Every year, for as long as I can remember, homeowners have gathered to talk about the problems and the issues they face in their HOA governed homes and developments. Invariably they debate potential legislation they believe would Provide for a fair and balanced playing field. And over the years more and more laws are added to the books in all the states. Sometimes they succeed – for a little while – but usually they are back the following legislative session, still trying to fix the never ending problems and abuses. I have long believed there has to be a better way and that Americans are entitled to live peacefully in their own homes. Maybe it is time to think outside the box and try something different.
David Kahne joins us On The Commons. David, an attorney in Houston, Texas, is one of a handful of attorneys nationwide who understands HOA laws and does represent owners against their HOAs. He has worked on a legislative agenda for Texas for as long as I have known him. This year is no exception. We talk to David about some of the items on his legislative agenda, some of the issues he believes need to be addressed to even out the balance of power and give the owner a fighting chance. We talk about fines and foreclosures and legal fees. We touch on many issues, including whether some of the legislative agenda could, or should, be tackled at the Federal level. And we barely scratched the surface of what should be done to return full ownership and sovereignty of our homes to their rightful owners.
It is so easy to look around us with great sadness and wonder what happened to our traditional values? Where did our rights go? How come even our homes and communities have become unpleasant, scary and alien places? Places we are afraid to go to? Weren’t they once our safe havens where we had the final word? Why can we no longer choose the plants we have in our yards? The drapes we have in our windows? The outdoor play areas we want for our children? What happened? Shouldn’t someone be doing something to take us back to the way things used to be?
Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as saying, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”.
Jeff Dove joins us On The Commons. Jeff’s mother taught him that “When you don’t like the way something is going, you should get off the sidelines and do something about it”. Wise words from wise people. Jeff took his mother’s words to heart, in fact her words have guided him throughout his life and he is now ready to take the next big step in doing something about it. Jeff threw his hat in the ring and is running for Congress. When he wins he will be MY congressman and I can’t wait for that to happen. Tune in and join us as I get to know Jeff, his values and his beliefs. We talk about the issues facing us all and we talk about our homes and our rights. We also talk about “change”, change for the better and how we can get there. Isn’t it time to have someone in office who will listen to his constituents and find out what they want? Let’s all get off the sidelines and be the change we want to see in our world. There is a better world out there waiting for us and our children. All we have to do is get there.
Because of the sheer number of homeowners who reach out to me, desperate, scared and alone, I think it is appropriate to re-broadcast this show.
If I could draw I think I would write the HOA book as a series of cartoons because that’s how my mind tends to work. Many of those cartoons would be funny, others not so funny. But over the years never has there been a sumo wrestler in any of my imagined doodles or cartoons – until this interview. That’s when I started putting sumo wrestlers in the picture . But a gratuitous, enormous hulking, naked man in what appears to be a diaper, in the middle of a manicured, sterile, characterless, controlled residential association wasn’t quite connecting. So, I decided to read up on sumo wrestling and sumo wrestlers. And all of a sudden it was a perfect fit, diaper and all. I discovered, among other things, that although some of these massive men appear to be invincible, they have been toppled by smaller opponents. A sumo historian is quoted as saying he believes the circular ring was chosen to assist smaller fighters to slip away and that the sumo rules tends to root for the underdog.
If you find yourselves in the bullseye of an HOA battle, facing what may seem like a sumo wrestler, grin at the diaper and know that you can win.
Dr. Wes Rocki, MD, PhD joins us On The Commons. Retired from practicing conventional medicine, Wes now focusses on alternative medicine, including techniques on self help and self healing. He explains how we can empower ourselves to better handle any conflict. We talk about how we can step away, mentally and emotionally to get a better grasp of the situation. Wes gives us a lot of really good advice on how to not only survive being at the center of an HOA storm but how to survive emotionally, reframe the conflict, empower ourselves and win against that massive sumo wrestler in the ring with us. So many light bulbs went off during the course of this interview. Listen and be empowered. Well worth a second listen.
I learn something new- and very disturbing- about HOAs seemingly every day. Homeowner advocates and activists, with very good reason, have been calling our homes the ATMs for the HOA industry. Our homes are used as collateral for so many things other than our homes themselves. When things get complicated it is even harder to untangle the threads to understand just what is going on and where our money is going.
John Sellers joins us On The Commons. John is a former banker with a vast and broad knowledge and understanding of how finance works. As an Arizona homeowner in multiple HOAs and one of the many homeowners who has done the two step with his HOA in the Arizona court system, he is now also an expert on HOAs and the laws governing them – or not. John explains “pooling” and how that works in the insurance industry when it comes to insuring HOAs. If you think it is like a normal insurance policy you might buy, think again. This is just one more leaky hole in the HOA scheme that leaves us vulnerable and puts our homes at risk.
There is a rumor out there that buying a condo or a home in an HOA not only protects but also enhances property values. I still haven’t figured just out how that supposedly works. But proponents of the regime insist it is so. For the sake of argument I’ll leave that alone for the time being. But how on earth do they explain the fact that homeowners are responsible for the actions or inactions of the people either elected or hired and paid good money to “protect and enhance” your property?
Jan Bergemann joins us On The Commons. Jan is a long time advocate and legislative activist for protecting the rights of home and condo owners in Florida. Jan is the founder and President of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice . He keeps a close watch on all the news related to housing, rentals, litigation involving homeowners and pending legislation that would affect the owners. Many, if not all, of the stories end up on his web site. One recent story involves a $7.5 Million award to a condo owner who seriously hurt himself when he fell into a hot tub that had been partially emptied, ill lit and left unprotected while the necessary repairs were being done. We talk about the case and wonder just how much it will cost the owners in the condominium to cover any shortfall in the event that the insurance isn’t adequate to cover the entire $7.5 Million? How does the assertion that a condo protects and enhances property values work in a situation like this?
When your life veers off the normal, the safe, the known and the routine and gets derailed into a hostile, unknown land where you are fighting for your life, stress tends to become part and parcel of who you are. And stress, as we have learned on this show, adversely affects your health. It is always a lot worse when you are facing the adversarial situation on your own. Can having some friendly support mitigate some of the damage caused by the situation?
Dr. Karin Huffer joins us On The Commons.
A long time therapist, having watched what happens to victims of the justice system and the effects of stress they suffered, coined the term Legal Abuse Syndrome. Her book, by the same name, Legal Abuse Syndrome talks about the problem and possible remedies. She found that the key to mitigating the harmful effects of being a victim is to help each other. For the past several years she has trained volunteers to be that “support” to victims. Her new book is a revised and updated Kindle version of her first book. She has turned some of her attention to explaining, training and teaching Americans about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Americans with disabilities don’t always know they have rights or what those rights are and businesses, managers and bosses are not always aware of them either. Apparently neither are all the attorneys out there. So Karin is hard at work training them all. You can learn more and reach Dr. Huffer through her website, Equal Access Advocates.com but do tune in to listen to the amazing lady.
Some people describe the “American Dream” as home ownership. After all, we all want a place to call our own, a place that reflects our personalities, provides shelter, a safe haven, a place completely and totally under our control. Like almost everything else in association controlled housing the dream is a lie. These days everything associated with a home seems to be based on deliberate misinformation that is repeated nonstop to the point where everyone believes it. Why not? They have heard the same lies for a couple of generations, it has to be true, right?
Not so fast.
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons. Deborah is a prolific, analytical and detailed blogger. Her blog, Independent American Communities is a comprehensive study of what is going on in the world of association living. Today we debunk some of the more often told lies surrounding HOAs. Probably the biggest, and potentially most damaging whopper, is that HOAs protect property values. Citing from a white paper referencing various studies conducted about HOA restrictions and property values we learn what common sense has always told us. Having burdened your house with covenants, rules, regulations, “grass police” and all the other atrocities that are part and parcel of associations, we then turn to the physical structure of these houses made of “cardboard and scotch tape” and what we discover there is truly alarming. We talk a little about vinyl siding and Low e windows and we urge you to ask yourself whether this can possibly be “The American Dream” or is it more like the American nightmare?
Why is it that the single largest asset you own comes with more restrictions and controls placed on it than any other item you have? Own a car? You can choose the size, make, model, color, you can add seat covers, additional side mirrors to enhance your vision of your surroundings, add bumper stickers about your child’s scholastic achievements, your favorite teams, your pets, places you have visited or any other message that is near and dear to your heart. No approval needed from anyone for the color of your vehicle or permission to add more side mirrors. Permission for a bumper sticker announcing your pride in your children’ scholastic and athletic achievements? After all, isn’t it all part of your right to free speech? You own it, you control it. So why is it that your home, arguably the largest expenditure you have, the one item that reflects who you are and what you like more than anything else, is so burdened with rules, regulations, threats, fines and yes, foreclosure because you violated someone else’s aesthetic sensibilities. Whatever happened to being king and queen of your own castle?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney whose legal practice includes representing homeowners in HOAs has a unique insight into HOA problems. He has seen the bad and the ugly from all sides. We talk to Bill about what makes living in an HOA such an awful experience for so many homeowners and how the association and their legal council seem to have unfettered power over the owners. We also talk about the “carrot” or the BIG LIE that convinces housing consumers that there might be some benefit to giving up so much control over their lives and homes by subjecting themselves to an HOA. We talk about THE BIG LIE, the assertion that HOAs protect and enhance property values. What exactly are property values? How do HOAs protect these values when so many homeowners are losing their homes and their fortunes to the HOA boards, managers and their attorneys? And just what is the value of homeownership in modern day America?
Will candidates for public office be able to come and talk to you?
Residential America has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. Gone are the days when housing consumers bought a house or a plot of land and were lords of their mansions, kings or queens of their castles, where their word was law – within the confines of their property, of course. Increasingly living in residential America is more complicated, more restrictive and more expensive. Do American homeowners know and understand how and why their lives and homes have changed?
Donna Fossum joins us On The Commons. Donna is an attorney, a long time resident and condo owner in the City of Alexandria, Virginia. She was a senior policy analyst at the Rand Corporation, a former member of the Alexandria Planning Commission and a one time candidate for City Council. Donna, with her analytical background, has written the most comprehensive and complete report on the changing residential communities.
After a lot of research, Donna discovers what is essentially two cities in one, divided more or less equally by the east side and the west side of the City of Alexandria. She explains how this shift resulted in double taxation for approximately half of the homeowners in Alexandria. But probably one of the most eye opening discoveries she made was the differences in the political process and participation by the citizens of the two different halves of the city. Tune in and hear her talk about all the issues that significantly affect the way we live in America today and read her report, Fossum Files . While her research and analysis centered on Alexandria, the same issues and resulting problems exist across the country.
Wikipedia describes The Tragedy of the Commons as “a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action.” But isn’t that just human nature? Don’t we normally make choices and decisions based on our immediate needs and what benefits us? And isn’t that especially true for people who are generally struggling to make ends meet? Can the current model of HOAs and condos function properly for all?
Tyler Berding joins us On The Commons. Tyler is the principle attorney and founder of Berding-Weil, a California law firm. Tyler represents residential associations and has long been concerned about the lack of adequate reserve funding, construction defects, condo conversions and the flawed HOA and condo model. He is particularly concerned about the buildings as they near the end of their useful lifespans. What happens to the buildings that need to be refurbished? What happens to the owners and their assets? Who pays to make the units habitable if the reserves are inadequate to fund it all? Can retirees on fixed incomes and low income owners afford massive special assessments to cover the shortfall? What Tyler is talking about is the classic “tragedy of the commons”. Tyler shares with us his presentation for a summit next month. Tyler also has a blog called Condo Issues with lots of thought provoking blogs covering all things condo.