Forty-six U.S. state legislatures will be in session in 2022. CAI’s state government affairs efforts are a member-driven, targeted advocacy program dedicated to improving policy outcomes for the community association housing model through CAI’s state legislative action committees, as well as engagement with CAI members, community association experts, and state policymakers.
With the pandemic continuing to negatively impact the national and global economy, state budgets, and housing security for homeowners and renters, state legislatures will be forced to review these COVID-19-related challenges in the coming year. More importantly, many state legislatures are navigating how they will convene to conduct business (remotely or in person) and who will be allowed to participate (i.e., advocates, lobbyists, etc.)
In addition to the pandemic, state legislatures are considering legislation in response to the tragic partial collapse of Champlain Tower South in Surfside, Fla., in late June. Following the collapse, CAI convened three specialized task forces to explore changes to laws and best practices for the community association housing model that could help other communities prevent a similar event and to provide solutions for legislators addressing building safety in their districts.
Public policy recommendations in the areas of reserve studies and funding, building maintenance, and structural integrity are detailed in CAI’s Condominium Safety Public Policy Report released in late October. CAI believes these recommendations should be considered for adoption into state law to support the existing statutory framework for the development, governance, and management of community associations.
CAI’s Government and Public Affairs team surveyed more than 600 representatives from 36 state legislative action committees, the Federal Legislative Action Committee, and the Government and Public Affairs Committee to rank CAI’s state advocacy priority issues for 2022 from highest to lowest. Twenty-five percent of members from 31 of 36 state legislative action committees provided insight into anticipated challenges community associations will face in state legislatures in the coming year, detailed below:
Virtual Meetings and Electronic Voting for Responsible Communities. Many community associations are finding value in governing in a virtual world after having to pivot meetings and operations to an online format during the COVID-19 pandemic. CAI anticipates that virtual meetings and electronic voting legislation will continue to be introduced in state legislatures in 2022.
CAI supports legislation that allows community association board and general membership meetings to be held virtually. In 2021, 23 states and the District of Columbia introduced some form of virtual meeting legislation, which 10 states passed with the help of CAI’s state legislative action committees. We are anticipating states that were not successful to reintroduce these bills, providing the opportunity for community association boards and homeowners to meet virtually and vote online.
Condominium Safety: Reserve Studies and Funding. CAI supports statutorily mandating reserve studies and funding for all community associations. The public policies in the Condominium Safety Public Policy Report provide details to help communities prepare for and a timeframe to practically transition to these new requirements to avoid financial strain on homeowners and the association. The Foundation’s Best Practices Report: Reserve Studies and Reserve Management provides excellent procedures pertaining to reserve planning and funding for homeowner leaders and community managers to put into practice immediately.
Condominium Safety: Building Maintenance and Structural Integrity. CAI supports additional requirements by developers in both areas during the development process and prior to transition to the homeowners. Structural integrity is addressed through statutorily mandated building inspections starting when the building is 10 years old, another inspection at 20 years, and every five years thereafter. Inspections are based on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) published protocol for building inspections (ANSI).
Amendment Process to Remove Discriminatory Covenants. To advance racial equity, CAI supports a process by which a community association board may remove antiquated and unenforceable discriminatory restrictions contained in covenants without a vote of the owners. CAI advocates for the adoption of state legislation providing a process that allows the removal of restrictions deemed to be discriminatory under the federal Fair Housing Act and/or state anti-discrimination laws. In 2021, 16 states introduced this legislation, with five states passing procedures for community association boards to remove discriminatory covenants.
Board Authority and Responsibility. CAI supports public policy that is consistent with making sure a board’s purpose to foster a vibrant, responsive, and competent community association that promotes harmony, a sense of community, and responsible leadership. Common traits of these community associations include good communication, trust in the board of directors and management, continuing education of board members and homeowners, adoption of rights and responsibilities for better communities, and uniform, flexible, and reasonable enforcement of governing documents. Inclusiveness—the involvement of as many residents of the community as possible—is a critical element in fostering a sense of community.
Housing Affordability. CAI supports incentives providing access to sustainable homeownership, including the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing units, within the community association housing model. CAI does not support government preemption of lawful zoning and land use policies adopted by municipalities or of community association covenants that govern property use. Community association autonomy over lot size and use—including placement of multifamily structures on lots designated for single-family use by association covenants and placement of accessory dwelling units—should not be diminished by state policy.
Protecting Property Rights, Private Contracts, and Community Engagement. CAI supports public policy that is consistent with the legal framework of a deed-restricted community that relies on private land use covenants. Private land use covenants are the foundation of the community association housing model and include architectural guidelines enforced within community associations. A private contractual relationship exists between each owner or resident and the association. These parties have the legitimate expectation of receiving the services and benefits of membership in the community in exchange for payment of assessments as part of this agreement. Covenants may be amended or altered with a vote of the community’s homeowners (typically two-thirds majority or 67%). CAI opposes policy that preempts these private contracts and property rights for all owners.