The New Jersey Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the Mediterranean South co-operative building in Fort Lee, New Jersey violated an owner’s right to free speech by prohibiting him from distributing campaign literature when he ran for a seat on the board. The co-op had a house rule that prohibited owners from distributing written material, the reason given is to “preserve the residents’ quiet enjoyment of their units and to cut down on paper pollution”. But, as we know, what is good for the goose is not always good for the gander because when the board distributed their diatribes, quiet enjoyment was never a consideration and apparently, unlike all other paper, the board’s missives did not pollute. On a somewhat humorous note, (or is it ironic?), the board included the following sentence in one of their leaflets; “Can you imagine the disaster that would befall upon Med South and all of us if this group of selfish people ever got control of the Med South Board?”
Robert Dublirer joins us On The Commons. Rob is a former New York Prosecutor, so well versed in the law and quite comfortable in a court of law so after years of having his rights trampled on and being lied to, he decided to put his knowledge and skills to work. He sued the Mediterranean South co-op to protect his right to communicate with his neighbors. The rules and regulations adopted by the board include some of the most restrictive gag orders on what the owners are allowed to talk about and discuss. Join us as Rob fills us in on all his battles from the time he moved in and was not given a handicapped parking space to ending up, not only protecting his rights, but also arguing for the rights of his fellow New Jersey HOA denizens.
Before the internet, homeowners who found themselves in the crosshairs of their homeowners association were usually left scratching their heads, wondering what had hit them. There was nowhere for them to turn, no one who had their best interests at heart to explain the issues and help them sort things out. Because they were embarrassed, they were reluctant to talk about their problems, believing they had committed a terrible misdeed, or better yet, they had “broken the law”. With heads hung low, they would quietly sell their homes and move as far away as possible, hoping friends, family and neighbors never caught wind of their problems. Of course this all worked to benefit HOAs who often got away with murder.
But, times they are a changing! Homeowners are talking, the media is listening and writing their stories, more or less accurately but most importantly homeowners now know they are not alone. However one of the best things to happen is the number of homeowner advocates who have have taken on the responsibility to reach out to their peers, explain what the issues are, assure them they are not alone and point them in the direction to get much needed help. While this movement is still in its infancy, it is making a difference.
Ward Lucas joins us On The Commons this week. Ward is an award winning investigative journalist and TV reporter. Having experienced the horrors of HOAs firsthand he decided to put his professional skills to work and investigate the state of affairs in America’s kontrolled developments. What he learned was enough to make his blood boil and to fill a book. That’s exactly what he did. His book is called “Neighbors at War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association”. But when the stories kept coming, he felt it only right to continue getting them out there so he has a blog http://neighborsatwar.com. Join us, we will talk about his blog, find out how many unique hits he gets and the number of emails he gets from homeowners who just don’t quite know what hit them and where to go from there. Next time anyone tries to convince you that all the problems in HOAs are “isolated incidents”, remember this show and know that isolated, they really aren’t.