Looking for a fairer fight with your HOA? In Colorado,help may be on the way

Since 2011, an office within the Colorado Division of Real Estate has collected complaints, thousands of them, about homeowners associations.

But the HOA Information and Resource Center has lacked the authority to act, even when there was a clear violation of the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act or CCIOA, the state rules governing community associations.

That could change. A new regulatory review recommends the HOA center not only be extended, but also be given the power to investigate and resolve disputes, which are often emotionally charged and can become financially draining.

“Since many complaints against HOAs exist and consumers are perhaps being harmed, a more equitable avenue to effectively address complaints would be to authorize the Center to investigate complaints,” a sunset review from the Department of Regulatory Agencies that came out last week recommends.

There are 7,881 active HOAs throughout the state. Every year, on average, the state HOA center, run with two people, receives 1,543 complaints and processes 5,161 requests for information.

Last year, the largest areas of complaints centered on sins of omission — not maintaining and repairing common areas, not following the governing documents, not enforcing the rules and covenants and not communicating with residents.

But hundreds of complaints are linked to more egregious violations, such as harassment, failing to produce documents when requested, fraud in board elections and excessive fines.

Right now, someone trying to force an HOA manager or HOA board to comply with state rules often has to litigate, and that battle is lopsided from the get-go, said Stan Hrincevich, president of the Colorado HOA Forum.

“We have a system where people pass laws and wave the flag of victory. Not once are these things enforceable,” he said.