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.
‘Tis the season, once again, to tweak state laws regulating condominiums and homeowner associations, in an effort to make them just a wee bit more acceptable or palatable to the masses. Almost all states, faced with growing frustration, dissatisfaction and problems with mandatory membership residential associations are trying, once again, to find “solutions”. Will this be the year they finally get it right and allow home OWNERS to live in their own homes in peace and quiet? Or will special interests prevail, yet again, and convince law makers that the homeowners really do want to give all their rights away?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons this week. Bill, a Texas attorney changed his specialty to HOA law and is one of a rare breed who represents owners and helps them protect their rights. More than most people, including attorneys, Bill understands the ramifications of proposed legislation. We will talk to about a couple of new bills that have been signed into law, one in Illinois and the other in California. You will find his analysis of the laws, his insights and comments to be informative and spot on.
The American dream is often described as a house in the suburbs, surrounded by a white picket fence, where the kids and pets play safely on a privately owned lawn instead of having to trek across town to go to a public park to kick a ball around. It was the personal and private space that people who lived in cramped urban centers craved. That dream was soon spoiled by the involuntary imposition of a homeowner association, where board members and managers spent their time watching every move, measuring every blade of grass, counting every plant and timing how long garage doors are left open. But in the early days, homeowners at least had the space they so desperately wanted. Well, things are changing, now homeowners are being herded like cattle into densely developed, shoddily built, dwelling units. No more space, no more autonomy, no more privately owned blades of grass or flowers and the HOA is ever present. This is what is referred to as “smart growth”. But just how well is it working for the residents? How does being packed in, one on top the other, contribute to a healthy and happy lifestyle?
Neil Brooks joins us On The Commons this week. Neil has experienced it all. The photo in this promo is an aerial view of the rooftops of Neil’s house and his three closest neighbors, built just a few years ago. This is what “smart growth” looks like. As you can see, there is next to no private space, and is as far from the notion of the American Dream as one can get. We’ll talk to Neil, find out how living in such close proximity to his neighbors has affected him and his health and we’ll learn how responsive the police have been when it came to enforcing local ordinances. Of course you will not be surprised to find out that the HOA isolated him instead of trying to help, while all his neighbors stood idly by, too afraid to come to his defense or say a word lest they get targeted. We’ve also heard about the physical violence that seems to be present every time someone makes a ripple in the status quo in HOAs. But that is not all there is to Neil’s story. Not by a long shot. There is so much more to his story and when you listen to his interview you will no doubt agree that he is the poster child of Dr. Gary Solomon’s dire predictions in his new book, hoacrisisinamerica.com . You can read Neil’s story on his web site The View from the Gulag here http://nbeener.blogspot.com
Words have power and meaning and by using the correct words, one can further define the sense one is trying to convey. Advocates for HOAs like to call them “Community Associations”, implying a kinder, gentler development. The dictionary defines “community”, in part as, “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals”. However, many of the unfortunate people who find themselves in one of these mandatory membership compounds often refer to them as war zones, oligopolies, kontrolled kommunes and a number of other less flattering names, implying that all is not harmonious and pleasant. In a real community, people get-together to work out any common issues without having to resort to kangaroo courts, fines and a trip to the court house.
Greg Chumbley joins us On The Commons this week. Greg is a homeowner in Naples, Florida who decided to exercise his right to know what he was paying for and where his HOA dues were going. And like many homeowners found himself researching the Florida statutes to discover what rights he had. To him it made perfectly good sense that if he was being forced to pay for it, he had a right to know what he was paying for. Along the way he ran into the usual, entrenched board members, the silent management company employees and that brick wall we keep hearing about. That didn’t stop Greg. After exhausting all avenues of trying to get the information he was entitled to in Village Walk, his Kontrolled Kommune, he decided to go to court. He is sharing what he learned in the process on his web page http://www.sueyourhoacheaply.us so that others in his “community” of people with who share his attitudes, interests and goals can also find out what they are paying for. Please join us to hear Greg’s story.
Over the years much has been written about kontrolled housing in America. There have been scholarly books, legal books and Law Review articles, regular newspaper and magazine articles, blog posts, websites dedicated to exploring HOAs, personal accounts of life in an HOA, satire, lots and lots of horror stories, There have even been “how to” live in an HOA, articles trying to convince you that “you agreed” to the rules and abuses and if you don’t like it, move. There have even been books and rosy accounts of all the joys of HOA living but never has there ever been a book quite like HOA: Crisis in America.
Quite apart from the fact that the book is the most creative, innovative and fun way to read, watch and hear a book, it is the first time that anyone has ever brought science into the HOA discussion. And there is one more unique thing about HOA: Crisis in America, it is FREE. I am very excited about the book and so greatly honored that Dr. Gary Solomon is launching his book through On The Commons. This book takes the discussion and the research to a whole new level. It gives us all the tools to get beyond the legal twists and turns, the emotional discussion, the misrepresentations of what HOAS are and are not, the fear associated with this form of housing and leaves us having to ask – and answer – the question of whether this is a viable form of housing and whether or not it can be reformed and made into a kinder gentler monster.
Dr. Gary Solomon joins us On The Commons this week to introduce his new book, HOA: Crisis in America. Dr. Solomon is a Psychologist, a retired professor of psychology in Nevada who noticed something a little strange in his new development and when neighbors asked him if he was having problems with the HOA, he put two and two together and started studying the effects of HOAs on humans. What he discovered was quite alarming which led to two papers, The HOA Syndrome and Elder Abuse. He studied the psychology behind giving people unfettered power and described the type of personality that gravitates to these positions. The most exciting part of this book is the science behind the physical affects on the residents in HOAs. The physiological changes to our bodies is explained in very clear, easy to understand language that even our legislators should be able to grasp. Please send it to them and ask them to watch, read and listen to the book. Dr. Solomon’s gift to you can be accessed at http://hoacrisisinamerica.com and http://www.pitythepoorfool.com
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.
Before the internet, homeowners who found themselves in the crosshairs of their homeowners association were usually left scratching their heads, wondering what had hit them. There was nowhere for them to turn, no one who had their best interests at heart to explain the issues and help them sort things out. Because they were embarrassed, they were reluctant to talk about their problems, believing they had committed a terrible misdeed, or better yet, they had “broken the law”. With heads hung low, they would quietly sell their homes and move as far away as possible, hoping friends, family and neighbors never caught wind of their problems. Of course this all worked to benefit HOAs who often got away with murder.
But, times they are a changing! Homeowners are talking, the media is listening and writing their stories, more or less accurately but most importantly homeowners now know they are not alone. However one of the best things to happen is the number of homeowner advocates who have have taken on the responsibility to reach out to their peers, explain what the issues are, assure them they are not alone and point them in the direction to get much needed help. While this movement is still in its infancy, it is making a difference.
Ward Lucas joins us On The Commons this week. Ward is an award winning investigative journalist and TV reporter. Having experienced the horrors of HOAs firsthand he decided to put his professional skills to work and investigate the state of affairs in America’s kontrolled developments. What he learned was enough to make his blood boil and to fill a book. That’s exactly what he did. His book is called “Neighbors at War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association”. But when the stories kept coming, he felt it only right to continue getting them out there so he has a blog http://neighborsatwar.com. Join us, we will talk about his blog, find out how many unique hits he gets and the number of emails he gets from homeowners who just don’t quite know what hit them and where to go from there. Next time anyone tries to convince you that all the problems in HOAs are “isolated incidents”, remember this show and know that isolated, they really aren’t.
Have you ever wondered why we have so many horror stories in condominiums and homeowner associations? How do we get from the concept of living in a community with neighbors, to penalizing them for having the temerity to annoy us? And if someone is bold enough to displease us in anyway, what on earth does one do? Talk to the offending sot and explain why he or she is being so boorish and insensitive? But wait, in a kontrolled kommunity there is a better way. The computer to the rescue!
Turnaround is fair play, so this week we find out what it is like to be a condominium manager.
Dave Russell joins us On The Commons this week. Dave is a resident owner and an onsite manager in a fairly large condominium complex in Arizona. The advantage of not having to deal with rush hour traffic, road rage and traffic jams is offset by the fact that he never really leaves work. But Dave is a cheerful chap who seems to take it all in stride. Having the patience of Job and a sense of humor certainly help but what is particularly impressive is the way he handles some of the whacky people and the completely nutty issues he has to deal with. Join us as we hear about some of the problems he has been asked to handle, they’ll make you smile, laugh and applaud that the problems are solved all without resorting to fines and attorneys and ultimately maintaining a sense of community in the Arizona desert. And when you listen to Dave’s entertaining stories, bear in mind that some of these “neighbors” can end up on the board which might explain why we have so many horror stories.
An attorney representing an HOA once advised a board that the fees being charged to just some of the homeowners was in violation of the Declaration. He explained it by saying; “…. you are on less than concrete legal foundation. Most homeowners don’t avail themselves of their rights but should you be challenged you can make a decision based on the economics of the litigation”. In other words, if no one questions any of the board or management decisions or challenges certain policies, the HOA is home free. The one thing in the above quote that I agree with is that most homeowners never challenge anything and passively obey all the rules. However, for the few homeowners who simply won’t just accept what they are told, especially when things just don’t seem to add up, there may be a pot of gold at the end of the end of their rainbow.
Robert Stern joins us On The Commons this week. Robert is a successful businessman who owns several houses on both sides of the country – all in homeowner associations. He is a financial executive, a CPA by trade and he knows his numbers. He is also no stranger to being on boards and understanding how associations work. True to form, when he bought his house in Henderson, Nevada, he ran for, and was elected to, the board of directors. But being in the leadership did nothing to protect him from being involved in a couple of lawsuits.
But Robert is a busy and energetic man who has written several books. He chronicles his journey through HOAs in his latest book, “HOA WARS; What Happens in Vegas Can Happen Anywhere”. In this book he talks about the people he met along the way including the activists who chose to speak up and try to right a wrong or two. He explains how he found and why he returned $1.2 Million to his fellow homeowners. He also talks about yet another law suit his association filed against him. The book has all the makings of a hollywood movie and who knows, maybe one day his story will come to a screen near you. But until that happens, check out his web page at http://hoawars.tateauthor.com where you can read all about him and order his book. Be sure to tune in and listen to him tell his story, explain what to look for and how, if you avail yourself of your rights, you too may find a pot of gold hidden in the musty records of your HOA.