Creating the Office of Homeowners Ombudsman
H.4819 creates the Office of Homeowners Ombudsman within the Department of Consumer Affairs. The ombudsman is appointed by the Director of the Department. The ombudsman’s responsibilities include providing homeowners associations and members with information of their rights and responsibilities through meetings, published materials, etc. The ombudsman is also responsible to provide mediation, monitors and vote counting services when requested, fair election procedures, complaint investigation, etc. The ombudsman’s office has subpoena power for mediation and complaint resolution purposes. Finally, the ombudsman would set fees for all these services and report annually to the Governor and Generally assembly. This bill sets the complaint fee at $25.
Finally, the Department of Consumer Affairs would create and maintain a homeowners association registry, which would include number of units and contact info for the association and its officer. Registration would be $50, and must be renewed every five years. The fees would go into a separate account for the use of the registry and Office of the Homeowners Association Ombudsman.
Simply put, this bill unnecessarily increases the size of government. Homeowners associations are private entities with voluntary membership, and there is no reason for government to provide a special office for their use. If there are disputes within an association, private mediation is available, and if a contract or law is being violated in some way, that is a matter for the courts to address. Finally, there is no need whatever for a registry of homeowners associations, other than serving as a cash cow to provide funding for the office.