Gary Solomon

It is no secret that homeowners in HOAs are often isolated and bullied by insecure, abusive board members, ignorant managers or people in a pseudo official capacity with delusions of grandeur.  The sad fact is that neighbors, afraid of being targeted by the same bullies, tend to distance themselves from the homeowner lest they find themselves in the crosshairs of the association.  Because of this dynamic, the bullies get away with it, they live to bully, abuse and harass other people again and again because they can, because there are no checks and balances and no oversight.  The homeowner agreed to be abused, didn’t he?  So where is the problem?

Dr. Gary Solomon joins us On The Commons this week.  Dr. Solomon, a retired professor of psychology noticed problems in his neighborhood.  After spending a little time observing his neighbors it dawned on him that things weren’t quite right so he started studying the effect HOAs had on homeowners.  That led to his writing a couple of papers, HOA Syndrome and Elder Abuse and more recently he wrote an e-book that is free, is downloadable, it is in audio format as well as video.  His book is called  HOA: Crisis in America .  It will answer many of your questions, get you thinking, make you mad, fascinate you and it will also make you laugh but above all, it will educate you. On the show Dr. Solomon gives advice on where to turn for help if you are feeling stressed out by your HOA. He also gives us a lesson on how to help someone who does seek help from us.  Although he is retired he is not one to sit around watching the grass grow and has undertaken a new area to research, “Child Abuse by Proxy”.  You’ll just have to tune in to hear what he has to say about it. 

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John Cowherd

A simple concept:  Get homeowners to pay for neighborhood infrastructure and municipal services -TWICE – has morphed into a massive costly mess, making life even more complicated, unfair and intolerable.  No longer do we live in real communities, where neighbors are friends and can be counted on to be there for each other.  Instead the chap next door feels duty bound to spy on neighbors and to report any perceived problem, great or small, real or imagined to the neighborhood Junta.  In this brave new world the balance of power is tilted away from the individual and because of the politics involved with associations, individuals in the unenviable position of having to defend themselves are isolated, intimidated and belittled.

Slowly, very slowly, the scales are starting to tip the other way. First there was one, then two, then another one and one more and even more attorneys are beginning to realize that their hearts really are on the side of the homeowners.

John Cowherd joins us On The Commons this week.  John is a young attorney who has practiced real estate law in Northern Virginia for about a decade.  In his practice he has represented homeowners in HOAs as well as handled other real estate related cases.  He is well versed in the Virginia Property Owners and Condo Acts as well as Fair Housing, Fair Debt Collections and other related topics.  John is going into practice for himself where the focus of his practice will be on homeowners.  We talk about the existing laws that apply to homeowners in associations, we discuss the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and property values.  John also maintains a blog called Words of Conveyance .  Check it out, tune in to the show and stand up for your rights and those of your neighbors, because you really don’t have to take it any more.

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David Russell

Confucius said,  “The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home”. Given the lack of integrity in residential America and the ill health of our homes, I would say the strength of our nation is in serious jeopardy.  We have talked about the health risks of stress on our bodies, the problems with living in leaky, moldy and poorly constructed housing, the financial affects of mismanaged associations, the assault on our individual and private property rights and the absolutely abusive and unfair conditions we are raising our children in. I think it is fair to say we have a lot of problems. 

It is time to learn how to deal with all these problems and to find a way out of the abyss so we can start rebuilding our homes and strengthening our nation.  

Dave Russell joins us On The Commons this week.  Dave is a manager in Arizona who works hard to make sure that the rules in his condo association are adhered to while ensuring that individual and private property rights are respected and not trampled in the process.  Dave acknowledges that it can be a delicate balancing act but he assures us that it can be done.  He also admits there is precious little adult supervision once an association is developed and sold to real people but he reminds us that we do have some help out there.  We talk about at least one Federal law that is designed to protect some of our most vulnerable neighbors – the Fair Housing Act.  Dave explains the law, how it relates to the controlled developments, shares some great ideas and tools and tells us about free training and how to file a complaint if necessary.  This won’t fix all the problems with the HOA concept but if it makes inroads into augmenting the integrity of our homes, we might help strengthen our nation as well.

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Jan Bergmann

Homeownership was once described as the “American Dream” but over the years that dream has become a nightmare.  Not too long ago, the headline grabbing horror stories reported the outlandish behavior and abuses of overbearing boards and managers who apparently believed their mission on earth was to harass elderly veterans for having the temerity to fly a flag on private property, to go after handicapped people for needing a service animal and children for wanting to have the toys all children have, or should have, when they are growing up.   And what about all those promises made by all and sundry about HOAs protecting the values of the “American Dream”?

Could things really get worse?

Jan Bergemann joins us On The Commons this week.  Jan is the tireless and prolific president of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice. Little happens in Florida that Jan doesn’t know about.  We talk about what happens when a poorly constructed condominium project faces millions of dollars in repair costs. Suing the developer for shoddy workmanship may not be the answer, especially when the developer is a Limited Liability Corporation.  The owners, mostly retirees who paid top dollar for their units now find themselves facing tens of thousands of dollars in special assessments while watching the values of their “dream” home plummet.   Shoddy construction and the total lack of government oversight are not the only threat to “home sweet home”.  Another major issue many condo owners face is “termination”, also known as the eminent domain bill in Florida.  This is a law that allows a majority of the owners to strip an owner of his or her home regardless of whether the owner is paid up or not.  Tune in and find out how many different ways you and your bank account are being used, abused and bled dry.  And next time someone tries to convince you that HOAs protect property values, don’t believe a word of it.

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Andy Ostrowski

There is a crisis in residential America that few people are aware of or are willing to acknowledge.   Fortunately you can’t keep all Americans in the dark forever.   Sooner or later, the truth will come out and I am hopeful that sooner rather than later, more people will allow their eyes to be opened to what is happening.  We have covered the physical health problems that are due to the stress of living in an HOA.  Dr Solomon’s ebook HOA:Crisis in America is a must read to understand this.  Another serious problem that affects our health is the unhealthy condition of our dwelling units.  I hesitate to call them homes because, frankly, they are a disgrace.  

Notwithstanding all the money we throw at various and sundry government agencies, they have ALL abdicated their duties and responsibilities to their constituents, fellow citizens and their employers.  Governments are failing us.  Entry level homes, McMansions and everything in between are being built on contaminated land, without the benefit of independent inspections to ensure they are built properly and then turned over to “private sector” to manage. without any adult supervision at all. 

Let’s find out just how well that is working out in just one such development in Pennsylvania.

Andy Ostrowski joins us On The Commons this week.  Andy is a civil rights attorney, founder of the Pennsylvania Civil Rights Law Network  and a congressional candidate in 2014 who learned about the problems in HOAs during his campaign and vowed to stay in the fight whether he won or not. He is now very passionate about trying to do something about housing and is a very active and outspoken critic of the very unpleasant occurrences in our neighborhoods.  One of these developments is in Pennsylvania in a small condominium called Hidden Valley where mold, environmental issues, sewer problems, unexplained fires and untimely deaths have been part of every day  life.  Andy reveals the “hidden truths” about what goes on in Hidden Valley.

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Sara Benson

There was a time when, be it humble or lavish, your home was indeed your castle. However, with the “Smart Growth” advocates reducing the amount of land available for humans, the municipalities shunting off their responsibilities onto the private sector with their HOA mandates and developers enjoying the spoils of increased density and shoddier construction, our dwelling units are anything but a safe haven. Even the notion that a home is an asset, and a step on the ladder to success is questionable these days. But the biggest canard in all the HOA chatter is that HOAs protect property values.

Sara Benson joins us On The Commons this week. Sara is a Real Estate Broker in Chicago who, with Don DeBat, co-authored a book called Escaping Condo Jail: The Keys to Navigating Risks and Surviving Perils of the “Carefree” Community Lifestyle. We talk to Sara about the book, why she wrote it and what she learned along the way. As a condo owner herself, she is well aware of the problems and pitfalls of condo ownership. We talk about the “carrot” that is dangled in front of housing consumers about the HOA protecting property values. That notion that makes homeowners tolerate the unacceptable is explained and put to rest, once and for all in this interview. A mismanaged association can, and does, reduce property values. We learn that 72% of residential associations are underfunded which means that a special assessment could be looming in their future. But how does a potential buyer know whether the unit they have fallen in love with and want to buy is going to be that special home they dream of or the first step on a trip to the poor house? Resale packages from the association do not give consumers all the information they need to make a good business decision on whether to buy or walk away. We also learn about a new service that is available called Association Evaluation, where consumers can order a comprehensive report on the association they are considering buying in. 

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Frank Short

There are several reasons to thank the Virginia Legislature this year, not the least of which is to have all the new bills in for us to talk about on our annual St. Patrick’s Day show. ˇSome years the news is pretty grim for homeowners because the special interests have managed to convince our esteemed law makers to further empower HOAs. ˇThis year, however, things were a little different and our legislators actually had the best interest of their constituents in mind. ˇ

Frank Shortˇjoins usˇOn The Commons. ˇFrank is an attorney and a friend and our resident St Patrick’s Day leprechaun and takes us through all the new bills and laws that affect the Virginia Property Owners Association Act (POAA) and the Condo Act. ˇHe explains the new laws, tells us whether they passed or failed and how they would affect us. ˇThis year we talk about 6 bills, some passed and others were tabled. ˇShould the ones that were passed over this year be reintroduced next year? ˇHow would they protect the homeowners’ rights and their property? ˇCould some of the bills be used as a model for other states? ˇTune in, you won’t want to miss this one.

With special thanks to Senator Chap Peterson for sponsoring a bill titled “The Homeowners Bill of Rights”. ˇThanks also to Senator Dave Marsden, Delegates Chris Peace, Brenda Pogge and Tom Rust forˇsponsoring homeowner friendly bills this year. We appreciate your efforts on our behalf.

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Tom DeWeese

When I was young, Judy, our wire haired fox terrier would jump on my bed and curl up and sleep at the foot of my bed.  In the morning I would be curled up on my pillow, while Judy was sprawled across my bed.  It never failed, when I wasn’t looking, Judy took over and hogged all the space and would not give it up without a bit if a struggle.  The forces that are reshaping our neighborhoods and communities, are not as cuddly and loving as Judy but they too, are taking all the space and forcing us into ever smaller boxes. If you have ever wondered why our homes are shrinking, and why our communities are more crowded and why our children have no place to play, you will have to tune in.  

Tom DeWeese joins us On The Commons this week.  Tom is the indefatigable President of The American Policy Center, based here in Virginia.   He has long been warning us about the inherent dangers of Agenda 21 and the global policies that are shaping and revamping our lives. He describes, step by step, the methods used to influence city leaders and planners, and yes, even the citizens, to embrace the new planning schemes being implemented around the country.  With soothing words like “smart growth”, “traffic calming devices” and “walkable communities” citizens are being lulled into accepting these redesigns.  Do pretty words really paint a realistic picture these newly gentrified suburbs represent?  Do we really want to live in little boxes that are “stacked and packed” with no room to stretch?  

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Gary Solomon

This show is dedicated to the memory of
Monica (M.J.) Sadler 1956-2015

In his  new book HOA: Crisis in America Dr. Gary Solomon provides a key piece of the puzzle that allows us to begin to see the real picture of what living in an HOA does to us. He provides the science of how HOAs affect us.  We have always known that stress causes health problems and we also are aware that stress is part of our daily lives and is not something any of us will ever be able to completely avoid. However, most of our stress is short lived.  Once the immediate situation is over with, our stress levels returns to normal.  But what happens when the stressors follow you home and never leave?

Dr. Gary Solomon joins us On The Commons and explains the difference between normal, every day, short lived stress and the changes that occur in our bodies during these periods of stress.  He then explains how the stress of living in a residential association where stress doesn’t come in short spurts but is always present affects us permanently.  The diseases we get can be, and often are, life threatening.

While the big picture of the devastation caused by HOAs is gradually coming into clearer focus, there are still a few missing pieces.  Dr. Solomon talks about the complete and total lack of data available about stress related diseases that are caused by HOAs.  What happens to patients who have suffered from these maladies?  Could they be prevented?  Would HOAs look different if we had the missing information?  How can we ensure that the data is collected?  This is where YOU, dear listeners, come in.  We do need your help with this project.  You can contact me through the show email onthecommons@cox.net .  The other missing piece of information is what is the true cost of HOAs?  We answer a lot of questions on this show but we also raise a lot that need to be addressed. 

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Fred Fischer and Jill Schweitzer

Over the years we have been led to believe that people actually want HOA controlled housing.   We have been told HOAs protect property values and provide housing consumers with access to amenities reserved for the rich and famous.  Homeowners actually believed that their homes were worth more because there was a pool or a tennis court or a basketball hoop within walking distance.   So without question, they accepted all the inherent risks, restrictions and extra costs associated with homeowner associations and jumped into homeownership with both feet.  Over time American homeowners acquiesced and accepted all the negative nonsense that was part and parcel of this type of housing, believing it was inevitable.  And gradually, because of municipal association mandates, housing consumers found they had no options. All that was available was tacky little boxes, made of cardboard, wrapped in plastic, stacked one on top of the other, and that became the “norm”.  

Fred Fischer and Jill Schweitzer join us On The Commons this week.  Fred has been digging through archives and researching local municipal zoning ordinances and discovered that there is more than one way to handle open spaces and amenities. Actually, he says you can maintain them publicly or privately, the former through special municipal districts funded by the residents who will benefit by the amenities through a special fee collected through mortgage companies, much like insurance and property taxes and the latter in the form of an HOA with HOA fees and dues.  However the “private” way of maintaining common areas comes with a whole host of additional risks and unlimited liabilities that are in fine print.  

Jill is a Realtor who would like to be able to provide her clients with a choice.  As she tells me, no one has ever asked her to find them a house in an HOA, in fact many of my clients specifically request non HOA housing.  So when Jill and Fred teamed up, combined their knowledge, skills and resources what they came up with was their aha moment.  Together they put together a report, still in draft form, to educate and lobby for choices in housing.  As they say,  there is a better way of doing this while giving housing consumers a choice.  Join us as we talk about the options and the many not so little white lies that have made their way into the legislatures across the country.  

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News and Views About Homeowner Associations