I always believed that the government’s job was to protect its citizens. But, just like HOAs protecting property values, that too appears to be a misconception. Maybe the government’s real goal always was self aggrandizement and self enrichment hidden under layers of feigned caring. Perhaps I am only now beginning to realize that or maybe the corruption and gross government misconduct has reached new heights that it is no longer possible to sweep their misdeeds under the rug and pretend they don’t exist. Or has their callousness reached new heights? Surely, when presented with evidence that their constituents are being physically harmed, they would at least listen and take steps to ensure their safety.
Michelle Germano joins us On The Commons. Michelle is the lead plaintiff in the Chinese drywall class action lawsuit. Michelle bought her dream home – a brand new townhouse in a brand new development where she planned to live and work. It wasn’t long after she moved in that things started going terribly wrong. Appliances stopped working, electrical wires disintegrated, her house had a horrible odor that she couldn’t get rid of, her dog got sick and she got sick. She found out that her neighbors were also getting sick. Following a lot of sleuthing, she discovered the source of her ailments – Chinese drywall. She tried to enlist the help of her representatives, both at the state and the Federal levels. No one was interested! After repeated attempts to get Virginia legislators involved she received a call advising her to give up because the “condo lobby” (read CAI) owned condo legislation. Nobody in DC even bothered to respond. In a no holds barred, frank, detailed and emotional interview, Michelle takes us on a roller coaster ride of her life with Chines drywall, her condo association and the legislators elected to represent us.
It is getting almost impossible to get through an entire day without being accosted by bad news. Sometimes there really is nothing we can do about it. Natural disasters are out of our hands. Try stopping a tsunami, a hurricane or an earthquake. You can’t. Chances of people losing their homes in any of those scenarios are pretty good. But other “disasters” are preventable. I am thinking of the seemingly daily reports of condo and homeowner association fraud, embezzlement, theft, mismanagement and abuse that can also result in the loss of peoples’ homes. These are man made disasters, enabled by the government. Instead of protecting their constituents against these wrongdoings, or redesigning the HOA and condo concept structurally to prevent the abuses, they mandate them and turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the problems. They facetiously mock you for having “agreed” to the “rules”.
Jose Pazos joins us On The Commons. Jose, an award winning community manager in Florida, is not cut from the same cloth as many of his colleagues throughout the country. Jose and his business partners, own a management company with a difference. Transparency and accessibility seem to be high on their list of ” must haves” for their homeowner clients. We’ll find out how they do that. (it really is quite simple). We talk about laws that are unique to Florida and how those laws enable the taking of private units from their rightful owners. We will also find out about the many ways owners and associations are robbed and swindled out of their assets and rights. We’ll hear all about his idea for a condo fraud task force, how it would work and how it would be funded. We also find out why he considers himself the “condo police”. In his spare time, Jose also maintains a web page called Condo Receiver. If more people in the condo and HOA business had the integrity and honesty of Jose, we might actually get through a day every now and again with having to read about bad news.
A picture is worth a thousand words, or so we have heard. As I watch the primaries unfold for the US presidential candidates and seeing the backlash against both political parties, the picture that comes to my mind is “The Awakening”. The Awakening is an enormous sculpture, that is now housed at the National Harbor in Maryland, of a giant waking up after a long sleep. When you look at the candidates in both parties what is of particular interest is that the front runners are not the party favorites. Senator Sanders has amassed millions of dollars in contributions, a handful of dollars at a time which suggests a huge base. Donald Trump is self-funded and therefor not beholden to any of the special interests that have traditionally manipulated the direction this country has taken. Mr. Trump is, by far, the biggest vote getter. Both of these candidates have enormous grass roots support. Not party support but people support. It seems a showdown may be on the horizon. Will this dissatisfaction with the status quo manifest itself in the homeowner association arena? Are Americans fed up and are they really ready to do something about it? I say, power to the people!
Dr. Gary Solomon joins us On The Commons. Dr. Solomon is a retired college professor who took an interest in how the stress of living in HOAs affects homeowners, the very people who are supposed to benefit from homeownership. He has authored several papers, including HOA Syndrome, Elder Abuse in HOAs, Child Abuse by Proxy and his brilliant and creative book, HOA Crisis in America which is a must read, watch and listen to book. He explains how HOAs are a sick concept. Many of the board members have psychological problems, problems that affect them. They, in turn, take it out on their neighbors. The stress of living in the cross hairs of a mentally unsound board member triggers stress related diseases. It is a fascinating idea and a scary thought when we consider not only the ill health of many homeowners but also the cost of medical care. Perhaps it is time for preventive medicine instead of what we have. Dr. Solomon is willing to consult with homeowners and their attorneys in lawsuits against their HOAs. He is also ready and willing to assist medical doctors understand how their patients who live in HOAs may be living under constant stress. Is an Awakening headed to the homeowners in mass produced HOAs nationwide? Will homeowners reject the special interests and start really taking control of their own lives?
The Awakening, a statue in the DC area of a giant waking up after a long sleep. It is now at the National Harbor in Maryland.
I have never much liked the idea of mandatory membership homeowner associations. The concept of binding private real property to a hodgepodge of real estate owned by a third party, maintained and controlled by a motley crew of individuals with no expertise in the art of management has always seemed counterintuitive to me. That the model is not working is no real surprise. What galls me the most though is the idea that a handful of owners and hired managers are allowed to fine the owners. This is a power that is often used as a bully tool and abused. The fines can lead to the loss of a home and their financial security.
Frank Short joins us On The Commons. Frank, an attorney and a popular repeat guest of the show, discusses fines in HOAs and Condominiums. He explains why we have fines and who benefits from the fines. Over the years there have been a number of court cases about fines. He discuses those cases, explains what the courts considered and tells us how they ruled. He also explains the constitutional connections. This is an excellent show from the archives. For those being fined by their HOAs for whatever reason, this show is a must for the owner and their attorneys.
What a concept! Build homeowner associations to give municipal governments a sneaky underhanded way of collecting what amounts to free tax money. This sleight of hand is also known as double taxation. It works very nicely for local governments – not so well for the homeowners involved. Developers increase density thus increasing profit margins. Housing consumers are told that this scheme will protect property values and allow them to enjoy greater control over their immediate surroundings. To add insult to injury, real governments have adopted a hands off approach, claiming it is a civic matter. State legislators have enacted legislation empowering associations while special interest groups reap the benefits.
While the carnage continues, those in a position to prevent these atrocities have front row seats to the modern day Gladiator Games.
Julio Robaina joins us On The Commons. Julio is a former Florida State Representative who, during his term, toured the State with a task force talking to home and condo owners. The stories he heard from the owners convinced him that something had to be done to stop horrors. He introduced legislation that would provide oversight through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, but subsequent legislative tinkering and bureaucratic red tape has all but rendered the program useless. Not one to give up, Julio, who I nicknamed “The Energizer Bunny” years ago, went straight from the State House into property management where he is still working with the homeowners to put a stop to fraud and embezzlement and to ensure fair elections. He and his partner have a web page detailing all the problems and the issues, naming names and streaming news clips. Condo Receiver is a treasure trove of stories and a must see for anyone who wants to understand just how bad things can get in residential America. And while the stories are about Florida, these stories are replicated nationwide. And the Energizer Bunny is still fighting!