Some people insist on referring to HOAs as communities. If we describe people; who live in the same geographical area as a community; that might be accurate. However, in a contrived situation like today’s mass-produced residential associations, geography is about the only thing most of the owners have in common. The hierarchical structure of a forced membership association does nothing whatsoever to foster a sense of community, rather it seems to cause isolationism and imposes fear in the residents. In a very real sense their real governments and left to fend for themselves against all manner of abuses have abandoned the owners. In some of the worst cases, homes are being stolen by those in the upper echelons of the HOA hierarchy and sold on the courthouse steps for pennies on the dollar.
Ryan Torrens joins us On The Commons. Ryan is a young attorney in Tampa Florida who was introduced to the horrors of foreclosures right out of law school. Shortly thereafter he started his own firm, The Torrens Law Group, where he specializes in protecting homeowners facing foreclosure from banks and homeowner associations. We talk to Ryan about the situations that promote a climate that not only favors foreclosures but also in some respects makes them commonplace. We get tips on what to do when a homeowner finds themselves in that situation, and probably more importantly, what not to do. We also talk about key legislation that might go a long way in preventing some of the worst abuses.
Most people aspire to have a nice home, one they are proud of as it reflects their personality and attests to their hard work and success in life. A place they can be comfortable and surround themselves with the people and things they love. But, the reality is that the most valuable thing we have is our health. Without it, little else matters. Without it you may not be able to take care of your property, or enjoy having the people you love around you. Yet our homes today are built and forced into toxic environments – controlled mandatory, and often involuntary, membership residential associations.
Dr. Gary Solomon joins us On The Commons. Dr. Solomon is a retired professor who became aware of the ugly side of homeowner associations when he realized his neighbors were living in fear. After a little digging he discovered that life really wasn’t rosy and all happy in these pristine environments, where the color and shape of the grass was more important than the health and happiness of the people living there. With his many degrees and his background in psychology, he started studying the effects of living in an HOA. One of the most alarming and damaging consequences created by associations, is the level of stress they create and the very damaging effects on our health. He has since written extensively on what goes on in residential America today. His most innovative and creative work is an e-book called HOA:Crisis in America. The book is free and you the option of reading it, watching the videos or just listening to it. But before he wrote his book, he wrote a couple of papers about HOAs, HOA Syndrome and Elder Abuse. We talk to Dr. Solomon about the health of HOAs and especially the health of the residents in HOAs.
The dictionary has many definitions for the word “home” but to me home is that safe place we all go to recharge our batteries, be with those we love or enjoy the solitude those 4 walls provide. It is a place that is uniquely our own. Houses, apartments, hotel rooms and ” units” can all look alike, but much like fingerprints and snowflakes no two ” homes” are ever exactly alike. In a world that seems to fear individuality and promotes uniformity, a home has even more importance than ever.
In our brave new world of cookie cutter dwelling units, crammed into modern day communes, more often than not the heart and soul of what we once called a community is gone. In addition to all looking alike and living alike we now also are expected to be alike.
Barry Silver joins us On The Commons. Barry, an attorney who practices law in Florida, has spent his career fighting for the rights of individuals, including homeowners in HOAs. Currently Barry has been working with several homeowners in a particular association where the owners are being evicted from their own homes. These owners are paid up, they do not owe any money so it is not a case of “mooching off their neighbors” as proponents of this dysfunctional housing scheme often cite as an acceptable reason for this barbaric behavior. They are, however, elderly so they are vulnerable. Their alleged “crimes”, and the reason they are being evicted are petty, absurd and ridiculous. We’ll talk to Barry about these homeowners, what they are being targeted for and where they are now. This is a rebroadcast of an earlier show and a reminder of just how abusive and nasty people can be.
I must be a newer, more modern version of Rip Van Winkle. Once simple and easy to understand ways of living and going about my business have become so complicated and incomprehensible. Laws that must have been written by inebriated Martians have replaced common sense and common courtesy. Who, in their right mind, would even think of some of the nonsense that is becoming an accepted part of every day life? Take for instance pets in HOAs. Once an absolute no for homeowners in residential associations, CAI appears to be not only softening its stand but also encouraging pets on HOAs. Why? Not only does this inquiring mind want to know but also so do many of our listeners.
So we decided to find out just what was going on.
Stephen Marcus joins us On The Commons. Stephen is an attorney in Massachusetts who has made a career of Community Association law. He is the recent recipient of the Don Buck award, which is awarded for exceptional leadership in the field of community association law by his colleagues. Yes, he is a member of CAI but that has never stopped him from always been generous with his time, willing to talk quite candidly about some the issues that have many of us scratching our heads. So we ask Stephen what those pesky Martians have been up to lately and what changes are blowing in the wind, headed for America’s homeowners. There appears to be a lot of activity at the Federal level, some good and some maybe not so good. We also try to understand why pets are center stage – in a good way for a change – and will have an entire issue of Common Ground dedicated to them. They will also be part of CAI’s annual convention in May. Pets on parade in America’s HOAs? Who would have thunk it? Will your pet be featured in Common Ground?
When I look at the very sorry state of housing in the US, I often wonder how we got to where we are. However, I don’t have to think too hard about it because the fingerprints of dysfunction are everywhere. In the country that describes itself as the freest, the biggest, the richest and the best, how can something as simple and basic as the right to homeownership be fraught with so many pitfalls? How can America’s homeowners be subject to such unfettered powers by special interests?
Julio Robaina joins us On The Commons. Julio, a former State Representative in Florida vowed to do everything in his power to protect the rights of owners in Florida’s many condominiums. He headed up a task force, traveled the state and listened to the stories of complete and utter abuses by management companies, board members and industry attorneys. What he heard changed him profoundly. During his term in office he championed legislation that ensured some rights were protected but like all laws, they were changed. As the current co-owner of a management company, he is still working on getting the existing laws enforced. Protecting owners from fraud, embezzlement and ensuring fair elections in condominiums. We talk about all of this and also discuss the bigger picture of communal living with commingled assets, liabilities, responsibilities in a world apparently shrouded in secrecy.
Having a little corner of the world all to yourself is a dream for many. A place to call yours, to fill with the people and the things you love, to put your own personal stamp on it. But over the years the rights to that little corner of the world, or that piece of property that you own, have eroded and continue to erode. That needs to stop.
Tom DeWeese joins us On The Commons. Tom is the founder and president of the Virginia based American Policy Center. He is a passionate advocate for property rights, a prolific writer and speaker. Looking at the state of property ownership today and seeing all the policies that have stripped owners of their rights he sees opportunities for change. He wrote an article titled Five Actions Ben Carson Must Take to Control HUD’s Tyranny We talk to Tom about some of the problems and how he believes the problems can and must be corrected. We also wander off topic – just a little – and learn so much more about the possibilities that would be realized in a freer environment while fully protecting our property rights.
The New Jersey Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the Mediterranean South co-operative building in Fort Lee, New Jersey violated an owner’s right to free speech by prohibiting him from distributing campaign literature when he ran for a seat on the board. The co-op had a house rule that prohibited owners from distributing written material, the reason given is to “preserve the residents’ quiet enjoyment of their units and to cut down on paper pollution”. But, as we know, what is good for the goose is not always good for the gander because when the board distributed their diatribes, quiet enjoyment was never a consideration and apparently, unlike all other paper, the board’s missives did not pollute. On a somewhat humorous note, (or is it ironic?), the board included the following sentence in one of their leaflets; “Can you imagine the disaster that would befall upon Med South and all of us if this group of selfish people ever got control of the Med South Board?”
Robert Dublirer joins us On The Commons. Rob is a former New York Prosecutor, so well versed in the law and quite comfortable in a court of law so after years of having his rights trampled on and being lied to, he decided to put his knowledge and skills to work. He sued the Mediterranean South co-op to protect his right to communicate with his neighbors. The rules and regulations adopted by the board include some of the most restrictive gag orders on what the owners are allowed to talk about and discuss. Join us as Rob fills us in on all his battles from the time he moved in and was not given a handicapped parking space to ending up, not only protecting his rights, but also arguing for the rights of his fellow New Jersey HOA denizens.
Once upon a time people bought a house, painted the front door a color of their choice, found a door knocker they loved and house numbers that looked just right, planted their favorite flowers, shrubs and bushes, stood back, admired their work then went in and shut the world out of their private space. But then came homeowner associations with their tomes of covenants, rules, regulations, permits, approval forms, nosy neighbors, nasty neighbors, fines for having unapproved garden hoses in their front yards, cracked flowerpots on their front steps, dusty mailboxes and window shades that are the wrong shade of white. And suddenly there was nothing left of the owners choice. Even the joy and pride of homeownership was gone only to be replaced with fear, acrimony, hate and discontent. Have HOAs improved housing or are they destroying a once sacred way of life?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney and frequent guest, expanded his practice to include representing homeowners in the fight of their lives with their residential associations. In most states it is that time of year when legislators gather to propose legislation, often sponsoring bills to strip homeowners of more of their rights and to empower HOAs to exert ever more control over the owners. We talk about that and we also brainstorm about the need for HOAs. Are they truly needed and what real purpose do they serve? We wonder if there are cheaper, better and more efficient ways of delivering any services that might be perceived as benefits to homeowners in residential neighborhoods. Maybe it is time to start thinking outside the box and investigating ways of improving and simplifying life at home.
The one-place individuals should have the most control of their lives and their actions, is at home. That is, provided they are not infringing on anyone else’s property. After all, who knows more about an individual’s wants, needs and tastes than that person? Yet, what should be the simplest concept and the most sacrosanct area of private life has become the most fraught with peril, bogged down with rules and regulations and top heavy with “enforcers” whose sole purpose in life seems to be to ensure blind obedience and compliance with arbitrary rules.
Sara Benson joins us On The Commons. Sara is a real estate broker in Chicago, Illinois and co-author of the book, Escaping Condo Jail: The keys to navigating risks and surviving perils of the carefree community lifestyle. We talk about the risks and perils of association controlled living, the expectations housing consumers have and what they are told, and, more importantly, not told, about the “dream house” they are buying. We also talk about the importance of making their voices heard by not allowing others to speak for them. Do you ever wonder why there are so many rules and regulations protected by laws? In part it is because there are groups of “special interests” who claim to speak for you. Don’t let them get away with it. Let your voice be heard.
As I watched homeowners lose more control and sovereignty over their own property, privacy and lives I was convinced that there had to be a breaking point. At some point they would all, not only resist this intrusion but push back and push back hard. They had to! Or did they? As the battle between owner and special interests intensified, bullying and misinformation became the norm giving rise to chaos and being outnumbered and out maneuvered, owners for the most part retreated. A few owners across the country did decide to armor up and fight back. But is it enough and are they fighting the right battles? do they know what they are doing?
John Cowherd joins us On The Commons. John, a Virginia real estate attorney, an advocate for homeowners , a blogger and a frequent guest on the show has been following the various advocacies across the country as they build groups, recruit members, come up with strategies and start lobbying for improved laws protecting the rights of the owners. Are they making any progress? Are they on the right track? Do they know what they are doing? We’ll talk about the state of affairs in America’s millions of association controlled developments and what needs to be done to “empower the people”. It is THEIR homes and THEIR lives that are dangling on the end of strings controlled by puppeteers with a very different agenda.
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