Andy Ostrowski

Do all good intentions pave the road to hell?  

The earliest covenant controlled neighborhoods were exclusionary in nature.  Those covenants were struck down by the courts as being unconstitutional and eventually the Federal Government enacted legislation making them illegal.  But unfortunately that is not the end of the story.  Apparently the concept, too good to relegate to the past, was resurrected to ostensibly provide aesthetically pleasing meandering curvilinear streetscapes, complete with dead ends and cul-de-sacs.  But the quid pro quo for redesigning the burgeoning suburbs was to establish homeowner associations to maintain the infrastructure and  provide the services that were, and always had been, the responsibility of local municipal governments. And predictably, all those free tax dollars were too good to risk losing, so local governments across the country started mandating associations.  In the ensuing decades, a simple home, built to shelter, protect and nurture a family, has become the business of everyone else.  Far from being safe and secure, many of the owners live in fear, to the detriment of their health, their wealth and their happiness.  

The resulting horror stories are everywhere but help in understanding and dealing with the problems are nowhere to be found.  “It’s a civil matter, go to court”, “Oh, but you agreed”, “It’s a contract and you are in violation of your end of it”.  It is a bit like finding oneself in the Twilight Zone.  Is there any hope of turning residential America around and bringing it back to a more normal community of real people living together in harmony and friendship rather than a place of dread and fear?

Andy Ostrowski joins us On The Commons this week.  Andy is a civil rights attorney with a history of fighting for those who can’t always fight for themselves.  He is also someone who passionately believes in protecting constitutionally guaranteed rights.  Fortunately for the residents in Pennsylvania’s  11th Congressional District, Andy is running for Congress.  Homeowners in his district have found a sympathetic ear for their plight and know that he will carry their concerns to the hallowed halls of the US Capitol in Washington DC.  What he has learned about residential America led him to write a paper titled;  Homeowner Associations:  The perfect Storm of Corporate Cronyism and Legislative and Judicial Abuse of Constitutional Rights”   You can read his thoughts on the subject on https://www.facebook.com/ostrowskiforcongress  and you can learn more about him on his website http://andyostrowski.com and be sure to tune in to On The Commons to hear him, in his own words, talk about where he has been and where he plans on going.  And if you live in the 11th Congressional District in Pennsylvania, do us all a favor and go to the polls and vote for Andy.  American homeowners need a voice in Congress but only you can get him there.

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Larry Murphree and Stephanie Krasowski

We have lost sight of the true value of homeownership in this country.  Traditionally buying property included a “Legal Bundle of Rights” that came with the deed.
Those “rights” included the rights of possession, control, exclusion, enjoyment and disposition  and were irrefutable.  As long as the tax man was paid and the banker got the mortgage money, the owners were the royalties in residence.  They enjoyed every bit of the rights they acquired when they got the title to their castles.  The concept worked well until mandatory membership HOAs were involuntarily foisted on American homeowners.  No longer does ownership guarantee any of those rights, no longer do governments protect those rights and no longer is ownership a thing of pride and dignity.  In the kontrolled world of HOA living, pride, dignity, security, control and individuality have been replaced by fear, terror, abuse, theft and ill health.

On The Commons this week we are rejoined by Larry Murphree.  You will recall that Larry, a condo owner in Florida, was cited by his HOA for having an “unauthorized object in his flowerpot” and was being fined $100/day for his transgression.  Yes, you read it right, the kondo kommandos in Larry’s little bit of heaven decided to come up with a list of “flowerpot rules”!  Author of condo flowerpot rules. Put that on your epitaph!  Larry’s 11X17 INCH flag violates the rules, offends their aesthetics and the uniformity of the look alike units.  As if that was not bad and stupid enough, the HOA attorney has started foreclosing to collect fines and legal fees.  in a power HOAs have commonly known as the priority of payment scam, legitimate assessments are diverted to pay the HOA attorney FIRST (wonder who wrote those laws?), fines, interest and other junk fees before making sure their share of the commons expenses are covered.   And as often happens,  there is nothing left the owner and the owner is behind in his or her dues. Time to foreclose and collect dues from “these deadbeat homeowners”. You can read more about Larry’s plight in his condo http://letmeflytheflag.com

What if you don’t violate a flowerpot rule?  How well are your Rights of ownership being protected?

Stephanie Krasowski joins us during the second half of the show.  Stephanie, also a condo owner in Florida, is fighting a much bigger problem than a stupid flowerpot rule.  In her case it is not stupid neighbors but a stupid government that made it possible for her and thousands of Floridians to lose their homes in what amounts to a hostile takeover.  When a law is enacted as a knee jerk reaction to address a relatively small issue without putting in adequate protections to protect the citizens and prevent a small group of people from using and abusing the law for their own benefit, the lives of many people can be ruined.  A law that allows 80% of the owners in a condo project to terminate the condominium, stripping the remaining 20% of the owners of their RIGHTS and rendering them homeless is a huge problem.  Exact numbers may not be available but it is known that at least 17,010 people have lost their homes through no fault of their own and another 1035 families are at risk of being victims of this particular scam.  You can read more about this disaster at http://www.cnbc.com/id/101746928 and sign Stephanie’s petition to save her home at http://www.change.org/p/floridiansact-against-condo-takeover .

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Lisa Kapsokefales

“We have met the enemy and he is us” – Pogo.  

If they can get it right in a cartoon why can’t we see it?  We have been tinkering with residential America to the point where it is worse than anything imaginable. First we privatized public functions, not to make them more economically sound but to give local municipal governments a free pass on the tax money they collected. Then we lied to housing consumers and constituents by telling them these new fancy schemes will protect property values. Then we took away all the choices consumers and potential owners had NOT to live behind bars, being micromanaged by bullies.  What this fancy new scam did was allow governments to mandate associations that benefits them, that benefit the developers who get away with increasing density and cutting corners and by building an entire new career field on the backs of the homeowners.  This new industry is costing home and condo owners 65 Billion dollars annually,

When all the tweaking, massaging and lies were said and done what we ended up with is a housing scheme that terrorizes residents, is run by a bunch of inept lunatics, is adding immeasurably to the stress level of Americans, costing them their health, their wealth and yes, even their homes.  What is happening in residential America is, simply, a disgrace.  But that’s OK, there is always the government, right?  The only legitimate function of any government is to protect its citizens and in America we have lots of layers of government so lots of protections, right?  Let’s see, we have the Federal government, with a President, Senators, Congressman, the FBI, the CIA, the Justices, the courts, to oversee things.  In fact they have an entire city to rule from.  Then we have State governments with Governors and Lt Governors, an Attorney General with deputies, there are state legislators and state agencies and small and large county governments and city mayors and more agencies than you can shake a stick at.  They’ll help, right?  After all they are there to protect you, the citizen, the tax payer, the constituent, the homeowner.  That’s what you pay your taxes for, isn’t it?

Lisa Kapsokefalos joins us On The Commons this week. Lisa and her family bought a townhouse on Lake Champlain in New York state as a second home.  They needed a place to slow down, recharge their batteries and provide their kids with a healthy environment to go to.   But the peaceful and healthy home they thought they bought turned out to be anything but.  Their saga covers well over a decade of harassment and abuse by their neighbors – for no apparent reason other than just because they could.  But there is something very different about this particular “association”.  It is NOT an association.  Just because 3 of the neighbors decide to charge everyone monthly dues doesn’t mean they have the authority to do so.  You’d think THAT little fact would put an end to the tyranny.  There was no constructive notice, there was nothing to agree to.  Unfortunately the courts didn’t see it that way.  And it will probably not surprise you to learn that every single government office or agency Lisa contacted just shrugged their shoulders and said there was nothing they could do.  You will have to hear her story.  

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Stephen Smith

CAI’s Fact Book claims that the current thinking in HOAs is that “Community means harmony – Governance means transparency – Business means sustainability”  Sounds positively utopian, doesn’t it?  For years proponents of kontrolled living have tried to convince us that associations are democracy up close and personal, that they give owners an unprecedented opportunity to influence their surroundings, that the members have a say in the decisions made by the collective and it goes on and on.  If there was even a kernel of truth to any of this total misrepresentation of the facts, why do an ever increasing number of HOA detainees compare their associations to war zones?  Why are more and more horror stories grabbing the headlines?  
 
Over the years we have been warned the future of HOAs is in jeopardy due to the lack of interest by the owners.  The complaints from industry leaders ranged from homeowners not attending association meetings to not caring enough to run for the board and not providing the necessary oversight  to prevent all the embezzlement we keep hearing about. Now we are told that in those days of dire predictions for HOAs that the thinking was  “Governance meant compliance. Community meant conformity.”  We’ve come a long way to arrive at harmony and transparency, haven’t we?

So just how harmonious and transparent are today’s homeowner associations?  

On The Commons with us this week is Stephen Smith.  Stephen, a condo owner in Florida, decided to avail himself of some of that transparency that seems to be the hallmark of associations by asking about the reserve account and the need for a loan.  After all, as a member he will be on the hook financially to cover all the costs and obligations  incurred by the association.  But apparently the folks on his board had not received the email about being open and responsive to the owners because he was given the run around.  However, the incident occurred in a very harmonious setting, right?  For a better understanding of the harmony that exists in associations, you can watch a clip of that meeting here.  Be forewarned that someone just might try to tell you that it is an isolated incident but don’t you believe it.

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