One of the most interesting aspects of tracking state legislation across the country is the emergence of new patterns that fly in the face of forecasts before the start of the legislative session. One such trend is the proliferation of ombudsman and ombudsman-adjacent bills. Across the country, we are seeing states trying to pass common-interest community ombudsman programs once more. We also are seeing a new legislative trend to bring community association boards under the umbrella of states attorneys general and certain local officials.
SB 876, An Act Establishing a Condominium Ombudsman and Requiring the Disclosure of Certain Financial Information, would create a new condominium ombudsman office with the authority to mediate conflicts between owners and condominium boards. Similarly, HB 5833, An Act Concerning the Establishment of a Pilot Program for the Mediation of Condominium-Related Disputes, would create a new program to mediate conflicts between owners and condominium boards. Neither bill has advanced out of committee.
There have been several bills introduced this session related to ombudsman and dispute resolution programs:
- HB 1501, relating to condominium associations, would create a condominium ombudsman;
- HB 1499, relating to common interest developments, would create a study committee to determine the feasibility of creating a common-interest community ombudsman office;
- HB 1509, relating to common interest developments, also would create a study committee to determine the feasibility of creating a common-interest community ombudsman office; and
- HB 381/SB 594, relating to condominiums, would repeal an existing expiration date on the use of Hawaii’s condominium education trust fund for dispute resolution services.
Only HB 1509 advanced to the next chamber before the March 9 deadline.
This year, we have seen the introduction of H 157, relating to condominiums and homeowners associations. Charging fees for rushing a statement of account is already prohibited by law in Idaho; this bill would expand that prohibition to include all fees. Importantly, H 157 would turn these fees into a violation of the consumer protection act, opening up a community’s manager, association, and board members to liability and sanctions from the attorney general’s office. This bill is currently on its way to Gov. Brad Little’s (R) desk.
In Texas, there has been one bill introduced so far- HB 5258 relating to the violation of certain laws and provisions of governing instruments by the governing body of a property owners’ association. This bill would enable a county attorney to impose injunctive relief on an association for violations of the Texas Residential Property Owners Protection Act. Specifically, the bill refers to sections of the act governing board member elections and voting procedures. The bill has not moved as of writing.
Washington state has seen two bills filed separately this legislative session- SB 5257, which provides protections for consumers engaging with common interest communities, and HB 1569, which protects unit owners in common-interest communities. These bills would make any violation of homeowners association statutes a violation under the consumer protection act, opening up association boards and board members to liability and sanctions from the attorney general’s office. Neither bill advanced out of committee.
CAI continues to remain engaged with state legislators and has made its opposition clear to the bills above. As states start to reach the end of their legislative sessions, expect updates from your state’s legislative action committee.
For more information on ombudsman/alternative dispute resolution programs, please see CAI’s public policy and Report on Offices of Community Association Ombudsman.