“Property in a thing consists not merely in its ownership and possession, but in the unrestricted right of use, enjoyment, and disposal. Anything which destroys any of the elements of property, to that extent, destroys the property itself. The substantial value of property lies in its use. If the right of use be denied, the value of the property is annihilated and ownership is rendered a barren right.”Washington State Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Sanders
There is a rumor that HOAs protect property values and that 99.9% of all homeowners in HOAs are thrilled with their living conditions. Really, that is the story. I have to wonder how the many horror stories that grab the headlines on a daily basis escape the pollsters who seem to only find people who are willing to regurgitate the party line. Remove the veneer covering these tall tales and expose the underlying stories of what happens in these seemingly placid developments you will notice that the picture is as far from pretty as one can get.
The story we hear about one of the apparently idyllic associations has all the makings of a Bentley Little novel. We meet the pleasant couple who is well known, liked and trusted in the neighborhood. As good neighbors Mr.Garcia agrees to serve on the board of directors but soon discovers financial discrepancies, self dealing, mismanagement, abuse of power as can only happen in HOAs.
Things go from bad to worse, where the issues get personal, very personal.
Join us On The Commons where we meet up with Carney Tews Garcia. Carney and her husband, who was a board member, have since moved out of their unit in the Colony at Seagate condominium – They had to.
Their story has all the twists and horrors you can imagine. We’ll talk to Carney, we’ll hear about all the incidents that led to a board member being jailed for harassing the homeowners, to almost being run over and to several units burning down.
Have you noticed how often the phrase, “it protects property values” is used to justify the most ridiculous behavior in homeowner associations? It is a one size fits all excuse or explanation for the bizarre, ludicrous, absurd, wacky and outrageous shenanigans by so called kommunity leaders. Over the years we have heard it all – unapproved garden hoses, too many rose bushes, a driveway that is three inches wider than approved, a pudgy pooch or a rogue bird feeder. The list is endless.
It will come as no surprise to you then that at The Tides Condominium at Sweetwater in Florida fully grown adults sat around one day and came up with “flowerpot rules”. When it comes to property values, you see, nothing is too insignificant for these selfless altruists who give so freely of their time and expertise to determine what you can put in your flowerpot. Kompliance with konformity in kondos is of utmost concern as you might have guessed, and violators are sought and penalized lest they devalue property.
Joining us On The Commons is Larry Murphree. Larry lives in Jacksonville, Florida where, by the largess of the kondo leaders, he is allowed to have a flowerpot but the tiny flag tucked in with his flowers is verboten. His flagrant disregard of the rules got him a letter from the kondo kommandos notifying him that there is an “unauthorized object” in his flowerpot. When Larry refused to remove the flag, passionately believing in his 1st Amendment rights as well as his right to have it there, he was fined $100 a day for protecting his rights. Florida law allows fines up to $1000 (bless their hearts) but through some very creative accounting, the kondo threatened to foreclose on Larry’s unit to collect $8000 they alleged he owed. Please join us to learn the details of this absurd situation, find out what the most recent law suit filed by the kondo sought and what the local realtors have to say about why buyers are not beating a path to this particular project’s gate. Also, check out Larry’s website at http://letmeflytheflag.com
When I started producing the show 14 years ago, I wondered if I would have enough material to cover during the initial 6 month contract. I need not have worried because the HOA wars multiplied like rabbits, homeowners and attorneys on both sides of the battle fields wanted to tell their side of the story and legislators started scratching their heads wondering what to do about all the complaints they were getting from their constituents. I guess that was before the days when the polls decided everyone was madly in love with the idea of being abused and just loved living the kontrolled life.
In my quest several years ago to make sense of the assault on hearth and home in America, I met the gentleman we will be talking to on this show. Tom was fighting a much bigger battle in a much bigger arena and he was making a difference. People in power started listening to what he had to say and some even acted on his advice proving that a small, handful of thoughtful and committed people can change the world.
Joining us today On The Commons we have Tom DeWeese. Tom is the founder and President of the Virginia based American Policy Center. He has been an advocate for freedom, property and individual rights for the past quarter of a century. We talk to Tom about just a few of the successes he has had over the years, learn a little about the important points when initially starting on the road to righting the ills of the world and just how critical having a written plan can be. He is a dynamic speaker who is energetic and passionate about message. He is currently working on webinars you can sign up for on his website: www.americanpolicy.org Check it out, you’ll find lots of other good information there as well.
Hot off the presses – there were 328,000 involuntary membership residential associations in America in 2013 according to a new fact book put out by the Community Associations Institute (CAI). I have to wonder just how accurate that number is. We’ve heard about associations that are defunct and the ones that were voluntarily terminated by the members because they found them to be more of a problem then they were worth. Are they part of that number?
On today’s show we visit an association in Texas that, happily, expired a number of years ago. But sometimes even a dead HOA just refuses to die gracefully.
Joining us On The Commons today is Bill Davis. Bill is one of a relatively small handful of attorneys who represents homeowners in litigation against their associations. With his terrific senses of humor and irony, he reports on some of the more bizarre goings on that are missed by the more casual or emotional observer. We’ll talk to Bill and find out just what HOA Board meetings and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have in common. Perhaps the answer for “rogue boards” is a 12 step program? Join us.
There is a saying that you can’t go back home again. But what if you never left home? What if “home” consisted of a large family compound that has been handed down over the centuries, where several generations still live, gather to celebrate holidays and family special days and events, support each other and play together? It is an enviable way of life that is fast disappearing in the name of progress.
We will be visiting just such a place today. A family community in Southern Virginia called Hoehns Lake View Farms that has been owned by the same family for centuries, preserved and lovingly tended by those who live there now and by their ancestors before them. But not all is well in this idyllic corner of Virginia. While encroachment and property ownership disputes may well be a civil matter more properly enforced by the judicial system, local governments have a duty and a responsibility to uphold the laws and protect the citizens. When the local zoning department ignores letters of notification that the construction project they have been asked to approve includes property that is not owned by the developer and the police department refuses to protect citizens from trespass even when the property has been properly posted and the lawful owners have done everything to comply with the letter of the law. These responsibilities fall squarely in the purview of local governments.
And when citizens call the police to file a complaint about harassment, vandalism, cruelty to animals, killing family pets, bullying and endangerment to people, the appropriate response is to dispatch an officer or two to protect the innocent. But maybe the police are too busy arresting homeowners to prevent them from attending HOA meetings to show up when people are in real danger.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Sylvia Wright. Sylvia is a descendent of the Hoehns family. She grew up on the family farm, is actively protecting the land she inherited and loves and is happy that her children and grandchildren are also living on the land and growing up the way she and her ancestors did. But life is not as peaceful as it was when she was young. Please join us as we learn how life has changed in her peaceful, quiet, beautiful part of an otherwise crazy world.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch , or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.”
Do you suppose Ralph was thinking about homeowner associations and the many petty municipal governments around with ridiculous rules, ordinances and abusive enforcement mechanisms when he wrote that? His message seems to have fallen on deaf ears because these entities continue to make life miserable for their members and constituents.
Fortunately there are more individuals who are doing some amazing things to make the world a better place, not for just one person but for hundreds of people, despite their local governments.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Jason Helvenston. Jason and his wife, Jennifer, wanted to grow their own food but edible plants tend to require sun and the sun happened to be in their front yard so that’s when they planted their herbs and vegetables. However, the city council of Orlando, Florida thought grass would look normal and so they did what petty governments do so well, they issued an ultimatum, “plant grass or else… we will fine you $500 a day!”. The Helverstons believe in protecting their right to plant whatever they want on their own property so they fought back and they WON! You’ll have to listen to their story to realize that their garden is only the first step to opening our eyes and how they are making so many people “breathe easier.”
There is a rumor out there that 9 out of 10 owners in homeowners associations are delighted with their living conditions. Apparently the Community Associations Institute has a hard time believing those numbers as well because they seem to be commissioning a new survey every year or two – just to make sure, I suppose. The statistics and the numbers are, well, quite incredible but they must be true, otherwise we wouldn’t be reading about them in in every article about HOA horror stories.
The folks I hear from are not the deliriously happy homeowners the pollsters seem to unearth every year or so. I hear from people who are being terrorized, bullied, demonized and abused by a housing scheme that is beyond repair. I talk to people who are terrified of going home, of answering the door or the phone or picking up their mail. Perhaps that explains why they are not represented in all these happy surveys? The sorry fact is that HOAs are ruining a lot of lives and destroying a lot of people.
But there is strength in numbers and sometimes that can be a beautiful thing.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Larry Fletcher. Larry and his neighbors decided they didn’t want to be harassed and abused by a board president with too much free time on his hands and a passion for writing threat letters and issuing fines. So they went to court and challenged the fines and the nit picky violations and they won their case. In the process they got a kinder, gentler president. But that did not guarantee that theirs would be a happy neighborhood forever after. They realized they were one election away from having another tyrant at the helm so they set out to ensure that they would always have a real sense of community where neighbors cared for each other and celebrated together. You will LOVE their story and what they did to get there. You will also understand why Larry sounds like such a cheerful chap.
Homeowner associations are so confounding, confusing and complicated they can be difficult to understand. Proponents of HOAs will have us believe associations are “democracy up close and personal”, that they offer homeowners greater control over their immediate surroundings, that unlike local municipal governments who are more removed, members of an HOA actually have a say in how they live in their neighborhood. Sounds so pleasant, doesn’t it?
Well, homeowner associations are, and can be, very contradictory. What the sales pitch above does not tell you about life in this Pleasant Paradise is that far from being democracy up close and personal, homeowners really have no say in how the association is run, how their money is spent or anything else. The board might have a say or a voice and the only recourse the homeowners have to a bad board is to “vote the bums out”. The other bit of nonsense is that to ensure things are run well it is important to hire licensed professionals to manage you, the owners and your assets.
And of course, the greatest canard of all is that HOAs protect property values.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Nevada State Senator Mike Schneider. Mike has worked with homeowners over the years, has introduced legislation to provide more balance between the actual homeowners and their associations and has, over the years, been available to join us. He has watched as the FBI raided dozens of Las Vegas businesses, confiscating mountains of documents, boxes of paperwork and van loads of records. The investigation is ongoing. Four of the key players in this drama are dead, several attorneys, managers, contractors and other licensed professionals have entered plea agreements with the state. Now that the trial appears to be imminent there is another twist to this multi year drama, defense attorneys are being asked to sign confidentiality statements promising not to make evidence available. We’ll talk to Mike about the hijacked elections, the fraud and the BILLIONS of dollars siphoned out of Las Vegas HOAs by friendly licensed professionals. One answer that will not be forthcoming is just how all this has protected property values.