John Cowherd

John Cowherd

Over the last few decades American homeowners have gradually lost sovereignty over their property.  With every new law,  every new covenant, every new policy our ability to live in our homes as we see fit has been eroded.  With every new policy there is an acceptance that this is the way of the future.  It is “normal” now to have someone else dictate and approve the colors you choose for your house, the plants and flowers you plant, the decorative elements you use, or in fact even if you are ” allowed” to use them, the structures you buy for your children’s play equipment including the colors you use.  The list is endless.  Sometimes I think it is getting to the point where children in kindergarten have more autonomy over their daily lives than do their parents.  

John Cowherd j oins us On The Commons.  John is a Virginia attorney who represents homeowners against their condominiums and homeowner associations. He hosts and maintains  Words of Conveyance   a blog that focuses on property law.  One of the trends he is seeing more of is the growing restrictions on renting one’s home, or even a room, either short term or long term.  He has a recent blog about this not so new issue of contention in America’s controlled residential associations titled  Rental Restrictions in Virginia Condominiums.   While there may be some genuine concerns about rentals, as usual the problems don’t appear to be quite as awful as some people might have you believe. We’ll talk to John and learn more about it.  We will also talk about how the courts rule in cases where the use of free use of property is inhibited.  Fortunately there is some good news there.

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Deborah Goonan

Deborah Goonan

We seem to live in a culture of unprecedented intolerance, incredible rudeness and bullying.  None of these traits are conducive to a society that is civilized, fair or pleasant.  In fact the opposite is true.  Do we continue down this path, unchecked, acting and behaving like animals? What are the consequences of such abusive behavior? 

For a glimpse of where we might be headed, we need to look no further than the HOAs that are forced on America’s homeowners.  Without the checks and balances required by the Constitution and absent any oversight the so called leaders in these associations act and behave like the adult versions of the bullies they probably were in school.  And absent any “adult” to prevent the abuse, there will be tragic consequences.

Deborah Goonan joins us  On The Commons. We are both very saddened to announce that a homeowner who fought to protect her home, her family and her rights lost the biggest battle of all, her life.  Many of you had corresponded with Andrea Barnes over the years and are familiar with the terror and insanity she had to put up with in her HOA.  Andrea was a young mother of 3 children that she loved  and was very proud of.  She was a very talented photographer and a gifted writer.  And as everything in HOAs the problems and the HOA complaints were petty.They included her trashcan, a birdhouse her kids made her in school, a hose wheel (unapproved? Wrong shade of gray? who knows!). So quite apart from the barrage of violation notices for petty alleged infractions, the association isolated her, the abuse spilled onto the kids at school and they removed her from the community Facebook page.  

They parked at the end of her driveway and sat there watching the house. Oh, she also had Meniers disease, a disability that is not outwardly visible but a disability nonetheless.  The stress she lived under in her association was relentless.  But then this is what HOAs are about.  I have to wonder if the HOA had the authority to do any of the things they did to Andrea and do to countless other homeowners on a daily basis.  It is time to pull the plug on homeowner associations!  It is time to learn how to be a caring, polite and civilized country once again. 

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Andrea Barnes

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