Can your HOA issue you a speeding ticket?
Posted August 18
Phoenix, AZ — Sun Lakes is in the East Valley and is known for having active adult communities for retirees like Bernie Van Emden.
"You name it, they got it here," Van Emden said of all of the amenities in his development.
Van Emden and his wife happen to live in a gated community that falls under the direction of the Iron Oaks Homeowner's Association. And, according to Van Emden, when he went to his mailbox recently, he found a letter from the HOA.
"When you got that letter from the HOA, what did you think?" 3 On Your Side's Gary Harper asked Van Emden.
"I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life," he replied.
The letter said Van Emden's car was caught travelling 37 miles per hour in a 35 mile an hour zone. It even came complete with photographs of the front and rear views of his car. The letter also indicated that this time, it was just a warning. However, if he's caught speeding again, it said Iron Oaks Homeowners Association will issue him a speeding fine.
"The Homeowners Association has police powers to some degree, which I didn't think they did."
According to the letter, the warning came from the HOA's "Patrol Office."
That name piqued our curiosity so, 3 On Your Side headed over there for some answers.
"This is the Patrol Office," Harper says as he opens the door.
Inside, he finds about a half dozen HOA members wearing matching polo shirts that say "Patrol."
"Hi, how is everyone," Harper asked.
In this group, we found the Director of Patrol, James Curcio. He told me that about a year ago, the HOA's Board of Directors approved purchasing a radar gun to monitor how fast motorists were travelling.
Curcio says the radar photographs anyone driving 2 or more miles an hour over the speed limit. After running the speeder's license plate that's on file with the HOA, a letter is mailed to the homeowner. If it's the homeowner's first infraction, only a warning is sent. However, if the homeowner is caught a second time, a $50 fine is mailed to them.
Curcio says it all boils down to the safety of homeowners and the community.
"It's a dangerous situation," Curcio says of speeders. "There are a lot of homeowners who walk their dogs so it's a situation they (Board of Directors) felt we needed to control speed."
But can a Homeowners Association really issue a speeding ticket? For the answer, 3 On Your Side turned to Josh Bolen, a Phoenix attorney who specializes in HOAs.
"The answer is simply yes," Bolen replied.
The attorney says that gated communities like the one Van Emden lives in have private streets and are not city owned streets. And, as a result, they're not patrolled by law enforcement. Criminal matters are still investigated by law enforcement like burglaries or thefts for example. However, traffic laws are not. Because of that, HOAs have the right to step in and enforce things like speeding. "Because the municipalities cannot enforce civil traffic issues on private property, the HOA itself is left to enforce speed, stop signs, traffic signals to keep their community safe," Bolen said.
But folks like Van Emden say it's just not right. For instance, he says from the picture he was sent, you can't tell who's actually driving the car. Is it him or his wife? Maybe it's a relative? And for 2 miles an hour over, Van Emden says it amounts to nothing more than a cash register for the HOA.
"How many citations do you think you've issued?" Harper asked Curcio, the Director of Patrol. "It's hard to say, but I'd say hundreds," Curcio replied.
Van Emden says he and his wife don't agree at all with what's going on and they're so upset, they're done living here.
"We're probably going to move from the area as a result of this. We just do not appreciate this type of behavior on behalf of our neighbors."
It's important to note that the speeding citations do not affect a homeowner's driver's license or insurance. The citations are merely fines. If the fines are not paid, a lien can be issued against your home until they are paid.