The South Riding Proprietary is a homeowners’ association (HOA) that acts as a de facto local government for the South Riding community in Loudoun County, Virginia. At the proprietary’s annual meeting on May 23, 2023, three of the seven seats on the Board of Directors are up for election. Members of the board serve three year terms. South Riding property owners may cast votes by attending the annual meeting in person, submitting a paper ballot by mail, or voting electronically with a provided PIN on Votegrity.net.
The three directors at the end of their terms are Gary Smith, Karen MacDowell, and Kip Lowe. None are seeking reelection. The three candidates on the ballot are Michael Beardslee, Marilyn Gardner, and Mark Pontello. Property owners may vote for up to three candidates, and may write-in other names if desired.
Under the Proprietary’s bylaws, at least 10 percent of South Riding property owners must cast votes to achieve a quorum. Without a quorum, the Board of Directors cannot seat new members or perform any official work. If a quorum is not achieved, the meeting will be recessed for up to a month, and, when resumed, the quorum requirement drops to only 5 percent. The meeting may then be repeatedly recessed and resumed until the 5 percent quorum is achieved.
Compulsory HOAs are perpetuated by the disclosures (i.e., covenants) that owners must accept when purchasing property in an HOA neighborhood. Among these terms is a requirement that owners will include the same disclosures when selling their property later. This has the effect of creating permanent de facto governments. In addition to providing community services and amenities, most HOAs—ours included—claim broad authority to impose restrictions on the use and maintenance of residents’ private property.
The right to property is one of the three fundamental human rights. It cannot be signed-away by contract. Even if it could, HOAs are de facto governments and are therefore bound by constitutional limits on government. In Virginia, this includes a recognition that property rights are fundamental and that citizens may not be deprived of property without due process of law (cf. Constitution of Virginia, Article 1, Section 11 and U.S. Constitution, Amendments, Article V).
Until the South Riding Proprietary’s board takes steps to repeal all unconstitutional restrictions on the use of private property in the community, I recommend that South Riding property owners abstain from the Board of Directors election and deny the board a quorum.