Have you ever wondered why we have so many horror stories in condominiums and homeowner associations? How do we get from the concept of living in a community with neighbors, to penalizing them for having the temerity to annoy us? And if someone is bold enough to displease us in anyway, what on earth does one do? Talk to the offending sot and explain why he or she is being so boorish and insensitive? But wait, in a kontrolled kommunity there is a better way. The computer to the rescue!
Turnaround is fair play, so this week we find out what it is like to be a condominium manager.
Dave Russell joins us On The Commons this week. Dave is a resident owner and an onsite manager in a fairly large condominium complex in Arizona. The advantage of not having to deal with rush hour traffic, road rage and traffic jams is offset by the fact that he never really leaves work. But Dave is a cheerful chap who seems to take it all in stride. Having the patience of Job and a sense of humor certainly help but what is particularly impressive is the way he handles some of the whacky people and the completely nutty issues he has to deal with. Join us as we hear about some of the problems he has been asked to handle, they’ll make you smile, laugh and applaud that the problems are solved all without resorting to fines and attorneys and ultimately maintaining a sense of community in the Arizona desert. And when you listen to Dave’s entertaining stories, bear in mind that some of these “neighbors” can end up on the board which might explain why we have so many horror stories.
An attorney representing an HOA once advised a board that the fees being charged to just some of the homeowners was in violation of the Declaration. He explained it by saying; “…. you are on less than concrete legal foundation. Most homeowners don’t avail themselves of their rights but should you be challenged you can make a decision based on the economics of the litigation”. In other words, if no one questions any of the board or management decisions or challenges certain policies, the HOA is home free. The one thing in the above quote that I agree with is that most homeowners never challenge anything and passively obey all the rules. However, for the few homeowners who simply won’t just accept what they are told, especially when things just don’t seem to add up, there may be a pot of gold at the end of the end of their rainbow.
Robert Stern joins us On The Commons this week. Robert is a successful businessman who owns several houses on both sides of the country – all in homeowner associations. He is a financial executive, a CPA by trade and he knows his numbers. He is also no stranger to being on boards and understanding how associations work. True to form, when he bought his house in Henderson, Nevada, he ran for, and was elected to, the board of directors. But being in the leadership did nothing to protect him from being involved in a couple of lawsuits.
But Robert is a busy and energetic man who has written several books. He chronicles his journey through HOAs in his latest book, “HOA WARS; What Happens in Vegas Can Happen Anywhere”. In this book he talks about the people he met along the way including the activists who chose to speak up and try to right a wrong or two. He explains how he found and why he returned $1.2 Million to his fellow homeowners. He also talks about yet another law suit his association filed against him. The book has all the makings of a hollywood movie and who knows, maybe one day his story will come to a screen near you. But until that happens, check out his web page at http://hoawars.tateauthor.com where you can read all about him and order his book. Be sure to tune in and listen to him tell his story, explain what to look for and how, if you avail yourself of your rights, you too may find a pot of gold hidden in the musty records of your HOA.
We all have dreams and aspirations of what we want to be when we grow up. Most of us will change our minds many times over and then end up doing something completely different. A few lucky people KNOW what they want to do and actually realize their dreams. This week we will be following one such dreamer, a little girl who always wanted to be a farmer, to grow food, raise animals and feed her community. Growing up she imagined planting rows and rows of different vegetables and harvesting beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, melons, strawberries, raising bees and harvesting honey, collecting big baskets of eggs, big ones, little ones in a rainbow of colors; brown ones and white ones and lavender ones. She planned on teaching the kids all about farming and the miracle of growing good, healthy food. She aspired to be a productive and vital part of her community and she always intended to be a great steward of the land she loves.
The little dreamer grew up and bought a small family farm where she happily planted her crops, raised her animals, harvested honey and happily did all the things farm chores that she always she planned on doing. But all was not as rosy as she had hoped for. The heavy hand and abuses of a local environmental council reared its ugly head right from the very beginning and, in concert with the local municipal government, started making life and the once happy dream of farming a living nightmare.
Martha Boneta joins us On The Commons this week. Martha is the little girl who grew up to be a farmer. Along with the joy of growing farm fresh fruit and vegetables, producing eggs and honey and herbs and sharing her love of the land with her animals and all who visit, Martha has had to fight to protect her right to farm her land. Despite the fact that Virginia is a “right to farm” state, local county supervisors have joined forces with the council members on a local Land Trust to try to shut her down. After several law suits and tireless lobbying at the State level, Martha got, what has become known as the Martha Boneta Bill, passed into law. But that was just the beginning. Martha recently inspired her fellow Virginians to rally in RIchmond to put an end to what can only be described as harassment and abuse of power by an environmental council. Join us to learn about some of the most outrageous behavior of this group and the humiliation, embarrassment and horror Martha and her family have endured.
If you hear something often enough, does it make it true?
Over the years we have been told repeatedly that HOAs protect property values. The question then has to be, just how do HOAs protect property values and for whom? Ask any HOA industry professional and they will tell you that HOAs prevent people from painting their front door an unapproved color. Is a green door preferable to a red one? Is a black door more valuable? If every single door for miles around is the exact same color, will life be better? Will the house be worth more because it is a carbon copy of every single other house? Whatever happened to the notion that one’s home is one’s castle? Can an HOA tell Queen Elizabeth what color she can paint her gate, insist she get ACC approval for her gate and gatehouses? Whatever happened to the notion that the true value of property is in its use? Is your “castle” any less valuable to YOU than Buckingham Palace is to the British Royal Family?
Why does the mere suggestion of a different colored front door instill fear and horror in the hearts of homeowners? To control a neighbor’s use and enjoyment of their property, Americans appear to be willing to give up freedoms that property owners have traditionally enjoyed. Along with giving up sovereignty over one’s own property, HOA denizens are prepared to risk it all. Not only does that kontrolled house cost them more on an ongoing basis but their keepers can fine and foreclose to collect that fine simply because they don’t like you. Is that protecting property values?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill is an attorney in Texas who switched his practice to representing homeowners in HOAs. In addition to having represented clients who have been targeted by their HOAs, Bill has written extensively about them in many forums. He has seen the not so good, the very bad and the horribly ugly sides of associations. We talk about the inherent conflict of corporate interests and individual property values especially in condominiums. We also discuss the phenomenon of blind obedience in these associations. People are terrified of them but seem afraid not be in one. Join us.
“Home” – the word conjures up many images. To some it is a spacious mansion, filled with friends and family, and to others it is a cozy peaceful little nook where the owners are safe and warm. Some of these abodes are in the country, surrounded by fields, streams and mountains while others are in cities. Some high up in the sky with amazing views and others closer to terra firma. Regardless of size, where or what the image of home is to everyone, the one thing they all have in common is that “home” is where the residents can shut the rest of the world out and to be safe. But how well does the image of a safe haven square with the reality of a mandatory membership homeowners association? With all the hype of HOAs protecting values and in a lot of cases, providing extra security, is home still a safe haven? Is the “corporation” really concerned with ensuring everyone’s safety and well being?
Katie Souders joins us On The Commons for the first half of the show. Katie owns a Townhouse in a small development of only 37 units in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Access to her unit is from a city street with bars and restaurants and the inevitable inebriated customers who pour out of these joints only to take a break on Katie’s steps. And when one of these soused souls decided to pull her out of her own home, she had no doubt that it was time to take steps to protect herself, which she did by installing a small gate. This kept the drunks out of her house but offended the aesthetic sensitivities of the two entrenched board members. They apparently are not concerned with her safety so are fining her $100 a week for being cheeky enough to protect herself.
Andy Ostrowski joins us for the second half of the show. Andy, as you will remember, is a congressional candidate from Pennsylvania, who is passionate about individual constitutional rights. He has become aware of the outrageous problems his constituents face if they live in an HOA. He is also committed to providing protections at the Federal level when he finds himself with an office with his name on the door in Washington DC. I asked Andy how Federal legislation could help protect 20% of the citizens on America who, like it or not, find themselves at the mercy of the bullies in an HOA.
You’ll want to tune in. Katie manages to pack a whole lot about the many problems she and her neighbors face on a daily basis. We’ll hear about some totally ridiculous fines that are being assessed to her and her neighbors. There should be no question in anyone’s mind that this is a tool to fleece American homeowners. Andy provides some very valid reasons why things are really broke in residential America and why it may be time for the Federal government to stop pandering to the special interests and to start protecting the homeowners.