Over the years battle weary homeowners across the country have reached out to share their tales of woe as they try to survive in their own homes. Some of the stories are sad, others make me mad, some are funny, silly, ridiculous, outrageous, abusive, horrible and even deadly but the one thing they all have in common is that they reinforce my belief that this housing concept is structurally flawed and cannot be tweaked and made into something a little more homeowner friendly. Nothing short of a major overhaul will suffice to drag it out of the dark ages.
Jerry Berg joins us On The Commons. Jerry lives in a condominium in Kansas and like many other homeowners in America, Jerry wondered, out loud, what was happening to all the money the association was collecting from the homeowners. That was 5 years ago. His curiosity earned him a severe beating with a crow bar, which landed him in the hospital. He was jailed a couple of times, fined $100 seventy one times. One of those fines was for walking his dog “too slowly” across their private driveway. His court case was recently postponed so he continues to live in limbo, just waiting for justice to be served. Hoping that justice will be served. In the meantime he has had more surgery and the insanity in his neighborhood continues.
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 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.
Claiming to be a 5th generation landowner, Philip Thompson said, “I will do whatever it takes to help preserve the countryside we call home”. The countryside he calls home is in Fauquier County, Virginia about an hour outside Washington DC. He inherited much of the land in the countryside he called home, then proceeded to place a large tract into a conservation easement managed by the Piedmont Environmental Council, (PEC). Much like the Declarations in residential associations, the easements restrict the use of the property. Much like a residential association, power is given to the administrator. And we all know that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”(Lord Acton) regardless of who has it.
Dr. Bonner Cohen joins us On The Commons. Dr. Cohen is a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research. He also serves as senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. He is an author, has spoken at conferences, and appears on TV and radio. Dr. Cohen, a friend of Martha Boneta, has been following the horrors and abuses taking place in Liberty Farms. He wrote an article about the latest round of lawsuits. We find just what Mr. Thompson meant when he said he would do “whatever it takes…” And for “before” and “after” pictures of what the farm looked like under the Thomas’s and the PEC’s stewardship, watch Farming in Fear.
This is a rebroadcast of a show first recorded in 2014 but the case is still ongoing.
When the scene is set for fraud and abuse, the crooks, criminals and villains will come by the droves. Residential associations, be they condos, homeowner associations or cooperatives, where membership is mandatory, the power and authority is in the hands of a few and there is an enormous industry that feeds off these housing schemes and more importantly, the owners have been left pretty much defenseless, is an open invitation to all those who conspire to do wrong. Just how much corruption goes on every day is unknown. Even in Las Vegas when it became apparent in 2008 that the FBI was investigating wrong doings by board members, managers and HOA industry attorneys, the full extent of what went on is is still largely unknown.
Nevada State Senator Mike Schneider joins us On the Commons this week. Senator Mike, as he is known to his constituents, joins us to talk about the FBI investigation that became apparent in 2008 and is still ongoing. The problems and the scams are incredible, ranging from election fraud to construction defect lawsuits. There have been many indictments, many sentences handed down and many more mysteries and unanswered questions that still hound this situation. There are sealed records, gag orders, four alleged suicides, at least one attorney beaten to a pulp, kneecaps smashed with a baseball bat and left for dead, stark naked on the streets of his neighborhood. As Mike says, “dead men can’t talk”. Were they suicides? And if they were, what could be so bad that it is preferable to take ones own life than face the consequences? It also begs the questions of why sealed records and gag orders? What else are they hiding? And just how pervasive are these practices? We all know that that what goes on in Las Vegas really doesn’t stay there and that the same things is being replicates across the country. The FBI just hasn’t managed to get to them all. Will they or will everyone else simply get away with it while our legislators blindly ignore the problems?
We all dream of a safe, happy and healthy home in a safe, happy and healthy neighborhood. We all need and want the security that comes with a real “community” where we can raise our families, spend time with our friends and families and retire to when we want to shut the rest of the world out. Unfortunately that ideal of “home” seems to have been lost in a quagmire of a legal morass. whether in a residential association or out in the countryside. Gone are the days of a simple and peaceful life where neighbors were friends who looked out for each other. Sadly nowadays the people watching are not doing so to be helpful but instead looking for ways to destroy their neighbors and take their property away their property.
Martha Boneta joins us On The Commons this week. Martha, an organic farmer followed her dream and her passion for growing good wholesome food to feed her family, friends and neighbors. She soon discovered that not all her neighbors were pure of heart. Over the past 10 years they have sought to take her farm away from her. They have been abusive, underhanded and plain obnoxious. Throughout it all, she has stood firm, fought back and inspired many people to step forward to “Stand with Martha”. No matter how bad things get,Martha always has a kind word and a radiant smile . Her story and her positive attitude in the face of adversity have attracted people to support her. Legislators so outraged by how the laws are being abused by government agencies and appointed commissions have carried bills for her to try to right so many wrongs. Movie and documentary producers followed her battle for years releasing an award winning documentary earlier in the year called “Farming in Fear”. Martha also has a website, In Martha’s own words, “Today will never come again. Be Humble. Be Compassion. Be Love. Be Light”.
From an early age, we give children coloring books and a box of crayons and teach them to “color inside the lines”. We also “help” them pick the right colors. Pink elephants? Oh my! Blue hair? You can’t do that! Here is a nice bright yellow crayon instead.
When my daughter was little I used to buy her un-coloring coloring books. These books consisted of stories with just a few lines, or part of a drawing and encouraged children to complete the picture and add to the story before coloring it. Looking back I wonder if those coloring books contributed to my daughter’s rebellious nature? I also whether we are training our children, from a very early age, to “conform to accepted norms”? If we won’t encourage our children to think outside the box, will they be able to do just that as adults or will they continue to stay safely within the lines?
Bill Davis, for whom boxes and lines just don’t exist, joins us On The Commons. From the day Bill, a Texas attorney, switched his practice to representing homeowners in HOAs, he has been busy with some of the most interesting cases. We talk to him about several of his cases, marvel at the incredible gall some “neighbors” have, listen to some of the crazy and whacky stuff that goes on in HOAs. Through it all we hear stories of real people, find humor and horror. Bill entertains us and instructs us. He explains the legal issues, talks about Texas law and points out the nuances. And by refusing to stay inside the lines drawn by the HOA industry, he manages to come up with some unique and creative strategies to protect his clients’ property and their rights. Be sure to tune in and listen to the show and if any of the cases Bill discusses sound a little too familiar, make sure your attorney also listens in.
Those darling dinosaurs, happily grazing in a Texas yard brought smiles to the faces of children of all ages. The grumpy board members of the inevitable HOA, not so much. They decided that the dynamic duo had to leave “or else….” Well, you know what they can be like – a little power and they lose their heads. But this story really is all about the power of the people, the ability of the neighbors to appreciate a couple of beautiful sculptures that give such joy to the folks next door and across the street. Notwithstanding the grumpy ones, the residents of this neighborhood all wanted a pair of dinosaurs of their own – at least for a while. And thus began an amazing journey and a lesson for all of us, including the grumpy group. Are you listening?
By the way, you do not have to be a board member to be grumpy and not all board members are grumpy.
Nancy Hentschel joins us On The Commons to give us an update on her ingenious plan to share her dinosaurs with her new friends in the neighborhood. She explains how her generosity is helping make money for the charities. The plan is simple and brilliant. Any neighbor who wants to have the dinosaurs spend a little time in their front yard will have to make a $50 donation to the charity of their choice. Charities are getting much needed money, especially at this time of the year. Smiles, grins, joy and photo ops these big prehistoric beings bring continue. It is a win win for all. Although Nancy is in the process of moving to a saner, kinder neighborhood where grumpy people are not allowed, she is generously allowing her dazzling dinos to remain behind. They are defying the traditional HOA wisdom about uniformity and conformity protecting property values and proving that a little fun can go a long way in making a happy community. Talking to Nancy I was reminded of a short story I read online called A Flock of Lawn Flamingos . Nancy, thanks for reminding us of what is really important in life.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have news for you, if it hurts it is NOT good for you. The only people who would have you believe that nonsense are those who are out to take advantage of you and to harm you. One of the biggest scams that has been harming Americans for the past several decades is residential associations. If these associations are such a great deal, why not provide housing consumers with honest, truthful information about what they are buying into? However, that disclosure will have to include all possible risks to their homes, their wallets, their health and the health and well being of their children. It is not about pools, tennis courts, community centers and all the glitz, but also about harassment, fines, being put under the microscope, special assessments, foreclosures, and all the abuses for such ridiculous alleged infractions, such as children’s bikes that are visible, basket ball hoops, hopscotch on the sidewalk. It is about living, living as a family without fear, raising happy healthy children instead of couch potatoes with weight problems and a lifetime of health problems.
Dr. Gary Solomon joins me On The Commons this week. Dr. Solomon has dedicated the last several years of his life to to educating the public about the health risks of living in an HOA. He has written one of the most creative and comprehensive e-books called HOA:Crisis in America which he has made available online free to everyone. You can read the book, listen to it or watch video clips. It is book that everyone should read, whether in the hallowed halls of our State and Federal Capitols, academia and especially his colleagues in the medical world. The medical practitioners who have the task of healing and curing their patients need to understand the root cause of the problems their patients are suffering. Every time I talk to Dr. Solomon, I learn something new and I get to know the man a little better. He is definitely a man well worth getting to know.
Let the children play in HOAs. They deserve a normal childhood and will not devalue property.
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.