Raelene Schifano

The story goes something like this, condominiums and homeowner associations provide the owners with carefree living and enhanced property values.  Well, that’s the story, but the truth bears absolutely no resemblance to the sales pitch. While the carefree bit refers to not having to mow your lawn, the hours and heartache that go with providing oversight, at least trying to, and protecting your rights are never mentioned.  The stress takes a toll on your health, and the financial cost of being a condo owner is inconceivable. 

Raelene Schifano joins us On The Commons. Rae, a lifelong resident of Washington State decided to buy a condo believing her property will be well cared for when she and her husband traveled.  It didn’t take the condo long to start levying fines against her and her husband for some of the most outrageous and insane reasons.  Being a business owner with plenty of guts and gumption, Rae refused to be intimidated and fought back.  She got involved at the grass roots level in her association and then started working in the legislative arena educating law makers on what happens when they allow power hungry and money grabbing HOA boards, managers and industry members unfettered access to the lives and bank accounts of unsuspecting owners.  Listen to Rae’s story, then contact the legislators in your state and DEMAND that fines by condos and HOAs be BANNED.  

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Deborah Goonan

Keeping up with all the changes in America’s residential developments can be quite daunting.  Over the years the idea of homeownership seems to have evolved from being true ownership, with all the inherent rights and privileges afforded to the owner to being something more akin to that of a junior partner in some business endeavor.  The concept of rights and privileges are getting somewhat confusing to Americans and there appears to be an acceptance that a home must be subject to the whims and fantasies of others.  I find that terrifying.

Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons.  Like many homeowners in mandatory membership homeowner associations, Debbie ran into problems so she did a little research to try to figure out what was happening.  Fortunately for all of us she is still digging and discovering new twists, scams and stories and is sharing what she discovers on her blog Independent American Communities.  Her collection of daily posts, articles, comments and information is impressive and invaluable.  We talk to Deborah about the issues that plague developments from poorly designed infrastructure to inadequate parking and the complete lack of supervision from the building phase to every day living and how this complicated alliance of different interests in what should be a simple form of homeownership  affects the owners and their pocket books. If we learn anything it is that things aren’t always what they seem to be so do a little digging and ask questions.

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Julio Robaina

 What a concept!  Build homeowner associations to give municipal governments a sneaky underhanded way of collecting what amounts to free tax money.  This sleight of hand is also known as double taxation.  It works very nicely for local governments – not so well for the homeowners involved.  Developers increase density thus increasing profit margins.  Housing consumers are told that this scheme will protect property values and allow them to enjoy greater control over their immediate surroundings.   To add insult to injury, real governments have adopted a hands off approach, claiming it is a civic matter.  State legislators have enacted legislation empowering associations while  special interest groups reap the benefits.  

While the carnage continues, those in a position to prevent these atrocities have front row seats to the modern day Gladiator Games.  

Julio Robaina joins us On The Commons.  Julio is a former Florida State Representative who, during his term, toured the State with a task force talking to home and condo owners.  The stories he heard from the owners convinced him that something had to be done to stop horrors.  He introduced legislation that would provide oversight through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, but subsequent legislative tinkering and bureaucratic red tape has all but rendered the program useless.  Not one to give up, Julio, who I nicknamed “The Energizer Bunny” years ago, went straight from the State House into property management where he is still working with the homeowners to put a stop to fraud and embezzlement and to ensure fair elections.  He and his partner have a web page detailing all the problems and the issues, naming names and streaming news clips.   And while the stories are about Florida, these stories are replicated nationwide.  And the Energizer Bunny is still fighting!  

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