Bill Davis

History can show us where we came from and how we got here.  History is just as valuable when looking at the evolution of residential associations.  While design and structure have played significant roles in their growth, so have enabling legislation and lack of choice.  But what about the future?  Wouldn’t history be a good tool to help us prevent the same mistakes that have led to the creation of some of the most harmful housing choices?  If we look through our crystal balls what do we see?  What is in store for American homeowners?  Will sanity, respect and dignity make a comeback or have property owners lost the right to sovereignty over their own homes? 

Bill Davis joins us On The Commons.  Bill, a Texas attorney and frequent guest on the show, represents homeowners. Along the way he has encountered some of the most interesting, weird and bizarre situations associated with the wacky world of controlled living.  Many of his cases and stories highlight the incredible absurdity of this form of housing. In addition to taking on clients, he is a frequent commentator on many public forums, discussing all things related to HOAs.  He shares some thoughts about the new White Paper put out by CAI.  We’ll find out if they are looking through the same crystal ball that Bill consulted.  

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Michelle Germano

20160521germanoI 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.  

Wouldn’t they?

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.  

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Deborah Goonan

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Oh what a web we weave….  In the beginning the mass production of HOAs was designed to provide municipalities with free tax $$$.   One of the deceptions most commonly used to convince housing consumers to buy into a residential association was that HOAs protected property values.  In fact Declarations started with a statement that read ” The purpose of this association is to protect property values”.  That was the first silk produced for the web.  As time went on and the web grew bigger and thicker and more intricate, the problems and the issues multiplied.  The flaws in the system were easier to identify and the country started trimming and tweaking the web they created.  Their efforts not only failed but led to more problems and more complications.  And the web continues to grow!

Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons.  Deborah is a homeowner advocate who learned all about the perils and problems in HOAs when she and her husband bought a house in one of Florida’s planned developments  It wasn’t long before the warm and fuzzy feelings for their new home were marred by the flaws in the system.  Since then she has been commenting on the various internet sites about the issues as well as hosting her own blog called Independent American Communities.  As a result, she is up on the current stories and is frequently contacted by people who thought they bought into the American Dream but find themselves living the American nightmare.  If we are going to nip and tuck away at this web, what are some of the major concerns that people have? We talk to Deborah about some of the latest stories out there and discover the 5 core areas that are causing the greatest heartburn for American homeowners.  Will her list surprise you or will you agree with the issues homeowners find the most problematic?  Tune in and find out.

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Jose Pasoz

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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.  

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Nila Ridings

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Reporters are finally getting bold enough to start reporting the horror stories that keep cropping up in homeowner associations across the country.  Sometimes they even get the facts straight.  The stories are frequently as ridiculous as reporting crying babies to the HOA, to fining owners for having unapproved garden hoses in their yards or having the wrong shade of white blinds in their widows.  These stories will make you scratch your head and wonder if absolutely everyone is so ridiculous and out of touch with reality to believe that these are important issues.  Occasionally the headlines will promise a meatier story, one that we should be aware of that could affect us all.  The many embezzlement stories that result in special assessments that we read about would fall into that category.  But if you really want to know what is happening “behind the HOA closed doors”, where do you go?

Nila Ridings joins us On The Commons.  Nila is an HOA homeowner in Kansas where life is nowhere near as rosy as she expected it to be when she bought her house.  She has since done her homework, been active in the legislative arena, lobbied to get homeowner rights codified in Kansas and has shared her knowledge and insights with owners caught in the crosshairs of their associations.  She is a frequent blogger on Ward Lucas’ Neighbors at war.   And if one wants to find the unreported stories, one asks Nila.  I did just that.  We all hear the silly stories, the “too many rose bushes”, the costly ones about driveways having to be torn out because they are 2 inches wider than the approved plans, but which stories does she hear too often for comfort?  Which stories tug at her heartstrings the most?  Her number one story is not one the media reports on often but should.  

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John Cowherd and Jeremy Moss

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Newton discovered that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Is that what we today call “unintended consequences”?  How often do we head down one path towards a goal without thinking through the end results?  Could we avoid many of the pitfalls we are dealing with if we stopped long enough to think things through?  

One of those unhappy and unpredicted results may well be the sheer number of zombie foreclosures being reported nationwide.  The unfortunate circumstances the homeowners find themselves in and the rather significant negative effect those vacant houses have on their immediate surroundings is an area of concern.   And since most of the housing in many parts of the country is in mandatory membership residential associations, these zombie foreclosures also impact associations through lost assessments.  

John Cowherd and Jeremy Moss join us On The Commons.  Both are attorneys in Virginia and both specialize in HOA and condo association law.  They also both have blogs where they discuss zombie foreclosures.  Jeremy’s blog is called The Moss Report  and  you can access John’s blog at Words of Conveyance   John, changed his practice and now represents homeowners in HOAs.  Jeremy, an attorney with Mercer-Trigiani, represents associations. I am grateful to both gentlemen for coming in to the studio and sharing their thoughts. We’ll talk about zombie foreclosures, explain what they are and talk about why we have so many of them now.  We’ll also discuss different ideas on how to deal with them. There is a lot to learn by listening to this interview.

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Gary Solomon

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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 SyndromeElder Abuse in HOAsChild 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?

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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.

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Frank Short

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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.  
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Shelly Marshall

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While we were not looking, special interests have taken control of our homes.  Gone are the days when ownership meant enjoying dominion over one’s domain. Those days have been replaced by a new order where every Tom, Dick and Harry has a financial stake in what once was considered sacred territory.  Who are these special interests who have high jacked our once simple and more or less peaceful way of life?  A very short list would include governments, developers, environmental commissions, banks and lending institutions, HOA industry, and the list goes on.  And what do they have to gain by it?  MONEY and POWER!  Cutting off the money supply and the power is the only way to restore healthy families and communities in America. 

Shelly Marshall joins us On The Commons.  Shelly must have been born with a sense of making the world a better place.  She says as  young lady she wanted to save the world with love and ended up sticking daisies in the barrels of police guns.  That spirit of “saving the world” is still very much a part of who Shelly is.  She is a published author, an advocate and the founder of many web sites dedicated to helping people solve their problems. Her latest endeavor is a web site under construction called HOA Lawyer.   This website is designed to provide information and links for homeowners to get started on their own research.  It is also building a listing of attorneys across the country who will represent homeowners who are fighting to protect their property rights. If you know an attorney who  represents owners, please submit their names (with their permission) to the web site.  Let us help Shelly stick daisies all over the country and turn our neighborhoods into fields of daisies.  

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Julio Robaina

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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!

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News and Views About Homeowner Associations