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Lawmakers roll out new bills regulating HOAs

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DENVER -- A bipartisan group of state lawmakers Wednesday introduced a package of bills aimed at strengthening regulations for homeowners associations, or "HOAs".

"Our bills are common sense approaches," said Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, who is sponsoring two of the four measures, one of which would make HOA managers subject to state regulation for the first time.

House Bill 1277 would require community managers to pass a test demonstrating knowledge of budgeting, consumer protection, debt collection and basic operations.

"All HOA managers will be held to a common educational standard," said Williams.

The Community Associations Institute, a trade group representing HOAs from around the state, supports the legislation, even though they note that, out of some 2 million Colorado homeowners paying HOA dues last year, just 309 filed complaints last year.

"I think homeowner associations deserve that level of competent management," said Chris Pacetti, who manages the Ken Caryl Ranch Homeowners Association. "And most of them appear to have that."

House Bill 1276, also sponsored by Williams, provides some protection for homeowners struggling to pay their monthly HOA fees.

Under the proposal, HOAs would be required to provide clear information about the special assessments and offer payment plans to struggling homeowners and would not be allowed to file liens until a homeowner had been given at least six months to pay off the special assessment.

"There have been some documented cases of HOAs immediately recording liens against properties and foreclosing on homes for extremely small delinquencies," Williams said.

A third measure, House Bill 1134, creates an HOA Information Resource Center to coordinate data and monitor HOAs but stops short of creating some sort of binding arbitration process for settling disputes between HOAs and homeowners who don't want to take their issue to court.

"It's litigious, it's costly, it's time-consuming," said Stan Hrincevich, who leads a group of homeowners called the Colorado HOA Forum. "The average homeowner doesn't have time to run to court for every dispute."

A fourth bill, Senate Bill 183, aims to protect homeowners from being fined for conserving water, even if xeriscaping and other conservation-minded landscaping isn't allowed under a community's covenant.