I’ve had the privilege of writing for ClearanceJobs.com now for nearly five years, and with roughly one article per week that’s a whole lot of articles. People sometimes ask me how I still have topics to write about in the seemingly niche world of security clearances. The truth is that security clearances aren’t so niche these days. In fact, security clearance law intersects with many other areas of law – and life. Each time I think I’ve heard it all, something new and entirely unexpected comes through the door.

With that in mind, I realize that many readers may be scratching their heads at the title of this article. After all, Homeowner’s Association (HOA) dues and security clearances are seemingly two of the most unrelated topics one could imagine. And yet, despite the lack of apparent relationship between the two, the issue of HOA’s comes up on occasion in security clearance denial and revocation cases. Here’s how:

DELINQUENT HOA DUES

Perhaps the most obvious situation is where the clearance holder has failed to pay HOA dues or fines assessed by the HOA Board for non-compliance with HOA rules. Either scenario can become problematic for the clearance holder under Guideline “F” (Financial Considerations) of the National Adjudicative Guidelines depending upon the circumstances, the amount owed, and whether the clearance holder has a good faith basis to dispute the charge. I’ve seen crazy cases of HOA Boards gone wild, and every once in a while, a story pops up in the news media about this topic.

Want to fly the American flag outside your home? Nope. Want to paint the trim on your house a different shade of white? Nope. Speeding in the gated community and caught on radar by the HOA’s private security company? Be prepared to cough up the bucks or fight the HOA in court. The alternative is that the fine gets sent to collections, and in some cases civil court, for a judgment against the homeowner/clearance holder. That appears on the clearance holder’s credit report, which the government obtains in the course of a background investigation, and suddenly the clearance holder is facing questions from the government about his or her financial responsibility.

As insane as this sounds, HOA Boards in most states have wide discretion on enforcing their rules and these types of civil debts are often held valid by the courts under the theory that the homeowner bought into the HOA with eyes wide open. In case you’re wondering, I don’t belong to an HOA and never will because of what I’ve seen over the years. But everyone is different and I certainly don’t begrudge people who like the security of a gated community and/or the sense of community imparted from a somewhat shared living experience. If that’s you, just keep in mind the other financial problem with HOA’s: the potential for an overly litigious member.  If the HOA gets slapped with a civil judgment, that cost will be absorbed by individual members of the Association through special assessments of additional dues. HOA members should have at least considered this prospect and set aside a financial reserve for a contingency like this.

DISPUTES WITH THE HOA BOARD

Disputes between an Association member and the HOA Board can quickly turn nasty and result in all sorts of unsavory allegations being hurled in both directions. We’ve seen cases over the years involving physical confrontations at HOA meetings, association members “ganging up” on a member perceived as a nuisance or otherwise not part of the “club”, and other childish behavior that apparently seemed like a good idea to someone at the time but paints a terrible picture of the clearance holder’s judgment and maturity in a security clearance revocation hearing long after the dust has settled.

Before getting into a knock-down, drag-out fight with an HOA Board, think about how the matter will look on paper and how an objective, outside party (like a judge or a security adjudicator) might view it. Worst case scenario, moving might just be the best option.

NEIGHBORS AS “FRENEMIES”

Finally, clearance holders who belong to an HOA should keep in mind that the politics of an Association can extend to and color personal relationships. Neighbors with an axe to grind over some perceived non-compliance with HOA rules or other slight may be only too happy to share those terrible misdeeds with a background investigator. In most cases, those claims will rightfully be dismissed as irrelevant by investigators and adjudicators – particularly if they involve something ridiculous like planting non-HOA-approved flowers in one’s front yard.

But the issue in background investigations is often not a single concern. If neighbor complaints can be lumped in with other, minor issues to create the appearance of a pattern of irresponsibility, poor judgment, or similar character traits, that can, in some cases, become an issue of adjudicative concern. All of these things may be worth pondering if considering purchasing into an HOA – or moving out of one.

 

This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Security Clearance Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials and revocations. He is a former investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For more information, please visit www.bigleylaw.com