An often cited benefit for residential associations used to be that they allowed the members greater control over their immediate surroundings. The other bonus they were promised was that collectively they would gain political clout. At least that was the sales pitch, along with the ever present promise of enhanced property values. It all sounded wonderful and in a perverse sense sounded sort of logical. But as we have learned over the years not everything works the way it is supposed to. In fact in the case of residential associations, the opposite is true. Not only don’t the members have control over their immediate surroundings but have lost sovereignty over their own private spaces. The existence of an HOA or Condo association is infinitely more intrusive and tyrannical than a neighborhood where the residents are on their own and allegedly have no control.
Jonathan Dessaules joins us On The Commons. Jon is an attorney in Phoenix, Arizona. As part of his practice he represents homeowners against their associations. He is one of a handful of attorneys nationwide who will only represent the owners and not straddle the fence hopping over to the HOA side when they feel like it. Currently his is in a class of his own in Arizona. He also has a blog where he discusses HOA issues and gives general guidance. It’s a great page to check out for quick guidance on some of the more common issues facing homeowners. We talk to Jon about all the usual HOA issues common to all American homeowners but we also talk about a long and protracted case that he recently won. His clients own a unit in an upscale condominium where the fees are in excess of $1,000/month. The condo shut the key card down, impeding access to the private unit and banned the use of the amenities until the owners forfeited a right they had. So much for having greater control of your immediate surroundings in a residential association.
It is one of the most beautiful times of the year when people seem to be filled with good cheer and love for their fellow man and woman. To celebrate that their good cheer, they go out of their way to deck their homes with wreaths and lights and all kinds of outdoor decorations. It is the time of year when families either walk around their neighborhoods enjoying the decorations or, with children’s faces in wide eyed wonder, drive through other neighborhoods oohing and aahing over the decorations. But it is also the time of year for the grinch to rear its ugly head, especially where these Christmas decorations are in a homeowners association. We all know that we can’t have fun in a residential association, don’t we?
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons. Deborah is the creator and host of the amazing and much read blog called Independent American Communities. where all the latest HOA stories can be found. And as can be expected stories about Christmas and other holiday lights and decorations are coming under fire by the HOA grinches right about now. Not only are people’s holidays being ruined by the HOA self anointed Supreme Neighbors who think they have a right to dictate who, what, how, where and when residential America may celebrate the holidays but in the process may be ruining fundraising efforts for needy charities. For one such story (with a happy ending) check this out. And of course the UBER grinch (CAI) to the rescue with their “guidelines” on when, where, how, how many, what color, etc, etc, etc. Is it any wonder that more and more housing consumers are listing NO HOA in their list of must have’s when house hunting? Ho Ho Ho.
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.
“Home is the starting place of love, hope and dreams” it is also a place to be safe and express our own personalities. A nd “home is where our story begins” or perhaps, where it continues today.
Larry Murphree joins us On The Commons. Larry, an Air Force veteran, who, like all the other veterans, laid his life on the line to protect the country and the flag that he so loves . Not a terribly difficult concept to understand, is it? In fact it is a lot easier to comprehend than the complex and convoluted concept of a private home being forced into a residential association that is subject to the whims, thuggery and control of the others.
And Larry’s home is where Larry’s story begins. To show his love for his country and for his fellow troops that he shares so much with, 7 years ago Larry put a small flag in his flowerpot on his porch. As you may know, flags and pink flamingos anywhere in an HOA controlled property is somewhat akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull. The reaction from the association is as swift, brutal and often as violent as that of a massive charging bull – except unlike a dumb bull, HOAs know exactly what they are doing, and Larry’s HOA was no exception. First came the violation letter, “There is an unapproved object in your flowerpot” followed by the threats then the fines and the misdirected assessments, the name calling, the public shaming, and of course the never-ending nitpicking, harassment and abuse, liens and foreclosure. All this has been going on for over 7 years and instead of finally stopping, it continues. Larry’s next court date is next week.
Isn’t it time America woke up and realized that HOAs are doing more harm than good? It is time to pull the plug on HOAs. Time to go back to private property being truly private and home being the place where families and loved ones are allowed to be themselves, where love, hope and dreams live.
Americans always took such great pride in the personal freedoms guaranteed them in the constitution. While the founders maintained that these rights were God given and always belonged to the people, the Constitution ensured that the government could not remove them. Probably the 1st Amendment, protecting the right to free speech, is best known yet there seems to be a concerted effort to strip Americans of this right. Much like Pavlov’s dogs we are being trained to limit our freedom of speech little by little. There are many ways this is being done but probably one of the most blatant is moving entire segments of the population into controlled environments where we are told we “agreed” to give up our rights.
John Cowherd joins us On The Commons. John is an attorney in Northern Virginia, who is not only knowledgeable in HOA law, but is one of a handful of attorneys who does represent homeowners. He maintains a blog called Words of Conveyance and recently blogged about Brindley v. City of Memphis and he joins us to discuss this case. We’ll talk to John about Brindley whose right to free speech was curtailed in a property owners association and why he sued the city and the police department and not the association and won.
First you scare them, then you promise to protect them and then you own them. Once that is accomplished, perpetrating the biggest consumer scam is a piece of cake. Buying a few state legislators’ assistance, creating a very lucrative stream of “free” income for the municipalities, paving the way for developers to increase their profit margins exponentially seals the deal. And that is how simple it has been to force housing consumers into HOAs where they can be robbed of their homes, their wealth and health and their peace of mind. The lies that have been repeated over the decades to scare prospective homeowners appear to have become universally accepted truths. After all, if you keep hearing the same thing over and over again, if must be true, right? However, the one thing that is true is that non HOA controlled housing is almost nonexistent in most of the country. So being told that the house you are buying is in a mandatory membership homeowner association is no surprise.
Jonathan Friedrich joins us On The Commons. When he retired, Jonathan left New York in search of lower property taxes and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada where he bought a house that needed a lot of work. He rolled up his sleeves and got to work. When he bought the house he was given an HOA disclosure package which contained a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions commonly known as CC&Rs. Jonathan’s concern was getting away from crippling property taxes and not so much HOAs. His focus was fixing the house he had just bought and making it habitable. He also became involved in his new community. And that’s when the imperfections of his association and association living in general started rising to the top. He dealt with all the usual insanity that seems to go along with HOAs which not so surprisingly led to the court house. After 5 long years in court, Jonathan won his case. But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details and to truly appreciate the win one has to hear the details of his story, in his own words. The twists, the turns, the lies, the misrepresentations made along the way should alert consumers of what to look for and where to look when buying a house. There may be more to come as Jonathan is not finished cleaning up the mess. Stay tuned.
Housing consumers have been told that in an HOA they would enjoy greater control over their environment, they would have full and complete access to all the books and records of the association, their property values would be enhanced and protected and all this while providing them the luxury of carefree living. Hmm? My mother always told me that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. In this case she was right. As far as I can make out the entire HOA housing concept is built on a mountain of lies and more lies and these lies are starting to fall like a house of cards.
Scott Wircenske joins us On The Commons. Scott is a homeowner in Parkhill Manor association located in Olathe, Kansas. His battle is not new and like many people embroiled in HOA issues and problems, he has learned more about associations than he ever wanted to know. So many problems and issues keep coming up again and again in cities, towns and municipalities in state after state across the country. Same problems, same issues, same MO, just the names of the people are different. Many of these problems can be filed under the heading of mismanaged funds or lack of transparency or both. In Scott’s story both of these issues take center stage. Usually when ANY (and I use the term loosely) governing body is reluctant to act in the open and insists on hiding under cover of darkness, there is a reason for it. Scott kept asking the embarrassing questions, information he was entitled to but instead of answers he kept getting vilified by the members of his HOA. You see, they were following the official HOA script. You’ll recognize them when you listen to Scott. Not one to back away, Scott odyssey has been going on for several years, and still continues. His story and experiences should serve as a warning to housing consumers looking for a house in an HOA.
Over the years much has been written about controlled 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.
To say that the sanctity of house and home have been invaded and violated by the proliferation of mandatory membership residential associations, is an understatement. The stories, the horrors and the problems across the country are mind boggling. I believe if you ask 100 people who have been targeted by their HOA to explain the problem with this living concept you’d get several hundred different answers. But I think if you ask some industry members, they’ll have a rather glib explanation: “The 3 P’s – parking, pets and people”. I don’t think that even begins to scratch the surface.
Julio Robaina and Jose Pezos join us On The Commons. Julio, a former member of the Florida House of Representatives a nd once Mayor of South Miami was introduced to the issues in HOAs when he traveled the state as a representative talking to people. Jose, a former Marine Sergeant and combat veteran as well as a board certified Community Association manager have teamed up and own a management company in Miami called PRZMiami . When I first met Julio he was a Representative who went out and met homeowners across Florida and listened to their testimonies. At the time he promised me that he would spend the rest of his life helping homeowners. He has kept that promise. The two of them make quite a team. One of the many problems with HOAs is the lack of transparency, this game of hide and seek where the association refuses to make the members aware of what is going on but expect them to fund their follies. To solve this particular problem, Jose has created an APP that will be available nationwide, yes, it could be coming to your HOA as well. We talk to Julio and Jose about Q2, their app, find out how it works and what problems it will solve. Now on to the next lot of HOA related issues and problems.
Sometimes it is good to step back and take a look at the big picture and try to understand where things fit in. I have always felt that residential associations have crossed the line. When it is permissible for others to spy on their neighbors to ensure they are acting and behaving according to OUR rules and regulations, acting according to OUR dictates, we have lost respect for privacy and individuality. And when civility, due process, dealing with facts rather than emotions and bullying take center stage, we, as a nation, lose and we lose big time!
Caroline Douglas joins us On The Commons . In a departure from our usual HOA issues, we look at how the country as a whole and especially how our elected leaders in Washington are acting and behaving. With impeachment being the topic “du jour”, we take a deep dive into the mechanics of manipulation. By sidestepping the fundamentals of the laws Congress is pushing its own agenda forward. Is it OK to undo an election simply because they are angry? Why is one vote worth more than another vote? Since when has this type of behavior been acceptable in a supposedly democratic civilized society? What is causing people to act and behave in such a manner? While our focus this week is more on Washington and the nation, the similarities between private and public governments are startling.