Trouble with your homeowners association? How to fight back

PHOENIX - Homeowners associations are supposed to protect your property value and maintain the common areas of a community.

But many of you have let me know that some HOAs are out of control and you feel like you just can't win.

Not true. With a little patience and the right proof, you can fight your HOA and win.

Kathleen Daurio of Mesa sure did.

Her horror story started after she says her HOA repeatedly sent her meaningless citations.

She requested financial documents to see where all her money was going.

"I mean, they bought laundry detergent and almonds and vodka and baby wipes and, just about every time, they bought air fresheners!" Daurio said.

The purchases totaled $38,000, and receipts showed that all of these purchases were reimbursed - with HOA money - to the board president.

Daurio said she could find none of these items were used by the HOA for the benefit of the condominiums.

Eventually, Daurio and her neighbors had to go to court to begin the process of removing the board.

But hopefully you won't have to go that far.

Where to begin

First of all, if there's a fine -- pay it. I know it sounds backwards, but not paying only gives them reason to tack on a lot of outrageous charges, and eventually, attorneys' fees.

Get very familiar with your HOA Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). They are the neighborhood rules. I can guarantee the board knows them -- and so should you.

Once you know the rules you can work on changing them.

Start talking to your neighbors. Chances are, if you've received a bogus notice so have they. Remember there's power in numbers and you will need their support to change bylaws and get rid of board members.

And be honest, when's the last time you attended an HOA meeting? Well you need to start -- and not just when you are having a problem. Make regular appearances, because you need to know who the board is and how they operate.

In extreme cases, you may want to consider legal action -- but before you do, make sure that there has been an actual violation of the CC&Rs or state law.

Many HOAs have a law firm on retainer and will charge you for every second of their time if you lose.

Instead of going to court, consider filing a complaint through the state's HOA dispute process .

The program is run by the Arizona Department of Fire, Building and Life Safety and the agency determines if an HOA violated CC&Rs or state law.

There's a big filing fee, but it's a lot cheaper than hiring a lawyer.

HOAs exist to work for the good of the neighborhood, but they largely govern themselves. And sometimes it takes a few nosey neighbors to keep them honest.

Let me know about your consumer issues by emailing me at joe@abc15.com or by "Liking" my Let Joe Know Facebook Page and telling me about it there.

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