Can I use negative publicity to compel an HOA to rescind a rule?

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Can I use negative publicity to compel an HOA to rescind a rule?

I live in an HOA that has a rule against using HOA facilities for any religious or political purpose, such as reserving a club room for a weekly prayer legality of this rule, or the prospects of successful litigation against it…what about using negative publicity? Since truth is an absolute defense against an accusation of libel, would there be any restriction to simply putting out a press release stating the HOA’s rule and that many residents are opposed to it? Also, is telling the HOA that you intend to put out such a press release unless the rule is rescinded a violation of law–i.e., some kind of unlawful threat? I’m not aware of any restrictions in the CCRs against

public disclosure of HOA rules.

Asked on September 1, 2016 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

1) You are correct, truth is a defence to defamation suits. That does not mean that you might not be sued by the HOA, however: people and organizations do bring bad lawsuits sometimes, either because they don't appreciate that the case is bad, or to try to intimidate, punish, etc. the other side. So bear in  mind that if you do publish anything negative about the HOA, that even if you have a good legal defense, you could end up embroiled in litigation--factor that into your considerations.
2) You can tell them that if you can't resolve matters, you will bring this issue to the media (or social media)--that is legal, since what you are proposing to do--provide truthful information--is legal so long as there is no contract or agreement (e.g. nothing in the CCRs) against doing this.
3) If the community is publically funded in some way, including in it's initial construction, it is most likely the case that they cannot discriminate against religious or political uses of the HOA facilities: to oversimplify, entities receiving public funding generally are held to the 1st Amendment and can't discriminate against religious groups or on the nature of the speech or activity. But if there is no public funding, they can legally restrict or prevent religous or political uses: the constitution and 1st Amendment does not apply to purely private entities in that way, and private entities can discriminate in this way.


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