Reporters are finally getting bold enough to start reporting the horror stories that keep cropping up in homeowner associations across the country. Sometimes they even get the facts straight. The stories are frequently as ridiculous as reporting crying babies to the HOA, to fining owners for having unapproved garden hoses in their yards or having the wrong shade of white blinds in their widows. These stories will make you scratch your head and wonder if absolutely everyone is so ridiculous and out of touch with reality to believe that these are important issues. Occasionally the headlines will promise a meatier story, one that we should be aware of that could affect us all. The many embezzlement stories that result in special assessments that we read about would fall into that category. But if you really want to know what is happening “behind the HOA closed doors”, where do you go?
Nila Ridings joins us On The Commons. Nila is an HOA homeowner in Kansas where life is nowhere near as rosy as she expected it to be when she bought her house. She has since done her homework, been active in the legislative arena, lobbied to get homeowner rights codified in Kansas and has shared her knowledge and insights with owners caught in the crosshairs of their associations. She is a frequent blogger on Ward Lucas’ Neighbors at war. And if one wants to find the unreported stories, one asks Nila. I did just that. We all hear the silly stories, the “too many rose bushes”, the costly ones about driveways having to be torn out because they are 2 inches wider than the approved plans, but which stories does she hear too often for comfort? Which stories tug at her heartstrings the most? Her number one story is not one the media reports on often but should.
Newton discovered that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Is that what we today call “unintended consequences”? How often do we head down one path towards a goal without thinking through the end results? Could we avoid many of the pitfalls we are dealing with if we stopped long enough to think things through?
One of those unhappy and unpredicted results may well be the sheer number of zombie foreclosures being reported nationwide. The unfortunate circumstances the homeowners find themselves in and the rather significant negative effect those vacant houses have on their immediate surroundings is an area of concern. And since most of the housing in many parts of the country is in mandatory membership residential associations, these zombie foreclosures also impact associations through lost assessments.
John Cowherd and Jeremy Moss join us On The Commons. Both are attorneys in Virginia and both specialize in HOA and condo association law. They also both have blogs where they discuss zombie foreclosures. Jeremy’s blog is called The Moss Report and you can access John’s blog at Words of Conveyance John, changed his practice and now represents homeowners in HOAs. Jeremy, an attorney with Mercer-Trigiani, represents associations. I am grateful to both gentlemen for coming in to the studio and sharing their thoughts. We’ll talk about zombie foreclosures, explain what they are and talk about why we have so many of them now. We’ll also discuss different ideas on how to deal with them. There is a lot to learn by listening to this interview.
A picture is worth a thousand words, or so we have heard. As I watch the primaries unfold for the US presidential candidates and seeing the backlash against both political parties, the picture that comes to my mind is “The Awakening”. The Awakening is an enormous sculpture, that is now housed at the National Harbor in Maryland, of a giant waking up after a long sleep. When you look at the candidates in both parties what is of particular interest is that the front runners are not the party favorites. Senator Sanders has amassed millions of dollars in contributions, a handful of dollars at a time which suggests a huge base. Donald Trump is self-funded and therefor not beholden to any of the special interests that have traditionally manipulated the direction this country has taken. Mr. Trump is, by far, the biggest vote getter. Both of these candidates have enormous grass roots support. Not party support but people support. It seems a showdown may be on the horizon. Will this dissatisfaction with the status quo manifest itself in the homeowner association arena? Are Americans fed up and are they really ready to do something about it? I say, power to the people!
Dr. Gary Solomon joins us On The Commons. Dr. Solomon is a retired college professor who took an interest in how the stress of living in HOAs affects homeowners, the very people who are supposed to benefit from homeownership. He has authored several papers, including HOA Syndrome, Elder Abuse in HOAs, Child Abuse by Proxy and his brilliant and creative book, HOA Crisis in America which is a must read, watch and listen to book. He explains how HOAs are a sick concept. Many of the board members have psychological problems, problems that affect them. They, in turn, take it out on their neighbors. The stress of living in the cross hairs of a mentally unsound board member triggers stress related diseases. It is a fascinating idea and a scary thought when we consider not only the ill health of many homeowners but also the cost of medical care. Perhaps it is time for preventive medicine instead of what we have. Dr. Solomon is willing to consult with homeowners and their attorneys in lawsuits against their HOAs. He is also ready and willing to assist medical doctors understand how their patients who live in HOAs may be living under constant stress. Is an Awakening headed to the homeowners in mass produced HOAs nationwide? Will homeowners reject the special interests and start really taking control of their own lives?
The Awakening, a statue in the DC area of a giant waking up after a long sleep. It is now at the National Harbor in Maryland.
I have never much liked the idea of mandatory membership homeowner associations. The concept of binding private real property to a hodgepodge of real estate owned by a third party, maintained and controlled by a motley crew of individuals with no expertise in the art of management has always seemed counterintuitive to me. That the model is not working is no real surprise. What galls me the most though is the idea that a handful of owners and hired managers are allowed to fine the owners. This is a power that is often used as a bully tool and abused. The fines can lead to the loss of a home and their financial security.
Frank Short joins us On The Commons. Frank, an attorney and a popular repeat guest of the show, discusses fines in HOAs and Condominiums. He explains why we have fines and who benefits from the fines. Over the years there have been a number of court cases about fines. He discuses those cases, explains what the courts considered and tells us how they ruled. He also explains the constitutional connections. This is an excellent show from the archives. For those being fined by their HOAs for whatever reason, this show is a must for the owner and their attorneys.
While we were not looking, special interests have taken control of our homes. Gone are the days when ownership meant enjoying dominion over one’s domain. Those days have been replaced by a new order where every Tom, Dick and Harry has a financial stake in what once was considered sacred territory. Who are these special interests who have high jacked our once simple and more or less peaceful way of life? A very short list would include governments, developers, environmental commissions, banks and lending institutions, HOA industry, and the list goes on. And what do they have to gain by it? MONEY and POWER! Cutting off the money supply and the power is the only way to restore healthy families and communities in America.
Shelly Marshall joins us On The Commons. Shelly must have been born with a sense of making the world a better place. She says as young lady she wanted to save the world with love and ended up sticking daisies in the barrels of police guns. That spirit of “saving the world” is still very much a part of who Shelly is. She is a published author, an advocate and the founder of many web sites dedicated to helping people solve their problems. Her latest endeavor is a web site under construction called HOA Lawyer. This website is designed to provide information and links for homeowners to get started on their own research. It is also building a listing of attorneys across the country who will represent homeowners who are fighting to protect their property rights. If you know an attorney who represents owners, please submit their names (with their permission) to the web site. Let us help Shelly stick daisies all over the country and turn our neighborhoods into fields of daisies.