Fight over HOA power heads to Austin – by Gabe Gutierrez / 11 News

Great cover story!!!

Posted on February 15, 2011 at 11:45 PM

HOUSTON – The debate over how much power should be given to neighborhood homeowners associations is heating up again at the Texas state capitol.

On Tuesday, Houston-area groups, both for and against HOA reform, traveled to Austin to give lawmakers an earful.

It’s part of a national push to regulate HOAs, which critics say have way too much power.

“They take advantage of people because they know they can,” said Harvella Jones, an outspoken opponent of HOAs who has started the National Homeowners Advocate Group.

In the mid-90s, 11 News reported how she fought to keep her Kingwood home after her HOA kicked her out. She eventually countersued and settled out of court. But she’s been fighting HOAs ever since, including her new one in Rosenberg.

“It’s horrible,” Jones said. “It’s absolutely horrible because I get these horror stories from across the state.”

Among those horror stories is Sandy Terry, who says her HOA in Houston hiked her maintenance fees by hundreds of dollars a month…for no apparent reason.

“That was s shock to me,” Terry said. “So I want to get the word out to my community.”

Jones’ group is planning rallies in Houston and Austin in the coming weeks to ask lawmakers to stop allowing HOAs to foreclose on people’s homes if they don’t pay maintenance fees. A separate advocacy group from Sugar Land went to Austin Tuesday to lobby for other HOA reforms.

On the other side, the Greater Houston Chapter of the Community Associations Institute held its own rally outside the state capitol.

“Homeowner’s associations provide a lot of benefits,” said Terry Thomas, an HOA president. “They do landscaping. They do deed restrictions. Make sure the property values stay up.”

Others within the group argue that if homeowners don’t want to deal with an HOA, they have the right to move to another subdivision without one. But they say without strong zoning laws in the Houston area, HOAs are necessary.

“I believe that we should protect our property values,” said Gloria Cruz, an HOA board member from Harris County. “That’s very important to me.”

This debate could be on the ballot this November.

There’s a bill in committee calling for a constitutional amendment to stop HOA foreclosures.

Opponents say those foreclosures are extremely rare.

 – For the full article/video go  here

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