Nila Ridings

Nila Ridings

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.  

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Ken Ditkowski

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.

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Shelly and Mike Marshall

This is Not Shelly or Mike Marshall

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?

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This is not Shelly or Mike either

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Karin Huffer

Karin Huffer

In memory of Karin HufferOctober 18, 1941 – October 24, 2018

When your life veers off the normal, the safe, the known and the routine and gets derailed into a hostile, unknown land where you are fighting for your life, stress tends to become part and parcel of who you are. And stress, as we have learned on this show,  adversely affects your health.  It is always a lot worse when you are facing the adversarial situation on your own.  Can having some friendly support mitigate some of the damage caused by the situation?

Dr. Karin Huffer joins us On The Commons.

A long time therapist, having watched what happens to victims of the justice system and the effects of stress they suffered, coined the term Legal Abuse Syndrome.  Her book, by the same name,  Legal Abuse Syndrome talks about the problem and possible remedies.  She found that the key to mitigating the harmful effects of being a victim is to help each other.  For the past several years she has trained volunteers to be that “support” to victims.  Her  new book is a revised and updated Kindle version of her first book. She has turned some of her attention to explaining, training and teaching Americans about the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Americans with disabilities don’t always know they have rights or what those rights are and businesses, managers and bosses are not always aware of them either.  Apparently neither are all the attorneys out there.  So Karin is hard at work training them all.  You can learn more and reach Dr. Huffer through her website,  Equal Access Advocates.com  but do tune in to listen to the amazing lady.

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Martha Boneta

Martha Boneta

Due to technical problems we are rebroadcasting this show.  

As I write this Louis Armstrong’s, “What a Wonderful World” is playing in the background.  I listen to the words and in my mind’s eye I see the green trees, the red roses and imagine them blooming for me and you.  I see the colors of the rainbow and the friends shaking hands, saying I love you and watching babies grow, oh, “what a wonderful world”.  Then  I have to wonder, why  we can’t keep it that way?  Why do we allow a few bad apples to ruin an otherwise wonderful world?  Is there anything we can do to prevent that? But what can one person do?

Martha Boneta joins us On The Commons.  Martha’s dream of becoming a farmer was realized when she and her family became the proud owners of Liberty Farm in her native Virginia.  However, it wasn’t long before her dream was threatened by the overreaches of the environmental commission and her time was devoted to fending off their abuses, dictates and demands. Not one to roll over, Martha fought back – and she won.  Along the way she got two bills named after her, she is also the subject of a documentary film, “Farming in Fear”, she has received numerous awards and has been named Most Amazing Woman by Country Woman’s Magazine.  We talk to Martha about fighting back and learn what we, as individuals and as a group of homeowner advocates and activists, can do to fight back, protect our rights and our homes.  With all the tools available to us we don’t have to roll over, we can fight back and then look at the skies of blue and the clouds of white and think to ourselves, “what a wonderful world”.

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Frank Short

Happy St. Patricks Day

Every year lobbyists for the HOA industry present legislators with proposed legislation designed to increase the powers of homeowner and condo associations.  The lobbyists often claim they are there at the request of the owners who actually want this new law.  How many of the legislators actually believe these canards is a mystery.  With some of the provisions in these bills you’d have to wonder why any sane owner would even contemplate such laws.  Maybe many of the our lawmakers don’t stop to consider what these bills would actually mean if passed.  Could it be they don’t understand what they are carrying?

Frank Short joins us On The Commons.  Ever since our very first mid March show we have had a  St Patrick’s day edition where Frank has done a roundup of all the proposed legislation in Virginia.  This year is no exception.  We will find out what the managers and attorneys representing associations are dreaming about and how they propose to relieve the owners of more rights.  Frank talks about the wording of some of these bills and explains how, if signed into law by the governor, they would take away a right that the owners have.  Tune in, compare our bills to some proposed in your state and compare the language.  To access the Virginia bills check out Richmond Sunlight. 

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John McGuire

John McGuire

Bruised, abused, mocked, harassed, dejected and frustrated, homeowners in HOAs have tried to fight back. They have been sued, fined, ridiculed, outgunned and left standing alone in a sea of their neighbors, homeowners like themselves too terrified to even talk to them lest they find themselves in the crosshairs of the HOA.  Over the years I have talked to and witnessed some of these homeowners as they start an organization to fight the injustices of HOAs only to end up fighting amongst themselves.  Their vision of taming the HOA monster evaporating into thin air. Could part of the problem be the lack of teamwork?  Are they listening to each other or shouting over each other? Is the key to real reform as simple as listening?

John McGuire joins us On The Commons. John, a Virginia delegate has one of the most amazing and inspiring personal stories I have yet to come across.  When all the odds seemed to be against him, John fought and earned one of the coveted spots as a Navy Seal, despite being told he couldn’t do it. Later he defied the odds again and survived a life threatening accident, learned to walk and to write his name – again.  Incredibly none of what he went through in life convinced him he couldn’t do something.  Being told he couldn’t do something was the impetus he needed to prove them wrong. John strongly believes in teamwork and like every good leader, gives credit to his team.  I heard about John when he managed to help resolve a 20 year HOA horror story.  We’ll get to know John personally and learn about his philosophy, talk about the problems in HOAs and start looking at different ways of dealing with the problems millions of American homeowners face nationwide.  

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Team Work

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Bill Davis

If homeowner associations are so amazing and beneficial to the homeowners, why do proponents find it necessary to lie about them?  Why can’t they just be honest and explain why non HOA housing is for all intents and purposes non-existent?  Why aren’t prospective homeowners told the truth about what they are buying?  Is it because the truth will scare them away if they understood what they were getting into?  And why is it that most of the buyers out there who do understand what HOAs are really all about, steer clear of them if they can?  

Bill Davis joins us On the Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney and one of a handful of attorneys nationwide who understands HOA and Condominium laws and will represent the homeowners against their HOA.  He somehow manages to find cases with a twist.  The case we talk about this week is no exception.  Oh, the lies are there, including the ones about the HOA preserving the values of the properties and the amenities and being granted the right/duty/authority to collect assessments and enforce the covenants.  All the usual.  There is, however, one whacking great big lie about this whole set up.  Remember, it pays to know your rights and to know what your Declaration really says.  You will have to tune in to hear this BIG LIE!

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John Cowherd

John Cowherd

Over the last few decades American homeowners have gradually lost sovereignty over their property.  With every new law,  every new covenant, every new policy our ability to live in our homes as we see fit has been eroded.  With every new policy there is an acceptance that this is the way of the future.  It is “normal” now to have someone else dictate and approve the colors you choose for your house, the plants and flowers you plant, the decorative elements you use, or in fact even if you are ” allowed” to use them, the structures you buy for your children’s play equipment including the colors you use.  The list is endless.  Sometimes I think it is getting to the point where children in kindergarten have more autonomy over their daily lives than do their parents.  

John Cowherd j oins us On The Commons.  John is a Virginia attorney who represents homeowners against their condominiums and homeowner associations. He hosts and maintains  Words of Conveyance   a blog that focuses on property law.  One of the trends he is seeing more of is the growing restrictions on renting one’s home, or even a room, either short term or long term.  He has a recent blog about this not so new issue of contention in America’s controlled residential associations titled  Rental Restrictions in Virginia Condominiums.   While there may be some genuine concerns about rentals, as usual the problems don’t appear to be quite as awful as some people might have you believe. We’ll talk to John and learn more about it.  We will also talk about how the courts rule in cases where the use of free use of property is inhibited.  Fortunately there is some good news there.

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Deborah Goonan

Deborah Goonan

We seem to live in a culture of unprecedented intolerance, incredible rudeness and bullying.  None of these traits are conducive to a society that is civilized, fair or pleasant.  In fact the opposite is true.  Do we continue down this path, unchecked, acting and behaving like animals? What are the consequences of such abusive behavior? 

For a glimpse of where we might be headed, we need to look no further than the HOAs that are forced on America’s homeowners.  Without the checks and balances required by the Constitution and absent any oversight the so called leaders in these associations act and behave like the adult versions of the bullies they probably were in school.  And absent any “adult” to prevent the abuse, there will be tragic consequences.

Deborah Goonan joins us  On The Commons. We are both very saddened to announce that a homeowner who fought to protect her home, her family and her rights lost the biggest battle of all, her life.  Many of you had corresponded with Andrea Barnes over the years and are familiar with the terror and insanity she had to put up with in her HOA.  Andrea was a young mother of 3 children that she loved  and was very proud of.  She was a very talented photographer and a gifted writer.  And as everything in HOAs the problems and the HOA complaints were petty.They included her trashcan, a birdhouse her kids made her in school, a hose wheel (unapproved? Wrong shade of gray? who knows!). So quite apart from the barrage of violation notices for petty alleged infractions, the association isolated her, the abuse spilled onto the kids at school and they removed her from the community Facebook page.  

They parked at the end of her driveway and sat there watching the house. Oh, she also had Meniers disease, a disability that is not outwardly visible but a disability nonetheless.  The stress she lived under in her association was relentless.  But then this is what HOAs are about.  I have to wonder if the HOA had the authority to do any of the things they did to Andrea and do to countless other homeowners on a daily basis.  It is time to pull the plug on homeowner associations!  It is time to learn how to be a caring, polite and civilized country once again. 

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Andrea Barnes

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News and Views About Homeowner Associations