Dave Russell

Have you ever wondered how some of the worst bills imaginable get passed into law?  Sponsoring a horrible bill for a special interest who happens to be a major campaign contributor requires extra care and finesse, especially when the bill has a snowball’s chance of passing as a stand alone bill.  To get the bills voted into law, they are often rolled into a bill everyone favors.  Arizona, however, has a single issue requirement.  In other words, if the bill cannot stand on its own, you can’t roll it into another one to get it passed.  A great idea but apparently the very people who write the laws don’t think those laws apply to them.  An omnibus bill, including the fantasying provision of banning municipal HOA mandates, was enacted last year but a couple of citizens sued the state, alleging the law was in violation of the State single issue requirement, and they WON!  

Guess what?  Some Arizona legislators, who should know better, apparently did not learn that lesson because they have not one but two omnibus bills in the works right now.  And just like HOAs there is no adult supervision anywhere in sight because the task of enforcing the laws, in this case, falls on the citizens.

David Russell joins us On The Commons this week.  Dave in a community manager in Mesa, Arizona.  As an owner in a formerly mismanaged association, he fully understands the frustrations and problems encountered by the home and condo owners. He is also very aware of the desperate need for homeowner friendly legislation but not at the cost of violating other laws.  So he is on a mission to ensure that NO ONE is above the law, including, and perhaps especially, those who write and sponsor them.  Join us, we’ll talk about how he got into management, some of the “red flags” in kontrolled  kommunities and why he is suing the State of Arizona.

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Bill Davis

The road to justice and equality in HOAs is fraught with huge roadblocks for the homeowner.  Just finding someone who can explain what is going on or how to deal with the threat and demand letters that keep pouring in can be daunting enough, but fInding an attorney knowledgeable in HOA law who is willing to represent a homeowner is almost impossible in some parts of the country and very difficult in other areas.

The Mis’s are thriving in America’s almost 330,000 mandatory membership homeowner associations – MISinformation, MISstatments, MISunderstandings, MIScalculations and MIStakes.  Housing consumers are often misinformed about what they are getting themselves into when they buy a unit in an HOA.  The information provided by all the professionals along the line is misstated and often miscalculated leading to some less than welcome surprises down the road.  Mistakes are made and somehow the homeowner always ends up paying.  

What can a homeowner, caught in the crosshairs of an out of control association, do?  WHat shouldn’t they do?

Bill Davis is On The Commons with us this week.  Bill is an attorney in Texas who found himself in the unenviable position of having to go to court to protect his property rights.  He learned all about HOA law and now represents homeowners against their HOAs.  We’ll find out what is going on in associations and talk about some things people need to watch out for and things homeowners should never agree to.

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Janice Fontell

Have you heard the one about homeowner associations being democracy “up close and personal”?  The story goes that members are expected to participate in meetings, voice their opinions and to be part of the “community” which includes being financially responsible for common expenses.  So it only stands to reason that one should be entitled to an explanation of any increases.  But what happens when a member asks a simple question about a dues increase?

On this show we will start at that point – a very small dues increase and when an explanation was asked for the name calling, finger pointing and suppressing information started.  When a simple answer to a simple question is not forthcoming and creates such acrimony, something is wrong.  So when a situation doesn’t pass the smell test it is prudent to dig a little deeper especially when your most valuable asset, your home, is at stake.

But that is easier said then done.

On the Commons with us this week we are joined by Janice Fontell.  Janice is an accountant by trade and she bought into the notion of “carefree living” that her condo promised.  She paid her dues and minded her own business.  Join us as we follow her incredible journey into homeownership, her awakening and subsequent education into what HOA living really is all about.  But that is only the beginning because she found herself learning all about the law and her way around court where she ultimately prevailed – in part 1.  You will want to hear this part of her story.  There is another case pending and we hope to catch up with Janice later on.

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Dennis Kocher

The first time I spoke to Lincoln Cummings, one of the founders of the Community Associations Institute, I asked him; “Why homeowner associations”?  I was surprised when he said because young professionals often left family and friends behind to pursue careers out of state where they found themselves alone and without the support they had at home.  He thought HOAs would provide a sense of community for an otherwise largely transient society.  There is nothing sinister about what he wanted however the “instant community” that was intended to provide that safety net came loaded with unintended consequences.  

Far from what we typically think of when we think of communities, over the years HOAs have morphed into what can best be described as war zones where pettiness, fear and adversity rule.  You need go no further than Auburn, California for an example of what I mean. Not far from Lake of the Pines Homeowner Association is Beale Air Force Base where our young military families live. They are far from home, away from their families and in need of that safety net Lincoln talked about.  One man found a way to support them, one man helped them furnish their homes and when the US government refused to do the job they were elected to do and closed the commissaries instead of passing a budget,  these young families were left without food.  Again, one man helped feed them.

On the Commons this week we are joined by Dennis Kocher.  Dennis is a Vietnam era vet who understands the hardships often endured by young military families. Dennis found a need – and filled it.  For over the last decade, he used his passion and skills for furniture building to furnish the homes of these young military families on base, making their lives  just a little more comfortable and their immediate surroundings a little more beautiful.  As Robert Baden-Powel said; “The most worth-while thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others.” I think Dennis would agree with that.  However, as we all know, no good deed goes unpunished and now Dennis finds himself in the cross hairs of some of the people in power in his HOA.  Please join us, we’ll talk to Dennis, find out why trying to bring a little joy and happiness into the lives of the young folks in his community would cause such heart burn in his HOA. 

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