Whenever I think of paradise, images of Hawaii come to mind. Miles and miles of beautiful sandy beaches, a never ending expanse of a deep blue ocean with gently rolling waves, lapping on the sand. So peaceful, so serene, so relaxing. It must be paradise. Even the thought of condominiums and homeowner associations are not enough to mar the image of paradise. After all, how could people living in such an idyllic place, waste time on such stupid, irrational and immature petty squabbles that are so common in residential associations of all kinds? Not only have my dreams been shattered but just when I thought I had heard it all, someone has to come along and prove me wrong.
Mary McAndrew joins us On The Commons. Mary lives in Hawaii right on the water, watching the gentle waves lap on the shore and listening to the special music they make as the wash over the sands. But she is apparently far from the paradise I envisioned. She is a mother and a handicapped widow. Mary bought a dilapidated condo, right on the water that needed some major TLC. So she rolled up her sleeves and started transforming her unit into her dream home. We talk to Mary about all the usual bumps in the road, the surprises behind the walls, the problems with the association, living next door to a board member (yes, you know how that goes), the threats, the fines and the lawsuits. So far it is all par for the course, right? So where does the moonshine come in? You’ll have to tune in to find out. That was a new one on me.
What is life like in your residential association? Please take the survey and let us know.
Do you have an HOA story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you.
As regular as clockwork, the Community Associations Institute, CAI, comes out with an annual survey, that, incredibly, year after year confirms their assertion that homeowners in condos, HOAs and co-ops are overwhelmingly happy with their lot in life. Now, I don’t doubt that many homeowners are pleased and think they got a great deal but I have always questioned CAI’s numbers. We know there are major issues and problems that grab the headlines, yet these problems fail to make a dent in these annual surveys. When owners become homeless through no fault of their own, are they likely to be tickled pink with the association? So many things do not add up. So, what is really going on in the homes of American homeowners? Are they really as happy and thrilled as we are led to believe they are? Are the problems just “isolated incidents” and not worth worrying about? To find out how homeowners really feel about their HOA housing, the Coalition for Community Housing Policy in the Public Interest (CHPPI) a not for profit, independent organization without a vested interest in HOAs, decided to ask them.
Sara Benson and Deborah Goonan join us On The Commons. Sara is a real estate broker in Chicago and the co author of the book “Escaping Condo Jail: The keys to navigating risks and surviving perils of the “carefree” community lifestyle”. Deborah is a very active blogger and a seemingly tireless researcher on all the latest news and events taking place in association controlled housing. Her blog is called Independent American Communities. We talk to Sara and Deborah about the survey and the reason for having another one. We talk about the need to find out what really is going on. We are following up on the responses from the last survey CHPPI took. Based on the responses it seemed prudent to dig in a little deeper and find out just how much homeowners really know and understand about the association they live in and are financially responsible for. It is fascinating to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together and to perhaps find the missing pieces. Tune in and please take the survey, send it to your friends and relatives who live in associations and please ask them to also reply to the survey.
Misinformation is all over the place, especially when it comes to HOAs and the loss of individual and property rights and freedoms. Somehow a hand full of industry special interests have been able to convince legislators, judges and real people that millions of Americans have knowingly and willingly given up Constitutional rights and protections. Try as I might, I simply can’t understand, or accept, that seemingly intelligent people would believe such outrageously false statements without question.
When faced with so much misinform and so many outright lies, it then is incumbent on us to set the record straight. But how? It is all about getting the message out. The message and the messengers have to be factual, unemotional and credible. Long rants, crying uncontrollably and obfuscating the facts with gibberish will get us exactly where we are. Nowhere. Maybe it is time to rethink our strategy and our messengers.
Andy Ostrowski joins us On The Commons. Andy is a former attorney who has been working on court reform in Pennsylvania. He ran unsuccessfully for Public office in an effort to right the many wrongs he has seen. Along the way he stumbled into a quagmire of property rights horrors and abuses in condos and HOAs in his neck of the words in Central Pennsylvania. He added those issues to the long list of injustices he was determined to fight. He has been working on getting his Law License reinstated and in the meantime he started hosting his own radio show where he included a number of property rights advocates and activists. The show is currently on hiatus but he hopes to bring it back soon. We talk to Andy about the problems and the challenges of setting the record straight on so many of the issues. We also discuss the need for credibility when getting that message out. Credibility? Tune in to find out.
In memory ofJill Schweitzer, a valiant warrior in the property rights battle for transparency and honest. Jill lost her life on October 25, 2016. Here is a show from July 2014
“If it hurts, it must be good for you”. Remember that one? Fortunately we got smart and realized that if it hurt it really was not good for us. Along the same lines of thinking is the other oft repeated canard which is that homeowner associations protect property values. “If your HOA makes you miserable and physically ill, is abusive, is grossly mismanaged, is secretive, etc. etc. etc., it is OK because it protects your property values.” This makes about as much sense as “if it hurts, it’s good for you.” Despite the fact that the “protected property values” claim is totally unsubstantiated, we hear it over and over again.
Maybe it is time to get smart and to stop being so gullible. Next time you are told HOAs protect property values, insist on tangible proof. Preventing a neighbor from painting their front door red is not acceptable and it really doesn’t prove anything.
Jill Schweitzer joins us On The Commons. Jill is a Real Estate Broker in Scottsdale, Arizona where there are a lot of mandatory membership HOAs and condominiums. She is concerned about all the problems in these controlled properties and has taken it upon herself to try to understand what is going on. She actually put pen to paper and did the math. She tracked and analyzed property values in 10 condo projects in Scottsdale over a period of 10 years. Her findings are on her website hoasavers.com It might come as no surprise that contrary to protecting property values, HOAs can actually devalue property. Tune in, we’ll talk to Jill about a myriad of problems that seem to be part and parcel of HOAs, find out why she decided to look into HOAs and what she is planning on doing to protect her clients’ property.
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.
One of the most oft cited benefits of living in the US has always been the right to own property. Having a roof over one’s head and being able to provide a safe and happy home for one’s family has been referred to as the American Dream. Imagine, a house in the middle of a yard, surrounded by a lush green lawn, fruit trees, flowers and room to play with the kids, grandkids and pets. It doesn’t get much better than that!
So when and how did the dream go so very wrong? When did it become such a nightmare? When did the homeowner stop being the architect of his property, the pilot of her own destiny, the author of his or her story? And when did she or he become the hunted and the target in this insane war in the neighborhood? What is happening in our residential developments is sounding the death knell for what some believe to have been a greatest experiment in freedom.
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, an attorney in Texas, defends homeowners caught in the middle of the insanity that seems to have become very much part and parcel of “living the American Dream”. He knows and understands the legal structure of deed restricted developments but more importantly he also knows their limits. Join us as we discuss some of the torture tactics used to bully a homeowner and the far reaching consequences of the actions of these abuses. We also hear the incredible facts in one case that highlights what can happen when neighborhood thugs are given unfettered power to browbeat and bully a neighbor.
The stories vary little and over time have become predictable. The same words are used over and over again when talking about life in an HOA. Fear, harassment, fines, threats, abuse, vandalism. Over the last four or five decades, America’s residential neighborhoods have been transformed from tidy, happy communities into places of terror. Places where individuality, personal expression and personal freedom have given way to war zones. Far from the love affair Americans allegedly have with their HOAs, the truth is homeowners say they hate their HOAs.
And with very good reason.
Dr. Robin Huhn joins us On The Commons. Robin lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and like many homeowners across the country, has experienced firsthand what it feels like to be caught in the cross hairs of the neighborhood bullies. She is currently on the board of her association and shares with us her experiences as a homeowner, a board member and an advocate for the owners. We will hear about some of the calls and emails she gets and will learn what life is like when one finds oneself living in a house that has been targeted. My guess is that many of my listeners will understand exactly what she is talking about.
If you are reading this promo or tuning into On The Commons regularly, chances are you have had a nasty surprise or two when you bought your HOA burdened house. I often hear homeowners tell me they will never buy in an HOA again for as long as they live. Do you suppose they would have felt that way had they known what they were getting themselves into? Would a 2 or 3 inch stack of legal papers prepared them for life as usual in an HOA? Do you feel you were you given all the necessary and pertinent documents about the association before closing escrow? Did you have enough time to read and understand the contents of the package? Were there any red flags? What would you tell a friend and/or a relative who is house hunting to look for? What do you think should be included in a disclosure package that is not included now?
John Cowherd joins us On The Commons. John, an attorney in Virginia, is one of a handful of attorneys across the country who represents homeowners in disputes with their HOAs. John is also interested in educating the public about HOAs and condominiums. He has a widely read and discussed blog called Words of Conveyance where he writes about cases, legislation, and how stories that have made the headlines might affect associations. We talk to John about the Virginia Disclosure laws and whether they are doing an adequate job of informing potential buyers of what they can expect if they buy in the HOA. We also talk about whether the 72 hours buyers are given is enough time to read through the package and make a decision of whether to not to cancel the purchase. He gives us a lot of food for thought.
Have you ever wondered just where you fit into the grand scheme of our modern world? Who makes all the decisions that affect you and your family? How many strings are being pulled to determine the course of your life and the choices you think you are making? Think of all the layers of government authorized (or not) to adopt laws controlling almost every aspect of your life, where and how you live, what you eat, what you say and how you behave. To help put it into perspective, imagine peeling back the layers of an onion and when you do, just like an onion, it will make you cry.
But then you console yourself with the thought that all those layers and layers are protecting you. Are they?
Jan Bergemann joins us On The Commons. Jan is the founder and president of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice, CCFJ. Over the years Jan has worked with legislators, attorneys and homeowners trying to improve the status quo of owners in Florida’s approximately 4 million association controlled dwelling units. It should have been simple if all those layers of governments were in fact working to protect you, wouldn’t it? We’ll talk to Jan about Some of the major issues facing Floridians, we’ll touch on some of the stupidity that seems to be rampant in controlled America, we’ll find out just who (and how) those layers are really protecting and of course, it would not be a conversation with Jan without a trip back to Germany to compare issues on both sides of the Big Pond. He might just have a few ideas worth thinking about.
Peeling back the layers of an onion will make you cry.
Is it all about power or is money really at the root of all evil? Or is it a combination of both? I am of course taking about this notion of a fourth layer of government or, as they are more commonly referred to, mandatory membership homeowner associations. Whatever the reason for their proliferation, consumer choice is not one of them and consumer acceptance is a myth. Municipal mandates ensure a steady stream of tax free dollars flowing into the public coffers while power hungry board members are always on hand to enforce alleged rules and regulations. Let’s not forget the special interests behind the scenes orchestrating everything. For them it is definitely power, money and greed. So what is a homeowner to do once the honeymoon with their new house is over? They usually hit the internet and start searching for a friendly voice out there and the they do, they are like to find my guest.
Ward Lucas joins us On The Commons. Ward is an award winning TV anchor from Denver, Colorado who has the wonderful ability to see the humor in so many things including his own battles with his HOA. Now retired as an anchor, the heart of a journalist still beats hard in him. He first wrote a book called “Neighbors at War; The creepy case against your homeowners association. That was followed by a blog by the same name where he talks about some of the daily disasters in associations to grab the headlines. His second book is more of a personal story that allows the reader to glimpse the family life that has to be the reason for his wonderful sense of humor. Even the title is fun, “Get this Mother Published. The wacky world of a recovering army brat family”. And for all his fans, stay tuned because book 3 is in the works. We’ll talk about the books, his web site, some of the stories from his Neighbors at War book but mostly about what is happening in HOA land across the country. Tune in as we wander around the whacky world of controlled living, American Style.