John Cowherd

John Cowherd

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. 

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Jonathan Friedrich

Jonathan Friedrich

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.    

Jonathan also has a web page HOA Corruption – Check it out.

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Scott Wircenski

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.  

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Gary Solomon

Gary Solomon
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.
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Julio and Jose

 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.  

Listen to Julio and Jose

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Caroline Douglas

Caroline Douglas

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.  

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Deborah Goonan

How do you suppose the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” would have ended had the town’s people been prohibited from yelling that the emperor was naked? The emperor was being robbed, lied to, made a fool of and convinced that he was indeed wearing beautiful new clothes, clothes that he could not see.  Afraid of admitting he couldn’t see them he went along with their deception. Fortunately the thieves were not able to brainwash everyone and the truth did get out.  These days it is so much easier to convince large groups of people by broadcasting the lies and then controlling free speech.  It can be as simple as controlling words or preventing people from gathering or even setting up websites and enforcing much of that through the courts.

Deborah Goonan joins us  On The Commons.  Deborah is the host, prolific author and owner of the  Independent American Communities, a must read blog if you want to keep up with what’s going on in HOA land.  Two of her recent blogs dealt with a couple of my pet peeves, the much abused and often ignored 1st Amendment in HOAs and whether or not HOAs, as some people would have us believe, are here to stay.  We’ll talk to Deborah about a 10 year lawsuit dealing with an owner’s right to free speech.  In an effort to prevent the homeowner in this association from yelling that the emperor was naked, any excuse will do, they headed to court.  In this case the creative argument was a trademark infringement. And then I ask Deborah whether or not we will ever be  free of HOAs.  She had some very interesting facts and comments.  

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Frank Short

I have never much liked the idea of mandatory membership homeowner associations.  The concept of  binding private real property to a hodgepodge of real estate owned by a third party, maintained and controlled by a motley crew of individuals with no expertise in the art of management has always seemed counterintuitive to me.  That the model is not working is no real surprise.  What galls me the most though is the idea that a handful of owners and hired managers are allowed to fine the owners. This is a power that is often used as a bully tool and abused.  The fines can lead to the loss of a home and their financial security.  

Frank Short joins us On The Commons.  Frank, an attorney and a popular repeat guest of the show, discusses fines in HOAs and Condominiums.  He explains why we have fines and who benefits from the fines.  Over the years there have been a number of court cases about fines.  He discuses those cases, explains what the courts considered and tells  us how they ruled.  He also explains the constitutional connections.  This is an excellent show from the archives.  For those being fined by their HOAs for whatever reason, this show is a must for the owner and their attorneys.  

Can You see the violation?
(Hint: The owner of this unit lost his home over flying the American Flag)
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Bill Davis

“It’s a contract” they say.  “You agreed” they insist.  They accuse you of reneging on your promise.  And before you know it, you are being evicted from your home for some senseless reason.  There is so much wrong with this HOA concept, I don’t know where to begin to list even half of the problems.  One of the biggest injustices is the imbalance of power.  If, as proponents of HOAs insist that it is a “contract”, then how come both parties to the contract don’t have the same enforcement abilities ?  When the association, be it a condo, coop or HOA fails to provide the services they are paid to provide, the only recourse available to the owner is to try to find an attorney, go to court and hope to get a judge who understands the issues. 

Bill Davis joins us On The Commons.  Bill is a Texas attorney who knows and understands the issues and the laws involving home and condo associations.  He is a frequent guest On The Commons and is one of a handful of attorneys who will represent the owners.  We talk about the huge imbalance in the abilities of the homeowners to enforce the “contract”.  We have both spoken to so many homeowners who have found themselves homeless because they got tired of paying for services they were not getting.  We discuss the duties and obligations of both parties.  It might not surprise you to learn that there is also an imbalance in the duties and obligations of the parties as well.  You’ll have to tune in.  

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Caroline Douglas

Caroline Douglas

The benefit of making mistakes should be that we learn from them and – hopefully- avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.  So how come we never seem to learn from the mistake of imposing a 4th layer of government on housing consumers?  This extra layer of government has  no   oversight, no separation of powers, no constitutional restraints and total and complete disregard for individual and property rights.   Could the answer be that it really is not a mistake?

Caroline Douglas is back  by popular demand,  On the Commons . Caroline has a Juris Doctor, she has written a law treatise called The Dark Side and is about to teach the material from her book in several college courses in Baltimore, Maryland.  Never having been personally caught in the abuses of an HOA gone off the rails, and never having litigated property association cases, she forces us to look outside the box we have put ourselves in. Tune in for a slightly different show.                

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