On the Commons Podcasts
On The Commons

On the Commons with Barry Silver

The dictionary has many definitions for the word "home" but to me home is that safe place we all go to recharge our batteries, be with those we love or enjoy the solitude those 4 walls provide.  It is a place that is uniquely our own.  Houses, apartments, hotel rooms and units can all look alike, but much like fingerprints and snowflakes no two homes are ever exactly alike.  In a world that seems to fear individuality and promotes uniformity, a home has even more importance than ever.

In our brave new world of cookie cutter dwelling units, crammed into modern day  kommunities ,  more often than not the heart and soul of what we once called a community is gone.  In addition to all looking alike and living alike we now also are expected to be alike.  
 
Joining us On The Commons this week is Barry Silver.  Barry, an attorney who practices in Florida, has spent his career fighting for the rights of individuals, including homeowners in HOAs. Currently Barry is working with several homeowners in a particular association where the owners are being evicted from their own homes.  These owners are paid up, they do not owe any money so it is not a case of "mooching off their neighbors" as proponents of this dysfunctional housing scheme would use as an acceptable reason for this barbaric behavior.  They are, however, elderly so they are vulnerable. Their alleged "crimes", and the reason they are being evicted are petty, absurd and ridiculous.  We'll talk to Barry about these homeowners, what they are being targeted for and where they are now. 

Download | Duration: 00:57:31

On the Commons with Gary Solomon

The horror stories  and tales of abuse in America's HOAs keep pouring in and there seems to be no end to the sheer gall and stupidity of some Homeowner association board members and managers. The alleged violations range from the ridiculous to the heartless to the absurd. 
 
Beyond the petty peeves of the small minded nits in the neighborhood, another emerging characteristic, or by product, of these 'hoods appears to be verging in the barbaric.  In a recent story out of Florida, an 80 year old gentleman was evicted by the HOA for planting vegetables in his small garden patch.  The stress of being alone and homeless sent him to the hospital with heart problems.  As if that wasn't bad enough, the neighbors actually cheered when they heard the news.  
What makes people in kontrolled kommunities react with glee at a neighbor's misfortune?  In the days before these new fangled "ghettos" became as common as muck, neighbors were friends and pitched in to help.  They had real communities.
 
Joining us On The Commons this week is Dr. Gary Solomon.  Dr Solomon, a psychologist in Nevada,  noticed that something was amiss in the shiny "community" he moved into.  While the grounds may have looked manicured, the residents did not appear to be particularly happy and he wondered why.  His research led him to write a couple of papers on HOAs, the HOA Syndrome and Elder Abuse.  And since then he has been cautioning us about the harmful affects HOAs have on our health.  We talk about the health issues and the potential for further abuses with new technology that could make America's kontrolled kommunities, or ghettos, as Dr. Solomon calls them,  even more stressful. 

Download | Duration: 00:58:29

On the Commons with Martha Boneta

Black’s Law Dictionary defines property in part as “…that which belongs exclusively to one.”  It goes on to  say; “In the strict legal sense, an aggregate of rights which are guaranteed and protected by the government.”  

Oh baby, have we strayed a long way from that concept.  In this brave new world of controlled living we appear to have turned the notion of rights guaranteed and protected by the government on its head.

On this show we normally focus on those rights as they pertain to involuntary membership HOAs and enabling legislation nibbling away at what little  is left.  But perhaps enemy #1 is the very entity charged with protecting those “aggregate rights” Black’s Law Dictionary talks about.  

Joining us On The Commons this week is Martha Boneta.  Martha is a farmer in Fauquier County, Virginia where she tends to her animals and grows vegetables, produces honey and shares her passion for farming and her love of the land with anyone and everyone  who is willing to listen.  It is no surprise then to learn that when a friend asked if she could host her daughter’s 10th birthday on the farm that Martha willingly agreed.  The birthday girl and 7 of her best friends enjoyed a day playing with animals, making soap and picking fresh vegetables.  But apparently not everyone thought this was such a wonderful idea because Martha soon heard from the county government, you know, the ones charged with protecting her “aggregate rights”.  And that was the start of a 2 year nightmare.  Not one to back down, Martha put the issues on the skyline, got the Martha Boneta Bill signed into law and had a lullaby written for her.  You can hear it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKli-sieOi0&sns=em  To hear her full story and the unbelievable abuses she endured, tune in.

Download | Duration: 00:57:55

On the Commons with Stan Hrincevich

Times they are a changing.  Some of you may remember leaving your house or car unlocked, confident in the knowledge that when you returned, everything would be just as you left it.  In this wonderful, brave new world of controlled living, barricading your doors, windows and vehicles is no guarantee that you won’t be fleeced, especially if you live in one the nation’s 325,000 HOAs where expenses, charges, assessments, fines, fees and dues just keep rolling in.
 
One such “expense” is called a transfer fee.  A transfer fee is a fee, usually charged by the management company to “transfer” the sellers name out of their computer system and replace it with the buyers name when a house sells in the development.  This is the same management company that has been hired by the association to manage the affairs of the association, maintain the books and records and oversee the contracts. 
 
Joining us On The Commons this week is Stan Hrincevich.  Stan lives in Colorado in an HOA and when he ran across something called a  transfer fee, he did some research and what he discovered did not please him in the least so he decided to do something about it.  He spent the last couple of years working on legislation to ban them, or at least cap them in Colorado.  He set up a web site, www.coloradohoaforum.com , found some sympathetic legislators to carry his bill, rallied the homeowners in his State and could almost taste the bubbles in his Champaign glass.   He was so close to victory – or so he thought.  Before you pop the cork on your bottle to help Stan and his fellow Coloradans celebrate, tune to find out what happened.

Download | Duration: 00:58:25

On the Commons with Frank Short

In a Kinder, gentler age neighbors knew and cared for each other.  They formed what was known as a "community".  People could always count on their neighbors to lend a hand when needed.

And then along came homeowner associations and the focus shifted from being friends and neighbors to really strange and bizarre notions of protecting property values.  Neighbors were taken out of neighborhoods leaving only the hoodlums roaming around looking for some reason to punish the "guy next door."  "Protecting property values" was the only justification they had. The hysteria about what would devalue property grew every year to the point that some legislators agreed to sponsor bills that would strip homeowners of the few property and personal rights they still had. 

Joining us On The Commons this week is Frank Short.  Frank, an attorney and staunch advocate for individual property rights tracks three of the worst of the terrible bills Virginia legislators agreed to carry for the special interests.  The third bill, HB 791 (LeMunyon - Sickles) is currently being discussed in a specially appointed committee.  The House appointees are the co-sponsors of the bill and one Del. who voted against it.  The Senate appointees are equally lop sided with two pro and only Senator Chap Petersen who opposes the bill.  Fairness doesn't seem to be part of the equation.  Let's hope good prevails.

Download | Duration: 01:00:25

On the Commons with Greg Dorchcak

Homeowners in the country's almost 325,000 HOA controlled developments have been getting "threat letters" for years  from the association or the association lawyers  regarding some of the stupidest complaints.  How on earth does a dusty mailbox, a cracked flower pot, one rose bush too many, a pudgy pooch or cream colored window coverings instead of eggshell white ones adversely affect property values?  The greatest value one derives from being a homeowner is  the ability to do as one pleases in one’s own home.  But for 63 million American homeowners who live in controlled kommunities , it is a value that is nonexistent.  

Being on the receiving end of such ridiculous violation notices causes stress, which, as we all know can lead to serious illnesses.  Dr Gary Solomon has coined the phrase “The HOA Syndrome” to describe this set of illnesses.

However, I am told that laughter is the best medicine so this week we take a break from the horrors and have some fun.  

Joining us On The Commons this week is Greg Dorchak.  The multitalented Greg is an award winning actor, a film producer and director, a cartoonist, a stand-up comedian and writer from Austin, Texas.  When Greg had his first run in with his HOA, he took care of the complaint then started talking to his neighbors.  Being naturally funny,  he found the humor in all of the HOA lunacy and the idea for “The Code Enforcer” was born. You can watch the teaser here: vimeo.com/79266134 .   Greg’s website is  www.classclownpictures.com  Be sure to check it out.

Download | Duration: 00:58:57

On the Commons with Sandy and Rina

There is a reason I start every show with, “You are now leaving the American Zone” and if you are wondering what I mean or why I say it you need go no further than this show to understand why.  

In recent shows I have been highlighting the “blame the victim” method of dealing with the horror stories that grab the headlines.  It is, of course, the homeowners’ fault that the “professionals” managers have absconded with the association funds.  “They should have been looking over their shoulders, they should have asked questions” the HOA industry of professionals  whine.  And what happens when the homeowners do ask, “May I see the books and records”?  

Joining us On The Commons this week are Sandy Schenkat and Rina Messler.  Sandy lives in Arizona where she was arrested by the local police for swimming in the  association pool that she paid for.  Rina lives in North Carolina, also in an association, and she too wanted to know where her money was going.  On the other side of the country was another police officer who was willing to take the word of a board member and arrest Rina.  Tune in to hear their stories and find out what happened to these two ladies.  And if you are curious as to what would happen if YOU, the homeowner wanted the police to investigate some funny business in YOUR association, call your local police department and ask them how they will help you, the tax payer, protect your property from embezzlement.

Download | Duration: 00:58:02

On the Commons with Frank Short

Whenever there is a problem with an out of control board, or another horror story hits the front page of the papers, proponents of involuntary membership associations remind us quite arrogantly that we "agreed" to the covenants, conditions and restrictions of the association.  Again, this is simply another way of blaming  the "victim".  It has to be the homeowner who is reneging on his or her promise, his or her contractual obligation.  "If they didn't like the 'rules', they shouldn't have bought into the association" they say and add  "they can move."  
 
Joining us On The Commons this week is Frank Short.  Frank, an attorney and a long time advocate for individual homeowner rights has been following the HOA bills winding their way through the Virginia Legislature. What he found is quite shocking and disturbing.  Several bills allow boards or the courts to amend declarations even when the homeowners have said, NO.  The latest lament from those who feed at the HOA trough is that the homeowners really don't know what is good for them and besides, they are so apathetic, they won't approve a measure giving the board more intrusive and abusive powers.  What the bills would do, if signed into law, would horrify you.  Listen to Frank explain the bills and what they mean.
 
Three of the absolute worse bills are HB530, HB791 and HB690.  FInd out who your Senator is and ask them to kill these three bills.

Download | Duration: 00:57:52

On the Commons with the Farrans

Have you noticed how all sense flies out the window when an involuntary membership homeowners association is involved?  All of a sudden we fear anything that is not part of that uniform look and feel of a kontrolled kommunity.  A different shade of blah can topple an entire neighborhood, an unapproved garden hose, dusty mailboxes, flags, rose bushes and pudgy pooches are all a threat to property values.  An addition that doesn’t quite konform to the existing architectural guidelines will no doubt turn the neighborhood green with envy.
 
Oh, get real!
 
Joining us On The Commons this week are  Maria and Sam Farran.  The Farrans  weren’t about to believe all the nonsense they were told.  They did their homework, knew the rules and the laws and decided to fight back.  After years of court room drama, they won their cases and were awarded attorney fees and court costs.  However, there was a snag. You see, in the process,  their HOA ran out of money and went bankrupt.  But there is a happy ending after all. As Maria says; “We used to be a corporation that ran a neighborhood, we are now a neighborhood that runs a corporation”. I won’t ruin it for you so tune in and find out how they got their money and what happened to the association.  You’ll love it.
How did they do it?  Well, look for their new and improved governing documents On The Commons and yes, you may use them as a template if you too want to return common sense and a sense of community to your neighborhood.

Download | Duration: 00:57:58

On the Commons with Robert Racansky

Google “HOA and (or) condo and embezzlement” and you will get more hits than you imagined possible.  It is hard to sweep these stories under the rug and pretend that all is rosy in the nations  involuntary membership housing corporations.  Who is to blame for this sorry state of affairs in residential America?  I have been chastised on more than one occasion by members of the HOA industry who claim the homeowners themselves are “apathetic” and are not providing the over sight to prevent the theft and abuses on the home front.  

That’s it guys, blame the victim.  

Easy to do.  

But wait a minute, what happens when homeowners do ask for the books and records of the association?  What happens when they want to know what is happening to their money?  

Joining us On The Commons this week we have  Robert Racansky.   Robert has been asking for information he is entitled to about his HOA and about  his own account,  but for the last several years his requests have been ignored.  To prove that he is far from apathetic,  and in an attempt to put his fight on the skyline, Robert wrote a book called Madison Hill H.O.A. Inc;  Something is Rotten in the State of Colorado.  We’ll talk to Robert about the issues that led to his writing a book and find out about future plans.  Robert maintains a web site at madisonhillhoa.com/

Download | Duration: 00:58:16

On the Commons with Jan Bergemann

Consumers don’t take a course in auto mechanics when they buy a car, nor do need to know how the household appliances work just to own and operate them so why would housing consumers and homeowners be experts in HOA law?  After all, they are buying what once was a called “a home”, not getting a law degree.  But unlike a car or a houseful of appliances, it is the very lack of knowledge and understanding of modern day kommunities that puts them at risk of losing everything they own.  
 
Joining us On The Commons this week we have  Jan Bergemann.  Jan is the founder and president of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice.  He is also one of the few homeowners who has taken the time to really learn and understand the mechanics of this newfangled concept of commingled housing.  He maintains a web site at www.ccfj.net where he has a whole host of articles and other good information.  We’ll find out what is going on in Florida and talk a little about whether or not this form of controlled living is a viable form of housing.

Download | Duration: 00:59:09

On the Commons with Roger Wood

Municipal mandates for HOA housing have not only provided local governments with tax free dollars but have also created a $50 Billion annual industry to service these developments.  There are lawyers to represent the corporations that have replaced our neighborhoods, managers to manage the homeowners as they live in what was once considered a private home,  there are landscapers to maintain the grounds, auditors and accountants for the occasional audits and book keeping chores, there are taste police and enforcement police and gates and now there are even poop scoopers with sophisticated DNA tests to track the naughty pooch who pooped on "The Properties".   
  
The one career field that has remained more or less unchanged is the attorneys who specialize in representing the real clients in all this nonsense, the homeowners! 
  
Joining us  On The Commons  this week we have   Roger Wood.   Roger is an Arizona attorney who, two years ago, opened his own law firm representing ONLY homeowners.  His web site  http://jrogerwoodlaw.com/proudly announces they are putting the "H" back in HOA.  Join us, we'll find out why an attorney with a lucrative career representing HOAs would give that up to represent the homeowners.  We'll talk about some of the reasons he chose to go down this path and what he does.  You'll be surprised by what he has to say and will no doubt agree with me that the US would be a better place if we managed to clone him, hundreds of times over.  You can also get to Roger's web pageboy following this link.    www.HOAHelpNow.com

Download | Duration: 00:58:06

On the Commons with David Kahne

How can your HOA screw thee, let us count the ways
They can screw thee to the breadth and depth and height
Their souls can reach…. 

With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Just when I think I have heard it all, just when I can’t imagine any more shady and ridiculous behavior, HOAs get creative and come up with more ways to circumvent decency and fair play and get what they want.

Joining us On The Commons this week we have  David Kahne.  David is a Texas attorney who, as part of his practice, represents homeowners embroiled in legal battles with their HOAs.  He has also been a strong advocate for legislative change to protect the rights of homeowners.  We will talk about some of the issues Texas homeowners are facing, hear just a little bit about some really outrageous behavior by boards and the professionals who advise them and talk about possible ways to prevent some of the more heinous behavior.  Tune in and you’ll be scratching your head wondering if you have heard it all or if someone is designing yet another way “to screw thee”.

Download | Duration: 00:57:17

On the Commons with Bill Davis

Have you noticed how residential America is being changed by design?  Older single family homes that seemed to leap out of Norman Rockwell paintings, homes that symbolized the American Dream, are being torn down.  Even parking lots are now home to towers designed to house hundreds of people.  Things that were iconic Americana are being replaced by higher density housing.  Are cramped concrete jungles the way of the future? 

Joining us On The Commons this week we have  Bill Davis.  Bill is an attorney in Texas who, having been through litigation protecting his rights is now representing other homeowners.  He is also a commentator on many online forums so has his finger on the pulse of what is going on in involuntary membership organizations.  Join us as we talk about the trends and how we are changing the face of residential America – by design.


Download | Duration: 00:58:21

On the Commons with Marjorie Murry

It is no secret that life in an involuntary membership corporation is anything but serene and calm and it certainly is not fair.  In fact homeowners more often than not find themselves alone when in a conflict  with the association.  The laws are tilted very heavily in favor of the association and the association usually gets away with unbelievable abuses.  But what if some of the laws were more consumer friendly?  What if there were laws that actually regulated some of the abuses, heavy handed tactics and bad behavior that is so common?    What will it take to get some of these laws enacted? 
  
Joining us On The Commons this week we have  Marjorie Murray.  Marjorie is the Founder and President of the Center for California Homeowner Association Law.  She maintains an excellent web site at  www.calhomelaw.org  We’ll talk about the legislation members of her organization and the partnerships they formed managed to get enacted.   We will also learn how these consumer friendly laws are altering the outcome of controlled housing in the California courts.   We’ll also get some tips on how to lobby successfully in our own states. 

Download | Duration: 00:59:51

On the Commons with Ole Madsen

After half a century of mass produced involuntary membership associations, the ignorance still surrounding them is quite astounding.  The lack of knowledge about the product of both the professional and voluntary leaders and apparent lack of buy-in from the consumers is turning residential America into a disaster.  A disaster that has dire and far reaching consequences for the future of the country.

While mandated by local municipalities for their own financial gain and supposedly regulated by state statutes, the instruction manual accompanying this housing catastrophe is being written by every Tom, Dick and Harry who feels like chipping in their two cents worth.  

What is the answer?  Full steam ahead as we have been going until we end up in a heap somewhere down the road?  

Joining us On The Commons this week we have Ole Madsen.  Ole lives in North Carolina where he started an organization called HEAR4NC which stands for Homeowners for Education, Advocacy and Rights for North Carolina.  Ole is the president, CEO and only voting member of the corporation with an appointed advisory committee.  Ole recognized the need for education and changes in involuntary membership corporations about 18 months ago, so he and his fellow HEAR4NC members have set up open meetings around the state to meet with homeowners and share their knowledge and expertise.  We'll talk about the meetings and learn a little more about the monthly meetings.

Download | Duration: 00:58:56

On the Commons with Nick Leggette

Words go here

Download | Duration: 00:58:03

On the Commons with Bill Davis

What’s in a name?  A rose by any other would smell as sweet.  Was Shakespeare right or does a name, or a word,  make a difference?  How important is it to use the proper terminology to get your point across?  How well should the words used answer a question you ask?  Can words be interchangeable while still delivering a clear message?  If the bard was right, would dandelion be a good substitute for a rose?

Joining us On The Commons this week is Bill Davis.  Bill is an attorney in Texas who has been involved with controlled dwelling units for many years and for a long time has been telling me we need to start using proper terminology.  He is right and that point was made quite clear to me recently.  OMG, it’s an IMC.  You’ll just have to tune in to find out what that is all about.  

Download | Duration: 00:58:52

On the Commons with Stephen Marcus

Over the years Americans have been told that involuntary membership residential associations protected values.  People believed it and were willing to give up rights they normally had in exchange for the promise of higher values.  Gradually associations controlled more and more aspects of the units.  Is there a line that should not be crossed or will associations be allowed to control every aspect of an owner’s life?
 
Joining us On The Commons this week is Stephen Marcus.  Steve is an attorney in Massachusetts who represents condominiums.  On his firm’s web page there is a write up of a Maine Supreme Court decision  about a condo’s smoking ban in private units.  I wondered if there was a line associations wouldn’t cross so I asked Steve to join us and talk about it.  Tune in to hear what he has to say and where my question led us.

Download | Duration: 00:57:30

On the Commons with Nila Ridings

While it is common knowledge that many people do not like involuntary membership residential associations they nonetheless believe they are a necessary evil.  For years we have been told that HOAs “Protect property values”.  That’s about as bogus as the notion of “if it hurts it has to be good for you”.

Joining us On The Commons this week is Nila Ridings.  Nila’s father had warned her about HOAs and had advised her to never buy a unit in one.  She learned the hard way why he was no fan of them.  Join us as she debunks the myth of protecting property values, strips the top layer off the outer shell of the units to expose the crumbling structure of “common” housing and tells us what it took to codify a homeowner bill of rights in Kansas.

Download | Duration: 00:56:26