John Paskert

How do you define “civilization”?  I understand it to describe people who are educated, cultured, have manners and are socially and morally advanced. The dictionary defines it as “an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture,science, industry, and government has been reached.” Some words that are used to define the opposite of civilization are decline, destruction, ignorance, rudeness, barbarism, primitiveness.  What do you think best describes life in a residential association?  And how, in a country that presents itself as the most civilized, the richest, the best and the freest can we force people to live in controlled housing developments where, in many cases, those in power are rude, barbaric, abusive, dictatorial and completely wild?  And finally, how do homeowners deal with some of these atrocities?

John Paskert joins us On The Commons. John is a retired military psychological Operations officer.  The tactics he learned while an active duty officer helped him even out the playing field somewhat in his homeowners association.  Rather than allowing the ruder and more ignorant denizens in his neighborhood to frustrate and demoralize him, he remained civilized, did his homework, and fought back in very clever and subtle ways.  He shares some of the lessons he learned operating in this new arena and also tells us some of his stories. I think the big lesson here is that there is more than one way to fight back. However, trying to become a truly civilized society, where respect and cooperation are the norm, should be our ultimate goal.  

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Jessica Suico

 I have often wondered, and worried, about children growing up in HOAs who watch their parents suffer at the hands of the HOA bullies. What is the message we are giving them?  Will they be willing and able to fight to protect their homes and families when they are raising their children in these irrational and often abusive residential associations?  Or will they simply roll over and hope the horrors end, believing this is normal? “This is just the way it is” or “They are all like this”, never realizing they can fight back and they can make life better for all concerned? 

Imagine my delight when I ran across an article penned by a college student and published in the college newspaper, The Advocate.  The article is titled;   Illegal evictions harm families, neighborhoods.  

I had to find out more about it.

Jessica Suico joins us On The Commons. Jessica is a second year student at Contra Costa College in San Pablo, California.  She is majoring in journalism and works on The Advocate, the college newsletter.  The paper normally reports on all things college related, new classes, upcoming events on campus and other  news  items or topics of interest that would affect student life.  Jessica’s article is a little out of the norm for her paper but, I believe, so very important.   She witnessed the harassment and subsequent eviction of her mother and aunt from their home.  She also saw the frustration as her mother and aunt exhausted all venues seeking non existing help for people in similar situations. They may have been able to get some help had they known where to look.  That has to be part of the education.  However, in the end, a couple of elderly ladies who have had health problems were evicted, ended up in the hospital and rendered homeless.  Using the college newspaper was an excellent way of, not only getting the story out, but also of education other young college students who will be facing similar problems unless we stop the bleeding in private residential America SOON.

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Ken Ditkowski

I seem to zip through life at breakneck speeds, taking most things for granted and never really thinking about the reason we do things any particular way.  Oh, once in a while I ask myself, “What were they ever thinking?” when I run into something a little strange.  However, when things are working well the farthest thought is to wonder why it works.  It is so much easier to start looking at things that don’t make sense and figure out how to improve it.

And for a show whose sole focus is property rights, that was a little short sighted.  How can we protect ownership and rights without knowing how to properly define the property in question? That is one those things most of us have always taken for granted.

Kenneth Ditkowsky joins us On The Commons.  Ken is an attorney in Chicago  who, when he was fresh out of law school, full of self confidence and a can-do attitude found himself on the ground floor of redefining property  boundaries and ultimately changing skylines in cities across the country. Maybe even the world?  We’ll talk to Ken about the Prudential Building, the first high rise in Chicago and the hundreds of pages of legal speak explaining the ownership structure.  Ken and his partner accepted the challenge and simplified it, reducing the document down to a more manageable size.  n the process they paved the way for high-rise residential buildings to be built and ultimately changing the face of the Chicago.  We’ll talk about all the things most of us take for granted and never give a second thought to.  We’ll learn about different ways to determine the legal boundaries of a piece of property and find out what happens when mother nature decides to ” shift” the things we take for granted.  I was spellbound as I listened to Ken.  Tune in for a fascinating show.

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Larry Murphree

When the forces of evil succeed in kicking individual and property rights under the rug, then start playing word games trying to explain how you never really had those rights in the first place, it is time to take the kid gloves off.   

Everything about HOAs makes my blood boil but nothing has enraged me quite as much as the way a homeowner was treated by the very industry that sucks the life out of our homes, our families, our communities and destroys our peace of mind.  This has to stop!  While the catalyst for today’s story may have been a small flag, this is not about a flag but about our rights as homeowners and our right to live in peace in our homes.  

Larry Murphree joins us On the Commons.  Larry, an Air Force veteran, updates us on his battle with his condominium board and the industry attorneys who advise them on how to mistreat and abuse the homeowners.  The battle has been raging for over 7 years and still goes on.  We’ll talk to Larry and get the details of how his decision to move into a condo has adversely affected his life and his bank account.  Of all the horrors, abuses and invasion of one’s privacy, none even come close to the offensive treatment at the hand of a board and it’s attorney hell bent on destroying an owner and robbing him of all he has spent a lifetime working for.  All this is being done legally.  Legislators, are you listening?

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John Cowherd

Thanks to our listeners and  guests On The Commons is starting year 19

I always thought if housing consumers knew and understood what they are getting themselves into, most of them would never voluntarily buy a home in an HOA.  That was before I knew that a house without the shackles of the absurd “private government” was a thing of the past.  HOAs are too financially lucrative for local governments to allow them to disappear into the mists of time.  Why would they when they could collect free property taxes without providing the services those tax dollars were designed to pay for?  Ah, but fear not, through their sense of fair play, at least some, if not all, state governments have opted for transparency by requiring sellers to provide consumers with disclosure packages.  But just how reliable are these packages?  What are the remedies for incomplete or outdated information?

John Cowherd joins us On The Commons.  John, a realestate attorney in Northern Virginia is one of a handful of attorneys nationwide who is familiar with HOA and condo law and will represent the owners. He keeps up with legislation and litigation in Virginia that affects our homes.  We talk to John about a recent Fairfax County court decision in the case of Liam and Brandee Daly v. Gullick Group, Inc.  The case is right on point when it comes to consumer protections via disclosures.  We also learn about a new  Virginia state law that took affect July 1, 2018 listing what is required to be included in the disclosure packages required by the Commonwealth of Virginia.  We’ll find out if this new law really offers any protection to housing consumers or is it just another case of “feel good” legislation designed to mislead consumers again?  Tune in and you be the judge.  John also has a blog called Words of Conveyance

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Mike Gingerich

Over the years I have watched HOAs get bigger and more powerful.  Housing consumers have fewer choices in where and how they live.  The concept of being king or queen of one’s own home is long gone, giving way to a 90 plus Billion dollar annual industry that feeds off our homes and neighborhoods.  And sometimes the fodder they feed on is actually our very homes.  The concept of “ownership” has been replaced by a series of rules and regulations with little oversight and no checks and balances.  The more we try to fix the problems the deeper the hole we find ourselves in becomes. 

Mike Gingerich joins us On The Commons.  Several years ago Mike bought a home in a large homeowners association in California and as a psychologist started studying the makeup of his HOA.  He then expanded his research beyond his own neighborhood and looked at residential associations across the country.  By their very makeup he concluded that HOAs are coming undone. The clues are are there but, as Mike says, they are  “hidden in plain sight”.  You can read his paper  HOAs Coming Undone  on  From the HOA Trenches .  Mike also has a terrific website Hidden Valley Lake Owner Advocate.  Tune in and see how many board members you have known come to mind as you listen to why Mike believes HOAs are coming undone.  

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Raelene Schifano

The story goes something like this, condominiums and homeowner associations provide the owners with carefree living and enhanced property values.  Well, that’s the story, but the truth bears absolutely no resemblance to the sales pitch. While the carefree bit refers to not having to mow your lawn, the hours and heartache that go with providing oversight, at least trying to, and protecting your rights are never mentioned.  The stress takes a toll on your health, and the financial cost of being a condo owner is inconceivable. 

Raelene Schifano joins us On The Commons. Rae, a lifelong resident of Washington State decided to buy a condo believing her property will be well cared for when she and her husband traveled.  It didn’t take the condo long to start levying fines against her and her husband for some of the most outrageous and insane reasons.  Being a business owner with plenty of guts and gumption, Rae refused to be intimidated and fought back.  She got involved at the grass roots level in her association and then started working in the legislative arena educating law makers on what happens when they allow power hungry and money grabbing HOA boards, managers and industry members unfettered access to the lives and bank accounts of unsuspecting owners.  Listen to Rae’s story, then contact the legislators in your state and DEMAND that fines by condos and HOAs be BANNED.  

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Deborah Goonan

Keeping up with all the changes in America’s residential developments can be quite daunting.  Over the years the idea of homeownership seems to have evolved from being true ownership, with all the inherent rights and privileges afforded to the owner to being something more akin to that of a junior partner in some business endeavor.  The concept of rights and privileges are getting somewhat confusing to Americans and there appears to be an acceptance that a home must be subject to the whims and fantasies of others.  I find that terrifying.

Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons.  Like many homeowners in mandatory membership homeowner associations, Debbie ran into problems so she did a little research to try to figure out what was happening.  Fortunately for all of us she is still digging and discovering new twists, scams and stories and is sharing what she discovers on her blog Independent American Communities.  Her collection of daily posts, articles, comments and information is impressive and invaluable.  We talk to Deborah about the issues that plague developments from poorly designed infrastructure to inadequate parking and the complete lack of supervision from the building phase to every day living and how this complicated alliance of different interests in what should be a simple form of homeownership  affects the owners and their pocket books. If we learn anything it is that things aren’t always what they seem to be so do a little digging and ask questions.

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Julio Robaina

 What a concept!  Build homeowner associations to give municipal governments a sneaky underhanded way of collecting what amounts to free tax money.  This sleight of hand is also known as double taxation.  It works very nicely for local governments – not so well for the homeowners involved.  Developers increase density thus increasing profit margins.  Housing consumers are told that this scheme will protect property values and allow them to enjoy greater control over their immediate surroundings.   To add insult to injury, real governments have adopted a hands off approach, claiming it is a civic matter.  State legislators have enacted legislation empowering associations while  special interest groups reap the benefits.  

While the carnage continues, those in a position to prevent these atrocities have front row seats to the modern day Gladiator Games.  

Julio Robaina joins us On The Commons.  Julio is a former Florida State Representative who, during his term, toured the State with a task force talking to home and condo owners.  The stories he heard from the owners convinced him that something had to be done to stop horrors.  He introduced legislation that would provide oversight through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, but subsequent legislative tinkering and bureaucratic red tape has all but rendered the program useless.  Not one to give up, Julio, who I nicknamed “The Energizer Bunny” years ago, went straight from the State House into property management where he is still working with the homeowners to put a stop to fraud and embezzlement and to ensure fair elections.  He and his partner have a web page detailing all the problems and the issues, naming names and streaming news clips.   And while the stories are about Florida, these stories are replicated nationwide.  And the Energizer Bunny is still fighting!  

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Judy Thomas

Symptoms are warning signs indicative of a problem.  These warning signs should be investigated.  Sweeping them under the rug and hoping they’ll go away is irresponsible.  Far too often that is the treatment of choice in the Homeowner association arena.  All the horror stories are symptomatic of deeper problems, and conditions that allow or even encourage the abuses to continue, unabated.  They are the results of flawed reasoning. The very people who should be concerned that their brand is defective and harmful to the owners are the very same people who flippantly dismiss every signal that all is not well.  Rather than preventing the horrors, the HOA industry blames and belittles the owners.  Their arsenal is made up of the same stupid excuses and explanations.  They  glibly refer to the hundreds and hundreds of stories as “isolated incidents”.  They have no credibility, they deserve no respect.

Judy Thomas joins us On The Commons.  Judy is an award winning journalist with the Kansas City Star who has written and published an amazing series of articles about many of the stories going on in associations across the country.  The main story, HOAs from hell: Homes associations torment residents they’re supposed to support   just touches on some of the many problems homeowners face on a daily basis.  The page also has links to other stories and video clips of some of the stories Judy ran across.  In an HOA no one is spared.  The color of window dressings is more important than a child’s safety and her life.  The color of a swing set takes on a life of its own and ends up costing the family a huge sum of money.  In one condo, an approved emotional pet was banned, causing the owner enough distress that he committed suicide.  Even a 91 year old great grandmother is not safe in one of these associations.  The elderly lady in this story is being charged $15 for every “letter” the HOA sends her notifying her that her garage door is no longer considered trim.  Aren’t Americans allowed to enjoy the fruits of their labor without being hounded and harassed by the neighborhood thugs?  These stories are real, they are not isolated incidents.  The same stories are repeated time and again all over the place.  You just can’t make these stories up.  If you have a story to share with Judy please send it to  HOA@kcstar.com

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News and Views About Homeowner Associations