help our family,” Hollis said.
Hollis pointed to another example of a family in northern Louisiana that was banned from posting a sign in support of their military son, despite others in the same neighborhood displaying flags the same size.
In conversations about the issue, “I’ve just continued to hear horror stories” about homeowners associations selectively enforcing rules and the families they apply to, he said.
“They pick and choose which ones they’ll enforce,” Hollis said.
“I think HOAs while they can do some good, there are a lot of bad actors out there that are unchallenged, inconsistent and need more oversight.”
Hollis said he expects the House Civil Law Committee to weigh in on the proposal, but he is encouraged “at least the conversation is going right now.”
Hollis estimated 90% on the feedback he has received about homeowners associations has been negative, and he is compiling the complaints to illustrate the need for HB 9.
“It’s just putting a spotlight on the antics that have occurred,” he said.
Hollis said that while state law does include protections for constitutional rights as they pertain to the Louisiana Homeowners Association Act, he felt compelled to spell out the protections explicitly to ensure courts properly interpret legislative intent.
“I want to bring clarity by being specific and citing that in statute,” he said. “The more clarity you bring the better off you are.”
Jeffrey Sadow, an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University, wrote an op-ed for The Hayride on Thursday blasting Hollis’ bill, which he claims “misunderstands property rights.”
Sadow encouraged Hollis and others in his situation to either work to change the rules of homeowners associations or to sell and move.
Hollis said he also is considering companion legislation to create an opt-out provision for folks who would prefer to leave their homeowners association.
“Most HOA benefits disappear under HB 9, and Hollis’ promised companion bill makes the concept entirely moot,” Sadow wrote. “With people buying in and later deciding the rules don’t suit them or never agreeing to them at all, the dissidents become free riders on the backs of those who want to make the tradeoff, creating an environment where nobody has any incentive to pursue HOA intended benefits which then disappear.”
The 2022 general session for the Louisiana Legislature begins March 14.