Tom LePage

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I have been scratching my head, trying to understand the thinking behind homeowner and condo associations. It was a big mystery 36 years ago when I first encountered these confounding things.  It is still a huge mystery. Condo associations are a different breed of animal but I still fail to understand the need for all the gibberish that seems to be part and parcel of this ancient and once simple and uncomplicated housing concept. After almost 30 years of studying residential associations and trying to understand them, I am still scratching my head.  What would happen if we removed that 4th layer of government and taxing power?  Would the world collapse?  Perhaps local municipal governments would have to become better stewards of public funds instead of thinking money grows on trees?  Now that would be a tragedy, wouldn’t it?   Or would we become a nation of red doors, cars on blocks and toilets adorning front yards? Does anyone really believe that?  We are told that this form of governance brings us “democracy, up close and personal”.  Still trying to understand that one. All the pretty speak surrounding this type of homeownership assures housing consumers they will have far greater influence over the way their communities work.  I say hogwash!

Tom LePage joins us On The Commons this week.  Tom is a property manager north of the border, in Ontario, Canada.  With over 30 years of experience in the field of property management he branched out into consulting and says he has a passion for well managed condominiums.  Tom has been following all the nonsense that goes on here, south of his border and is, no doubt, scratching his head as well. He is the founder of Condo-Ology and maintains a blog that can be accessed from his web page.  Property managers here, there and everywhere are a dime a dozen but one thing that makes Tom different is his firm belief in TRANSPARENCY.  That word is one of the first words you will find on his website.  Join us for a fun interview as we compare and contrast typical association issues, talk about potential “fixes”, discuss some that have been tried in the US and start to explore more ideas.  Tom has a lot of ideas that deserve to be heard so listen to part one now as I hope he will be back sometime soon with more of his ideas.

 

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John Sellers

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Increasingly in America homeowners are treated like incompetent idiots who are incapable of managing their own lives and their homes.  Members of the HOA industry have gone as far as to equate the owners as “children who do not know what is good for them”.  Naturally they are more than happy to make all our important decisions for us- and leave us with the bill!  To add insult to injury, the false advertising and misinformation that, under most other circumstances, would be punishable by law, is swept under the rug and ignored.  Unit owners in homeowner and condo associations are often ridiculed, harassed  and penalized for demanding transparency or even questioning the  actions of the association.  Their duty is to not ask why but to pay up and shut up.

Well, times they are a changing.  Slowly but surely more and more talented people have had enough and are starting to move mountains, one stone at a time!

John Sellers joins us On The Commons this week.  John has worked in the banking industry for years and knows just where to look for any irregularities.  So when things just didn’t smell quite right, he put his talents to work and started digging.  What he discovered is quite incredible.  Not only are the people who are supposed to be protecting your rights turning a blind eye to all the shenanigans going on behind closed doors, but they are also using YOUR tax dollars to cover up some missing funds in HOA banks.  John continued digging and was told to “get a hobby”.  Fortunately for us, he took that advice to heart, expanded his search criteria and started a blog called ArizonaHOA where he intends to not only share information but to also gather information from other homeowners. He estimates there have been 3,000 court cases involving HOAs in Arizona.  Chances are those did not happen because associations were doing such a wonderful job, as proponents of HOAs would have you believe.  Tune in, it is an eye opening interview.

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Tom DeWeese

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When trying to decipher the issues and problems with personal rights and private property rights, I often feel overwhelmed.  There are just so many ways all our rights are stripped that trying to track them all is a bit like what I imagine drinking from a fire hydrant would feel like.  At the very least you get soaked, breathing would be extremely difficult and it is questionable just how much you actually manage to drink.  And that is exactly how I feel when dealing with these issues. The micromanagement from all levels of the real governments, their omnipotent NGOs and the lowly first rung petty dictators in your local HOA is unbelievable. There is no end to the rules, laws, regulations, ordinances, covenants designed to control almost every aspect of your life.

Tom DeWeese joins us On The Commons.  Tom is the founder and president of the Virginia based American Policy Center and the editor of The DeWeese Report.  He is an author, a speaker, an advocate, an activist and, with several decades of studying the master manipulators and the property robbers worldwide, a font of knowledge.  He is passionate about what he does and with a well-organized and easy to follow narrative manages to fit in many missing pieces to the jigsaw puzzle the rest of us are trying to solve.  He zooms his lens out and looks at the big picture and then easily slips the puzzle pieces in place, before zooming back in and bringing the picture into focus. I always learn so much when I spend some time listening to Tom.  By the way, did I mention he is also a very nice person and fun to talk to?  He is.  You’ll want to tune in.

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Stewart Goodwin

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Have you ever wondered where your food comes from? With a greater awareness and understanding of health issues and the role our food plays in how we feel, live and age, more people are concerned about the quality of the food they eat and feed their families.  People are willing to pay more for organically grown fruits and vegetables and free range eggs.  Don’t believe me?  Compare the prices, and the taste, the next time you are in the grocery store.  You’d think ensuring a good supply of healthy food would be a top priority for the government, wouldn’t you?   It doesn’t appear that way.

Stewart Goodwin joins us On The Commons this week.  Stewart is an author and the owner of the Elko Poultry Farm and Hatchery in Henrico County, Virginia.  The farm is in an area that is not built up and is zoned agricultural.  But apparently that concept is a little too simple and straightforward for local government types to comprehend.  The county officials, whose job it is to ensure compliance with the county codes and ordinances, seem to be somewhat confused and apparently can’t tell the difference between a chicken and a horse. So they are doing what they do best and that is to issue threats. And when this little war is all over, they may very well end up with egg on their faces.  We’ll be keeping up with Stewart and her ” girls” to see how she is doing.   I enjoyed “going to the Farm” where the only sounds I could hear were on the phone were Stewart’s roosters crowing to register their dissatisfaction with the county government.

Follow Stewart on Facebook as she fights to protect her property rights and our right to have healthy food.

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Bill Davis

History can show us where we came from and how we got here.  History is just as valuable when looking at the evolution of residential associations.  While design and structure have played significant roles in their growth, so have enabling legislation and lack of choice.  But what about the future?  Wouldn’t history be a good tool to help us prevent the same mistakes that have led to the creation of some of the most harmful housing choices?  If we look through our crystal balls what do we see?  What is in store for American homeowners?  Will sanity, respect and dignity make a comeback or have property owners lost the right to sovereignty over their own homes? 

Bill Davis joins us On The Commons.  Bill, a Texas attorney and frequent guest on the show, represents homeowners. Along the way he has encountered some of the most interesting, weird and bizarre situations associated with the wacky world of controlled living.  Many of his cases and stories highlight the incredible absurdity of this form of housing. In addition to taking on clients, he is a frequent commentator on many public forums, discussing all things related to HOAs.  He shares some thoughts about the new White Paper put out by CAI.  We’ll find out if they are looking through the same crystal ball that Bill consulted.  

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Michelle Germano

20160521germanoI always believed that the government’s job was to protect its citizens.  But, just like HOAs protecting property values, that too appears to be a misconception.  Maybe the government’s real goal always was self aggrandizement and self enrichment hidden under layers of feigned caring. Perhaps I am only now beginning to realize that or maybe the corruption and gross government misconduct has reached new heights that it is no longer possible to sweep their misdeeds under the rug and pretend they don’t exist.  Or has their callousness reached new heights?  Surely, when presented with evidence that their constituents are being physically harmed, they would at least listen and take steps to ensure their safety.  

Wouldn’t they?

Michelle Germano joins us On The Commons.  Michelle is the lead plaintiff in the Chinese drywall class action lawsuit.  Michelle bought her dream home – a brand new townhouse in a brand new development where she planned to live and work.  It wasn’t long after she moved in that things started going terribly wrong.  Appliances stopped working, electrical wires disintegrated, her house had a horrible odor that she couldn’t get rid of, her dog got sick and she got sick.  She found out that her neighbors were also getting sick.  Following a lot of sleuthing, she discovered the source of her ailments – Chinese drywall.  She tried to enlist the help of her representatives, both at the state and the Federal levels.  No one was interested!  After repeated attempts to get Virginia legislators involved she received a call advising her to give up because  the “condo lobby”  (read CAI) owned condo legislation.  Nobody in DC even bothered to respond.  In a no holds barred, frank, detailed and emotional interview, Michelle takes us on a roller coaster ride of her life with Chines drywall, her condo association and the legislators elected to represent us.  

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Deborah Goonan

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Oh what a web we weave….  In the beginning the mass production of HOAs was designed to provide municipalities with free tax $$$.   One of the deceptions most commonly used to convince housing consumers to buy into a residential association was that HOAs protected property values.  In fact Declarations started with a statement that read ” The purpose of this association is to protect property values”.  That was the first silk produced for the web.  As time went on and the web grew bigger and thicker and more intricate, the problems and the issues multiplied.  The flaws in the system were easier to identify and the country started trimming and tweaking the web they created.  Their efforts not only failed but led to more problems and more complications.  And the web continues to grow!

Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons.  Deborah is a homeowner advocate who learned all about the perils and problems in HOAs when she and her husband bought a house in one of Florida’s planned developments  It wasn’t long before the warm and fuzzy feelings for their new home were marred by the flaws in the system.  Since then she has been commenting on the various internet sites about the issues as well as hosting her own blog called Independent American Communities.  As a result, she is up on the current stories and is frequently contacted by people who thought they bought into the American Dream but find themselves living the American nightmare.  If we are going to nip and tuck away at this web, what are some of the major concerns that people have? We talk to Deborah about some of the latest stories out there and discover the 5 core areas that are causing the greatest heartburn for American homeowners.  Will her list surprise you or will you agree with the issues homeowners find the most problematic?  Tune in and find out.

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Jose Pasoz

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It is getting almost impossible to get through an entire day without being accosted by bad news.  Sometimes there really is nothing we can do about it.  Natural disasters are out of our hands.  Try stopping a tsunami, a hurricane or an earthquake.  You can’t.  Chances of people losing their homes in any of those scenarios are pretty good.  But other “disasters” are preventable.  I am thinking of the seemingly daily reports of condo and homeowner association fraud, embezzlement, theft, mismanagement and abuse that can also result in the loss of peoples’ homes.  These are man made disasters, enabled by the government.  Instead of protecting their constituents against these wrongdoings, or redesigning the HOA and condo concept structurally to prevent the abuses, they mandate them and turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the problems.  They facetiously mock you for having “agreed” to the “rules”.  

Jose Pazos joins us On The Commons.  Jose, an award winning community manager in Florida, is not cut from the same cloth as many of his colleagues throughout the country.  Jose and his business partners, own a management company with a difference.  Transparency and accessibility seem to be high on their list of ” must haves” for their homeowner clients.  We’ll find out how they do that. (it really is quite simple). We talk about laws that are unique to Florida and how those laws enable the taking of private units from their rightful owners.  We will also find out about the many ways owners and associations are robbed and swindled out of their assets and rights.  We’ll hear all about his idea for a condo fraud task force, how it would work and how it would be funded. We also find out why he considers himself the “condo police”.  In his spare time, Jose also maintains a web page called Condo Receiver.  If more people in the condo and HOA business had the integrity and honesty of Jose, we might actually get through a day every now and again with having to read about bad news.  

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Nila Ridings

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Reporters are finally getting bold enough to start reporting the horror stories that keep cropping up in homeowner associations across the country.  Sometimes they even get the facts straight.  The stories are frequently as ridiculous as reporting crying babies to the HOA, to fining owners for having unapproved garden hoses in their yards or having the wrong shade of white blinds in their widows.  These stories will make you scratch your head and wonder if absolutely everyone is so ridiculous and out of touch with reality to believe that these are important issues.  Occasionally the headlines will promise a meatier story, one that we should be aware of that could affect us all.  The many embezzlement stories that result in special assessments that we read about would fall into that category.  But if you really want to know what is happening “behind the HOA closed doors”, where do you go?

Nila Ridings joins us On The Commons.  Nila is an HOA homeowner in Kansas where life is nowhere near as rosy as she expected it to be when she bought her house.  She has since done her homework, been active in the legislative arena, lobbied to get homeowner rights codified in Kansas and has shared her knowledge and insights with owners caught in the crosshairs of their associations.  She is a frequent blogger on Ward Lucas’ Neighbors at war.   And if one wants to find the unreported stories, one asks Nila.  I did just that.  We all hear the silly stories, the “too many rose bushes”, the costly ones about driveways having to be torn out because they are 2 inches wider than the approved plans, but which stories does she hear too often for comfort?  Which stories tug at her heartstrings the most?  Her number one story is not one the media reports on often but should.  

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John Cowherd and Jeremy Moss

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Newton discovered that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Is that what we today call “unintended consequences”?  How often do we head down one path towards a goal without thinking through the end results?  Could we avoid many of the pitfalls we are dealing with if we stopped long enough to think things through?  

One of those unhappy and unpredicted results may well be the sheer number of zombie foreclosures being reported nationwide.  The unfortunate circumstances the homeowners find themselves in and the rather significant negative effect those vacant houses have on their immediate surroundings is an area of concern.   And since most of the housing in many parts of the country is in mandatory membership residential associations, these zombie foreclosures also impact associations through lost assessments.  

John Cowherd and Jeremy Moss join us On The Commons.  Both are attorneys in Virginia and both specialize in HOA and condo association law.  They also both have blogs where they discuss zombie foreclosures.  Jeremy’s blog is called The Moss Report  and  you can access John’s blog at Words of Conveyance   John, changed his practice and now represents homeowners in HOAs.  Jeremy, an attorney with Mercer-Trigiani, represents associations. I am grateful to both gentlemen for coming in to the studio and sharing their thoughts. We’ll talk about zombie foreclosures, explain what they are and talk about why we have so many of them now.  We’ll also discuss different ideas on how to deal with them. There is a lot to learn by listening to this interview.

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News and Views About Homeowner Associations