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Virginia lawmakers bicker over HOA bill: ‘George Orwell is rolling over in his grave’

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lawmakers in Virginia are under fire for a bill they say curbs powers of homeowners associations, as those opposed to the measure claim it does the exact opposite and could even lead to homeowners losing their electricity for infractions.

House Bill 791, sent to conference committee on Monday, gives homeowners associations the right to "suspend a unit owner's right to use facilities or services … for nonpayment of assessments" and to "assess charges against any unit owner for any violation" or regulations committed by their visitors, unless expressly prohibited by written contract.

Sponsor Jim LeMunyon, the delegate for Chantilly, said the bill "aims to protect residents living in homeowner and condominium associations … from overly aggressive enforcement of association rules," according to Watchdog.org.

But critics say the bill actually bolsters the powers of homeowners associations while degrading private property rights further.

"Somewhere, George Orwell is rolling over in his grave," state Sen. Chap Petersen, who represents Fairfax, told Watchdog.org. "What we're doing here is saying that a homeowners association, even if it doesn't have powers stated in [its] charter, will be allowed to exercise additional powers."

Mr. Petersen is backed on the issue by several tea party groups, including the Northern Virginia Tea Party and the Arlington County Tea Party. Arlene Smith, who heads up the Arlington group, said the bill cedes powers to homeowners associations "that they could not get from their own members."

Mr. Petersen, an attorney, said the bill's fine print, gives HOAs power to assess "$50-a-day fines for offenses as mundane as leaving out toys or hanging up Christmas lights," Watchdog.org reported. The bill also gives associations the power to turn off residents' electricity for various infractions, he said.

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