As we mourn the deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who died a day later, we are reminded of the effects a broken heart and stress can have on us. It is reported that Debbie’s last words were, “I want to be with Carrie”. leaving little doubt as to how she must have been feeling. While this is an extreme case, the stress and the heartbreak are every day occurrences for us, especially if HOAs are involved. Imagine having your every move watched and documented, being endlessly harassed and isolated from neighbors and friends, being bombarded with nasty and incessant demand letters and ultimatums and threatened with foreclosure. These scenarios are very real in the every day lives of many of the HOA owners. What are the physical and psychological effects of this lifestyle? Will this unnecessary form of housing make us an extremely unhealthy nation? What will the health care costs be to deal with the aftermath of this self imposed house of horrors?
Dr. Gary Solomon joins me On The Commons. Dr. Solomon has dedicated the last several years of his life to educating the public about the health risks of living in an HOA. He has written one of the most creative and comprehensive e-books called HOA:Crisis in America which he has made available online free to everyone. You can read the book, listen to it or watch video clips. It is book that everyone should read, whether in the hallowed halls of our State and Federal Capitols, academia and especially his colleagues in the medical world. The medical practitioners who have the task of healing and curing their patients need to understand the root cause of the problems their patients are suffering. Every time I talk to Dr. Solomon, I learn something new and I get to know the man a little better. He is definitely a man well worth getting to know. Enjoy a rebroadcast of this very informative show.
They sounded like such great ideas, so what could possibly go wrong? Instead of keeping residential America under the jurisdiction of local municipal governments, the trend was to put them in private enclaves where covenants ruled and where the notion of a contract was above the law. Add a few frills where everyone shares in the expense of amenities and you have heaven on earth. Right? Now expand the utopian lifestyle to the renters by converting apartments into condos and establishing special financing to help them get their foot on the first rung of prosperity and we are on our way.
As I write this, my mother’s words come back to haunt me; “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.”
Professor Evan McKenzie joins us On The Commons this week. Evan was on the first radio show I ever did and I am delighted to have him join us as we mark our 15th anniversary of On The Commons.
Evan is a political science professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, he teaches law at the John Marshall School of Law, he is the author of Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government and Beyond Privatopia: Rethinking Residential Private Government. He maintains a blog at The Privatopia Papers where he discusses and follows the news and trends on associations. He is just back from a conference in Israel on private communities where he presented a paper titled: “Rethinking Residential Private Government in the United States: Recent Trends in practices and Policy”. Join us as Evan shares some of the problems and issues other countries are facing with their experiences in private communities, and how at least one country, Spain, deals with the “apathy” problem.
I hate using the word community when talking about HOAs. “Community” infers a sense of belonging, of having similar goals and interests and a way of communicating together to further those interests. In an HOA the ties that bind everyone go much deeper than simply sharing the same goals. Like it or not, the private fortunes of the entire neighborhood are at risk. It is incumbent on everyone in the neighborhood to know exactly how much is in the collective kitty and where the money is kept. I can’t imagine a single governing document that would deny a homeowner the right to inspect the books and records. Nor can I imagine any governing document prohibiting the members of the association from “communicating” with other members of the so called “community”. Unfortunately the unimaginable is all too common place.
Mark dos Santos joins us On The Commons. Mark owns several homes in different associations in different states. For the most part there are no major problems that he is aware of. So based on his experiences with the problem free HOAs he probably would never have stepped back to take a look at the big picture. But that one problem was an eye opener.
He started doing a little digging and didn’t particularly like what he discovered. Firsr of all, the lack of transparency made his job so much tougher. He got to thinking about it and dug a little deeper. He started looking online and discovered he wasn’t alone. He started a blog called South Carolina Homeowner’s Forum to share his findings and “communicate” with others in South Carolina. Mark has a better chance of building a true “community” with his blog than his HOA does.
As life gets more and more complex and complicated, I believe we need to keep the most basic and fundamental core of our lives as simple and clutter free as possible. And nothing can be more basic than our need to shelter, i.e. our homes and by extension, our neighborhoods. Unfortunately local municipal governments and special interests have highjacked the sanctity of our homes, destroyed our communities and burdened us with yet more governance, more regulations and increased the risks associated with our homes. Instead of unwinding and re-energizing at the end of the day, many of America’s homeowners come home to fight to keep what they have. However, in order to be able to do that, they need to know what to look for, how to fight and what to do.
John Sellers joins us On The Commons. John, a retired banker, lives and owns several HOA burdened properties in Arizona. With his background in finance, he decided to “follow the money” and the trail led him to discover a whole host of irregularities. Problems that most of the rest of us non financial types would not recognize as potential problems and would therefore completely overlook them. Fortunately John saw the red flags everywhere so he decided to stir things up, just a wee bit. He started a blog where he talks about the issues and has the attention of the state legislators who recognize some of the issues and are willing to work with him as well as other Arizona residents interested in implementing protections for the owners. It is no surprise that one of the biggest issues and problems in residential associations is money related. And while finding out the financial health of an association may seem like an insurmountable, it needn’t be. Tune in for a fascinating interview.
Whenever I think of paradise, images of Hawaii come to mind. Miles and miles of beautiful sandy beaches, a never ending expanse of a deep blue ocean with gently rolling waves, lapping on the sand. So peaceful, so serene, so relaxing. It must be paradise. Even the thought of condominiums and homeowner associations are not enough to mar the image of paradise. After all, how could people living in such an idyllic place, waste time on such stupid, irrational and immature petty squabbles that are so common in residential associations of all kinds? Not only have my dreams been shattered but just when I thought I had heard it all, someone has to come along and prove me wrong.
Mary McAndrew joins us On The Commons. Mary lives in Hawaii right on the water, watching the gentle waves lap on the shore and listening to the special music they make as the wash over the sands. But she is apparently far from the paradise I envisioned. She is a mother and a handicapped widow. Mary bought a dilapidated condo, right on the water that needed some major TLC. So she rolled up her sleeves and started transforming her unit into her dream home. We talk to Mary about all the usual bumps in the road, the surprises behind the walls, the problems with the association, living next door to a board member (yes, you know how that goes), the threats, the fines and the lawsuits. So far it is all par for the course, right? So where does the moonshine come in? You’ll have to tune in to find out. That was a new one on me.
What is life like in your residential association? Please take the survey and let us know.
Do you have an HOA story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you.