Lord Acton said ” power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And if what is happening all around us is not proof that he was bang on target, I don’t know what is. I can list all the rights and freedoms Americans have lost and are losing at all levels but this week I want to focus on the most innocent and vulnerable among us – our children. Yes, they are being targeted by the bullies in HOAs and in local governments. For generations kids have been allowed to set up lemonade stands, make and sell lemonade to make some pocket money, help their parents meet their expenses, raise money for charity and even for neighbors. They have learned so much and, along the way practiced being responsible adults. But that’s not good enough.
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons. Deborah has a blog called Independent American Communities where she blogs about everything that is happening in America’s HOA controlled neighborhoods and also the non HOA controlled communities. But as we learn today, it is not just HOAs that behave like thugs and seem to exist solely to “enforce, enforce, enforce”. Local real governments seem to have jumped on the bandwagon and will apparently do anything to increase their revenue, even at the expense of children. We’ll talk to Deborah about two states, Texas and Colorado, that have enacted legislation allowing children under 18 to have lemonade stands without having to get a municipal permit to do so. Can you imagine forcing a 5 or 6 or even an 11 year old to pay outrageous fees for a permit and then FINING the child if they neglected to get one? These two states appear to be role models because other states are also contemplating legislatively allowing children to be children, including New York. The other piece of good news I have for you is that Country Time, makers of lemonade have set up a Lemon Ade, for a brief period of time they will pay for fines incurred for setting up a lemonade stand as well as permits paid for – with proof, of course.
So proud of the children who are standing up for their rights. Be sure to watch 8 year old Branson Burton’s testimony in front of the Texas committee on State Affairs. Kids like Branson give me hope that all is not lost.
The mere existence of a homeowners association does not mean that the HOA has limitless power and authority and can do everything and anything it wants. Unfortunately that notion seems to be widely accepted. I’ve heard board members say, “we are the board and can do anything we want” and their attorneys respond, You are not on solid legal foundation but homeowners don’t assert their rights so go ahead….. So what is a homeowner who is caught in this insane web to do?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney who represents homeowners against their homeowners associations tends to run into some of the strangest cases. Today’s discussion is about one such case and underscores the importance of homeowners doing their own research. We’ll talk about one association that may, or may not have the power and authority to do anything it feels like doing. In this case the homeowner chose to assert his legal rights and in the process uncovered some interesting facts about the association.
This interview was recorded and broadcast earlier.
Byron Hanke is largely credited with being the grandfather of what we often refer to as “homeowner associations”. But this concept of homeownership includes condominiums, co-ooperatives as well as fee simple single family homes. As I started looking at the bigger picture of HOAs, I wondered about the origins of the concept. I called Byron Hanke several times and talked to him on the phone. He never agreed to be interviewed but was generous with his time when it came to talking one on one. In October of 1999 I got a call from Lincoln Cummins, one of the three founders of CAI and its second President, inviting me to a summit to be held at at Anne and Byron’s house in a place called “Scientists Cliffs” in Maryland. Scientists Cliffs served as a model for HOAs.
Lincoln Cummings joins us On The Commons this week. Linc has been involved from the very beginning so has a unique perspective. He takes us on a trip down memory lane to the very early days of association housing, introduces us to the people involved and talks a little about the thoughts and plans they had. We’ll find out whether or not their ideas materialized as imagined or whether some things went astray. We’ll also ask Linc, hindsight being 20/20, if he could go back to the very beginning, would he do anything differently.
Why do some HOA horror stories grab the headlines, go viral, get written up in news outlets around the world, discussed on radio shows and highlighted on local and national TV shows while others, equally horrible, get ignored? We never seem to learn as the stories repeat themselves, over and over and over again. Flag flaps, children play equipment in private backyards that seem to irk some of the less tolerant in the ‘hood, non conforming trashcans, unapproved garden hoses, bird feeders, discrimination, discrimination and more discrimination against anyone who does not conform to some secret acceptable standard. There are hundreds of these stories every single day yet we only ever hear about a tiny handful of them. Why?
Ward Lucas joins us On The Commons this week. Ward is an award winning print, TV and radio journalist who, over his career have covered stories of war while fighting a war to protect his property in a homeowners association. His experience and expertise were put to great use when he wrote Neighbors at War, the Creepy case Against your Homeowners Association. The term ” Neighbors at War” has caught on and is used often in HOA stories. Ward also maintains a blog by the same name. All his posts give an estimated reading time. We’ll find out why. We’ll also ask him how to capture the attention of the mainstream media and what we, as homeowners with all sorts of different backgrounds, can do to become more effective communicators. I always have fun talking to Ward so tune in and join in the fun. Oh, and as an added bonus, we’ll hear all about his latest book, due out soon.
Regular listeners often hear me refer to American housing as being made of cardboard and scotch tape. It is not just housing that is no longer built to last, everything else tends to fall apart and need to be repaired or replaced much too soon and far too often. While people agree with me, the explanation I get is that it is cheaper to make junk than it is to build things that will be around, functional and in one piece for awhile. But how cost effective is it? Are we destined to continually play “catch up” juggling our budgets to patch and prop things up?
John Sellers joins us On The Commons. John has a degree in aeronautical engineering and a background in finance. When he moved to Arizona he ran into the flawed concept of residential associations. Taking a step back and looking at the really big picture he identified some of the problems and came up with a few ideas on how to avoid building the “junk” in the first place, especially when it comes to infrastructure. John, along with his colleagues, founded the Yavapai Regional Capital . We’ll talk to John, get some of the details, find out how we can build infrastructure that might have a chance of lasting, how to finance it and whether there is a place for modern technology in the future of the world we live in. This was one of the most fascinating and eye opening interviews I have had. You won’t want to miss it.
Life throws obstacles in front of us all the time, but only the strongest and most dedicated refuse to roll over, regardless of the time or the cost involved in honoring a promise.
Richard Oulton joins us On The Commons. Richard was a Navy Corpsman assigned to the Marines of the First Battalion of the Ninth Marine Regiment and served on the front lines in Vietnam. His battalion sustained the longest combat in the history of the United States Marines. In the process they suffered the highest death rate in the Marine corps’ history, earning the nickname of “The Walking Dead”. The fact that Richard could not save all his wounded “boys” as he calls them, affected him deeply. When he came home he brought the flag that he had flown over his bunker with him promising “his boys” he would never forget them. Twenty years ago when the flag first flew on a shiny new flagpole in his front yard the local HOA reared its ugly head. As I said, the strongest and most dedicated refuse to roll over regardless of cost and time when it comes to keeping a promise. Tune in for an incredible story of love, dedication and determination.
When the forces of evil succeed in kicking individual and property rights under the rug, then start playing word games trying to explain how you never really had those rights in the first place, it is time to take the kid gloves off.
Everything about HOAs makes my blood boil but nothing has enraged me quite as much as the way a homeowner was treated by the very industry that sucks the life out of our homes, our families, our communities and destroys our peace of mind. This has to stop! While the catalyst for today’s story may have been a small flag, this is not about a flag but about our rights as homeowners and our right to live in peace in our homes.
Larry Murphree joins us On The Commons. Larry, an Air Force veteran, updates us on his battle with his condominium board and the industry attorneys who advise them on how to mistreat and abuse the homeowners. The battle has been raging for over 7 years and still goes on. We’ll talk to Larry and get the details of how his decision to move into a condo has adversely affected his life and his bank account. Of all the horrors, abuses and invasion of one’s privacy, none even come close to the offensive treatment at the hand of a board and it’s attorney hell bent on destroying an owner and robbing him of all he has spent a lifetime working for. All this is being done legally. Legislators, are you listening?
Those who have a great deal to gain from the dysfunctional common interest development system will have you believe that HOAs protect property values. And those who know better will tell you that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The greatest value of homeownership is peace of mind and the ability to live in one’s safe haven. But when an HOA comes between an owner and their home simplicity, commons sense and JUSTICE go away.
Nila Ridings joins us On The Commons. Nila, is a homeowner who has learned the truth about associations the hard way. Contrary to maintaining her home to preserve the values of not only her unit but that of the entire neighborhood, she discovered that relinquishing control of her money and her ability to maintain her home as she would have maintained it herself was a mistake. Despite the fact that she had paid her dues, her house was falling into disrepair while the HOA. Instead of making the necessary repairs her association took her to court to foreclose on her home. We’ll talk to Nila and get the details of how she got to this point and we’ll find out just how well her HOA protected her property values.
I seem to zip through life at breakneck speeds, taking most things for granted and never really thinking about the reason we do things any particular way. Oh, once in a while I ask myself, “What were they ever thinking?” when I run into something a little strange. However, when things are working well the farthest thought is to wonder why it works. It is so much easier to start looking at things that don’t make sense and figure out how to improve it.
And for a show whose sole focus is property rights, that was a little short sighted. How can we protect ownership and rights without knowing how to properly define the property in question? That is one those things most of us have always taken for granted.
Kenneth Ditkowsky joins us On The Commons. Ken is an attorney in Chicago who, when he was fresh out of law school, full of self confidence and a can-do attitude found himself on the ground floor of redefining property boundaries and ultimately changing skylines in cities across the country. Maybe even the world? We’ll talk to Ken about the Prudential Building, the first high rise in Chicago and the hundreds of pages of legal speak explaining the ownership structure. Ken and his partner accepted the challenge and simplified it, reducing the document down to a more manageable size. n the process they paved the way for high-rise residential buildings to be built and ultimately changing the face of the Chicago. We’ll talk about all the things most of us take for granted and never give a second thought to. We’ll learn about different ways to determine the legal boundaries of a piece of property and find out what happens when mother nature decides to ” shift” the things we take for granted. I was spellbound as I listened to Ken. Tune in for a fascinating show.
If people knew what they were getting into, would they still buy in an HOA? I was convinced that they wouldn’t, but I was wrong. Thirty years ago when I first became aware of HOAs and started to understand what we were dealing with, HOA mandates were already in place in Fairfax County and probably across the country as well. However, there were still pockets of older neighborhoods so some choices still existed. Now, even most of those older neighborhoods have been razed to the ground only to be replaced by some new faddish fantasy that will no doubt sound positively utopian but in practice be unworkable.
Shelly Marshall and Michael Marshall, PhD join me On The Commons. Shelly is an HOA Warrior. She is a prolific writer of self help books including a book on HOAs, what to look for and how to understand what you are getting into. Dr. Marshall, Shelly’s brother, is a Psychology Professor and practitioner. This dynamic duo have combined forces to answer the question; “Why can’t people hear us?”. Shelly warned Mike about the risks involved in buying a condo and told him to keep looking but that didn’t stop him. For awhile everything went well until one day when his utopian dream came crashing down. So why didn’t he listen? Why don’t people learn from other people’s stories? Mike and Shelly, along with Deborah Goonan, are working on a case study, doing some research with the intent of publishing a paper answering this question. In an easy to understand and simple way, Mike explains the psychology behind human nature. He and Shelly fill in with facts, stories and typical situations that take place every single day. This is a very exciting piece of research and a fascinating interview. For all those people who believe that “HOAs are here to stay,” are you listening?