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!
The earliest deed restricted communities were exclusionary and were honest enough to admit the reason of their existence. It wasn’t until we got to the mass production of these neighborhoods that we see the entire HOA house of cards was built on a foundation of deceit. It started as a way of allowing local municipal governments to collect “free” tax money while the homeowners ended up paying twice for the same services. At one point Declarations started off by saying, “The purpose of this association is to protect property values”. Unable to substantiate that claim, I don’t think they include that statement any more. But the “purpose for HOAs” was out there. And once you start off by telling a lie, more and more lies will have to be told to cover up for the first one. And of course, every lie will need some form of enforcement mechanism.
Dismantling this house of cards before the entire system collapses and millions of people are hurt financially and emotionally is a tough job. It is, however, something that will need to be done.
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, an attorney in Texas, switched his practice to representing homeowners and consumers. And having made that switch, he has been very busy ever since. I love listening to his stories about some of his cases. I am not sure if the “interesting” cases just naturally gravitate towards him or if Bill has a natural talent for zeroing in on the absurdities of HOAs, board members and the attorneys and managers who spend their time propping them up. I always enjoy talking to Bill and listening to his theories and his stories and this interview is no exception.
Right from the very beginning there were problems in mandatory membership Homeowner Associations. No matter how creative the spin or how big the lies about the illusive benefits of HOA living, the sad truth is, the problems were always there. Every effort to “fix” them resulted in bigger problems and even more headaches. They, in turn, led to bigger and more unconscionable abuses by the HOAs against their own homeowners. Every subsequent “fix” simply exacerbated the problems. And contrary to what the advocates of controlled living would have us believe, none of the horror stories are “isolated incidents”. Every state grapples with the same problems every year and every year new laws are proposed, argued over, some enacted, many of the good ones passed over and a year later we are all back trying to “fix” the same problems, yet again.
After four decades of this charade, you’d think we’d learn, wouldn’t you?
Frank Short joins us On The Commons. Frank is an attorney with an Irish wit, a strong sense of right and wrong and a very keen understanding of the HOA laws and the inherent issues. He has been around long enough to have a rich supply of HOA stories. Frank joins us for our annual St. Patrick’s Day round-up of HOA bills that have been introduced in Virginia. We look at the bills, talk about what they will do and whether or not they will help homeowners. We also talk about some very good proposed legislation in Illinois. And to keep it interesting and fun, Frank regales us with actual tales from the HOA trenches.