Larry Murphree and Stephanie Krasowski

We have lost sight of the true value of homeownership in this country.  Traditionally buying property included a “Legal Bundle of Rights” that came with the deed.
Those “rights” included the rights of possession, control, exclusion, enjoyment and disposition  and were irrefutable.  As long as the tax man was paid and the banker got the mortgage money, the owners were the royalties in residence.  They enjoyed every bit of the rights they acquired when they got the title to their castles.  The concept worked well until mandatory membership HOAs were involuntarily foisted on American homeowners.  No longer does ownership guarantee any of those rights, no longer do governments protect those rights and no longer is ownership a thing of pride and dignity.  In the kontrolled world of HOA living, pride, dignity, security, control and individuality have been replaced by fear, terror, abuse, theft and ill health.

On The Commons this week we are rejoined by Larry Murphree.  You will recall that Larry, a condo owner in Florida, was cited by his HOA for having an “unauthorized object in his flowerpot” and was being fined $100/day for his transgression.  Yes, you read it right, the kondo kommandos in Larry’s little bit of heaven decided to come up with a list of “flowerpot rules”!  Author of condo flowerpot rules. Put that on your epitaph!  Larry’s 11X17 INCH flag violates the rules, offends their aesthetics and the uniformity of the look alike units.  As if that was not bad and stupid enough, the HOA attorney has started foreclosing to collect fines and legal fees.  in a power HOAs have commonly known as the priority of payment scam, legitimate assessments are diverted to pay the HOA attorney FIRST (wonder who wrote those laws?), fines, interest and other junk fees before making sure their share of the commons expenses are covered.   And as often happens,  there is nothing left the owner and the owner is behind in his or her dues. Time to foreclose and collect dues from “these deadbeat homeowners”. You can read more about Larry’s plight in his condo http://letmeflytheflag.com

What if you don’t violate a flowerpot rule?  How well are your Rights of ownership being protected?

Stephanie Krasowski joins us during the second half of the show.  Stephanie, also a condo owner in Florida, is fighting a much bigger problem than a stupid flowerpot rule.  In her case it is not stupid neighbors but a stupid government that made it possible for her and thousands of Floridians to lose their homes in what amounts to a hostile takeover.  When a law is enacted as a knee jerk reaction to address a relatively small issue without putting in adequate protections to protect the citizens and prevent a small group of people from using and abusing the law for their own benefit, the lives of many people can be ruined.  A law that allows 80% of the owners in a condo project to terminate the condominium, stripping the remaining 20% of the owners of their RIGHTS and rendering them homeless is a huge problem.  Exact numbers may not be available but it is known that at least 17,010 people have lost their homes through no fault of their own and another 1035 families are at risk of being victims of this particular scam.  You can read more about this disaster at http://www.cnbc.com/id/101746928 and sign Stephanie’s petition to save her home at http://www.change.org/p/floridiansact-against-condo-takeover .

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Lisa Kapsokefales

“We have met the enemy and he is us” – Pogo.  

If they can get it right in a cartoon why can’t we see it?  We have been tinkering with residential America to the point where it is worse than anything imaginable. First we privatized public functions, not to make them more economically sound but to give local municipal governments a free pass on the tax money they collected. Then we lied to housing consumers and constituents by telling them these new fancy schemes will protect property values. Then we took away all the choices consumers and potential owners had NOT to live behind bars, being micromanaged by bullies.  What this fancy new scam did was allow governments to mandate associations that benefits them, that benefit the developers who get away with increasing density and cutting corners and by building an entire new career field on the backs of the homeowners.  This new industry is costing home and condo owners 65 Billion dollars annually,

When all the tweaking, massaging and lies were said and done what we ended up with is a housing scheme that terrorizes residents, is run by a bunch of inept lunatics, is adding immeasurably to the stress level of Americans, costing them their health, their wealth and yes, even their homes.  What is happening in residential America is, simply, a disgrace.  But that’s OK, there is always the government, right?  The only legitimate function of any government is to protect its citizens and in America we have lots of layers of government so lots of protections, right?  Let’s see, we have the Federal government, with a President, Senators, Congressman, the FBI, the CIA, the Justices, the courts, to oversee things.  In fact they have an entire city to rule from.  Then we have State governments with Governors and Lt Governors, an Attorney General with deputies, there are state legislators and state agencies and small and large county governments and city mayors and more agencies than you can shake a stick at.  They’ll help, right?  After all they are there to protect you, the citizen, the tax payer, the constituent, the homeowner.  That’s what you pay your taxes for, isn’t it?

Lisa Kapsokefalos joins us On The Commons this week. Lisa and her family bought a townhouse on Lake Champlain in New York state as a second home.  They needed a place to slow down, recharge their batteries and provide their kids with a healthy environment to go to.   But the peaceful and healthy home they thought they bought turned out to be anything but.  Their saga covers well over a decade of harassment and abuse by their neighbors – for no apparent reason other than just because they could.  But there is something very different about this particular “association”.  It is NOT an association.  Just because 3 of the neighbors decide to charge everyone monthly dues doesn’t mean they have the authority to do so.  You’d think THAT little fact would put an end to the tyranny.  There was no constructive notice, there was nothing to agree to.  Unfortunately the courts didn’t see it that way.  And it will probably not surprise you to learn that every single government office or agency Lisa contacted just shrugged their shoulders and said there was nothing they could do.  You will have to hear her story.  

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Stephen Smith

CAI’s Fact Book claims that the current thinking in HOAs is that “Community means harmony – Governance means transparency – Business means sustainability”  Sounds positively utopian, doesn’t it?  For years proponents of kontrolled living have tried to convince us that associations are democracy up close and personal, that they give owners an unprecedented opportunity to influence their surroundings, that the members have a say in the decisions made by the collective and it goes on and on.  If there was even a kernel of truth to any of this total misrepresentation of the facts, why do an ever increasing number of HOA detainees compare their associations to war zones?  Why are more and more horror stories grabbing the headlines?  
 
Over the years we have been warned the future of HOAs is in jeopardy due to the lack of interest by the owners.  The complaints from industry leaders ranged from homeowners not attending association meetings to not caring enough to run for the board and not providing the necessary oversight  to prevent all the embezzlement we keep hearing about. Now we are told that in those days of dire predictions for HOAs that the thinking was  “Governance meant compliance. Community meant conformity.”  We’ve come a long way to arrive at harmony and transparency, haven’t we?

So just how harmonious and transparent are today’s homeowner associations?  

On The Commons with us this week is Stephen Smith.  Stephen, a condo owner in Florida, decided to avail himself of some of that transparency that seems to be the hallmark of associations by asking about the reserve account and the need for a loan.  After all, as a member he will be on the hook financially to cover all the costs and obligations  incurred by the association.  But apparently the folks on his board had not received the email about being open and responsive to the owners because he was given the run around.  However, the incident occurred in a very harmonious setting, right?  For a better understanding of the harmony that exists in associations, you can watch a clip of that meeting here.  Be forewarned that someone just might try to tell you that it is an isolated incident but don’t you believe it.

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Ron Lemons

Home ownership is a simple concept – or it used to be.  People bought homes to shelter themselves and their families, to own a little piece of the world that is all their own where they can surround themselves with the people and the things they love and exclude everything and anyone they don’t want.  People were truly kings and queens of their castles.  And then along came HOAs, condominiums and co-ops and nothing is sane, simple or sensible any more.  Instead of the quiet, peaceful and safe enjoyment of a home, Americans are now being forced into kontrolled kommunities where life can be quite miserable.

This new and rather intrusive living style seems to have empowered the neighbors to be more insulting, insensitive, and extremely rude.  For a country that prides itself on being hospitable, tolerant and inclusive, HOAs appear to be setting the stage for intolerance, disrespect and contempt.  Far from living in communities, this brave new world thrives on living in war zones.  

Joining us On The Commons this week we have Ron Lemons.  Ron and his wife Peggy have experienced firsthand the problems that arise from a mismanaged condominium.  This one seems to have it all; moldy units from lack of maintenance, lack of responsiveness and lack of concern for the residents.  There is also lack of sunshine and lack of accountability, especially when it comes to finances.  The contemptuousness of the board members telling their disabled neighbors that they are not wanted and they need to move.  I guess no one asked Ron and Peggy how satisfied they were with kontrolled living, because you see, they are an “isolated incident”.  Tune in to hear Ron explain the full story.

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Deborah Goonan

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same,
And they are all made out of ticky tacky,
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes,
And they came out all the same.

Melvina Reynolds’ lyrics, written before ticky tacky little boxes were mass produced, were prophetic.  They perfectly capture the sense of soulless little boxes, all the same, all made of ticky tacky.  Any attempt to add a little personality or any deviation from the uniformity of the little boxes made of ticky tacky is not tolerated. And so the little boxes just keep multiplying like rabbits.  

The latest statistics from the Community Association Institute (CAI) is that 64 million people live in these little boxes and pay 65 BILLION Dollars a year for the privilege.  How much of those Billions of dollars goes to pay experts in invention to conjure up reasons for why these little boxes are the preferred way to live?  There was a time when people believed it but more and more folks are calling these flights of fantasy, “myths”.

On The Commons with us today is Deborah Goonan.  Deborah no longer lives in an involuntary membership association but looks at them from the outside in.  She researches them and blogs about them, often pointing out many of the discrepancies and contradictions in the “official” blurbs put out by CAI.  Join us as we discuss just 3 of the most often repeated fallacies about HOAs. Myth #1, CAI represents homeowners – Myth #2 HOAs are the purest form of democracy and Myth #3 – Survey says…. homeowners are overwhelmingly happy with their HOAs.  Gives one the warm and fuzzies, doesn’t it?

Deborah’s research paper is available Here:   Topics to cover with Shu Bartholomew

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Tyler Berding

We can continue to deny the systemic flaws in the nations homeowner associations, we can ignore the problems, make excuses, blame the victims, minimize the issues hoping they will miraculously disappear but at some point, those rose colored glasses are going to have to come off.  At some point we will have to stop fooling ourselves into believing that the light at the end of the tunnel is the rising sun and acknowledge that the train wreck is imminent.  This shoddily built house of cards is going to come tumbling down.  

 Tyler Berding joins us On The Commons this week.  Tyler is an attorney in California who represents associations.  Unlike many of his colleagues, Tyler has been open about the problems with the HOA/condo model and admits that it is not working.  He has long been warning us about the problems of multi unit housing, particularly the condo conversions.  These buildings start off as rentals and are then sold as condos but as older products they have a shorter remaining life span than a newer building.  To compound the tragedy, they are usually sold to people who are least able to afford the special assessments for major repairs and replacements that aren’t far behind.   We’ll talk about the problems and try to figure out if there are any answers to the housing dilemma.  

 Tyler maintains a blog called Condo Issues  http://condoissues.blogspot.com .  One of the entries is a 2013 report on a survey conducted in California about reserves in HOAs and Condos.  Interestingly enough, his survey finds that reserves are about 50% funded.  However, CAI released the results of their own survey today announcing that America’s housing is healthy and association reserves are 70% funded.  OK folks, you can relax, CAI is on the job!  

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Frank Short

One of the most despicable and abusive practices that has become an acceptable part of the American culture recently is that of fining by residential associations.  Why is the HOA industry so enamored with the power to fine?  Is it really designed to FORCE people to act, live and behave according to some aesthetic plan concocted by the architects of controlled living? Whatever the real reason, it is a punitive measure that strips a person of his or her assets.  A few dollars can soon mushroom to tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars, resulting in the loss of someone’s home.   Proponents of this offensive practice wonder how else one can force compliance by a neighbor.  But is that really what they are concerned about or do they have ulterior motives?  Who benefits?
 
Joining us On The Commons this week is Frank Short.  Frank is an old friend of the show, a personal friend and a lawyer.  And, as only Frank can, he takes us on a historical trip through court cases that have examined fines.  We hear about the issues, the arguments and what the courts at various levels and in different states have ruled.  He packs an hour with a comprehensive and chronological look at fines, the courts and the legislatures. 

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Dave Russell

Have you ever wondered how some of the worst bills imaginable get passed into law?  Sponsoring a horrible bill for a special interest who happens to be a major campaign contributor requires extra care and finesse, especially when the bill has a snowball’s chance of passing as a stand alone bill.  To get the bills voted into law, they are often rolled into a bill everyone favors.  Arizona, however, has a single issue requirement.  In other words, if the bill cannot stand on its own, you can’t roll it into another one to get it passed.  A great idea but apparently the very people who write the laws don’t think those laws apply to them.  An omnibus bill, including the fantasying provision of banning municipal HOA mandates, was enacted last year but a couple of citizens sued the state, alleging the law was in violation of the State single issue requirement, and they WON!  

Guess what?  Some Arizona legislators, who should know better, apparently did not learn that lesson because they have not one but two omnibus bills in the works right now.  And just like HOAs there is no adult supervision anywhere in sight because the task of enforcing the laws, in this case, falls on the citizens.

David Russell joins us On The Commons this week.  Dave in a community manager in Mesa, Arizona.  As an owner in a formerly mismanaged association, he fully understands the frustrations and problems encountered by the home and condo owners. He is also very aware of the desperate need for homeowner friendly legislation but not at the cost of violating other laws.  So he is on a mission to ensure that NO ONE is above the law, including, and perhaps especially, those who write and sponsor them.  Join us, we’ll talk about how he got into management, some of the “red flags” in kontrolled  kommunities and why he is suing the State of Arizona.

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Bill Davis

The road to justice and equality in HOAs is fraught with huge roadblocks for the homeowner.  Just finding someone who can explain what is going on or how to deal with the threat and demand letters that keep pouring in can be daunting enough, but fInding an attorney knowledgeable in HOA law who is willing to represent a homeowner is almost impossible in some parts of the country and very difficult in other areas.

The Mis’s are thriving in America’s almost 330,000 mandatory membership homeowner associations – MISinformation, MISstatments, MISunderstandings, MIScalculations and MIStakes.  Housing consumers are often misinformed about what they are getting themselves into when they buy a unit in an HOA.  The information provided by all the professionals along the line is misstated and often miscalculated leading to some less than welcome surprises down the road.  Mistakes are made and somehow the homeowner always ends up paying.  

What can a homeowner, caught in the crosshairs of an out of control association, do?  WHat shouldn’t they do?

Bill Davis is On The Commons with us this week.  Bill is an attorney in Texas who found himself in the unenviable position of having to go to court to protect his property rights.  He learned all about HOA law and now represents homeowners against their HOAs.  We’ll find out what is going on in associations and talk about some things people need to watch out for and things homeowners should never agree to.

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Janice Fontell

Have you heard the one about homeowner associations being democracy “up close and personal”?  The story goes that members are expected to participate in meetings, voice their opinions and to be part of the “community” which includes being financially responsible for common expenses.  So it only stands to reason that one should be entitled to an explanation of any increases.  But what happens when a member asks a simple question about a dues increase?

On this show we will start at that point – a very small dues increase and when an explanation was asked for the name calling, finger pointing and suppressing information started.  When a simple answer to a simple question is not forthcoming and creates such acrimony, something is wrong.  So when a situation doesn’t pass the smell test it is prudent to dig a little deeper especially when your most valuable asset, your home, is at stake.

But that is easier said then done.

On the Commons with us this week we are joined by Janice Fontell.  Janice is an accountant by trade and she bought into the notion of “carefree living” that her condo promised.  She paid her dues and minded her own business.  Join us as we follow her incredible journey into homeownership, her awakening and subsequent education into what HOA living really is all about.  But that is only the beginning because she found herself learning all about the law and her way around court where she ultimately prevailed – in part 1.  You will want to hear this part of her story.  There is another case pending and we hope to catch up with Janice later on.

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News and Views About Homeowner Associations