I learn something new- and very disturbing- about HOAs seemingly every day. Homeowner advocates and activists, with very good reason, have been calling our homes the ATMs for the HOA industry. Our homes are used as collateral for so many things other than our homes themselves. When things get complicated it is even harder to untangle the threads to understand just what is going on and where our money is going.
John Sellers joins us On The Commons. John is a former banker with a vast and broad knowledge and understanding of how finance works. As an Arizona homeowner in multiple HOAs and one of the many homeowners who has done the two step with his HOA in the Arizona court system, he is now also an expert on HOAs and the laws governing them – or not. John explains “pooling” and how that works in the insurance industry when it comes to insuring HOAs. If you think it is like a normal insurance policy you might buy, think again. This is just one more leaky hole in the HOA scheme that leaves us vulnerable and puts our homes at risk.
There is a rumor out there that buying a condo or a home in an HOA not only protects but also enhances property values. I still haven’t figured just out how that supposedly works. But proponents of the regime insist it is so. For the sake of argument I’ll leave that alone for the time being. But how on earth do they explain the fact that homeowners are responsible for the actions or inactions of the people either elected or hired and paid good money to “protect and enhance” your property?
Jan Bergemann joins us On The Commons. Jan is a long time advocate and legislative activist for protecting the rights of home and condo owners in Florida. Jan is the founder and President of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice . He keeps a close watch on all the news related to housing, rentals, litigation involving homeowners and pending legislation that would affect the owners. Many, if not all, of the stories end up on his web site. One recent story involves a $7.5 Million award to a condo owner who seriously hurt himself when he fell into a hot tub that had been partially emptied, ill lit and left unprotected while the necessary repairs were being done. We talk about the case and wonder just how much it will cost the owners in the condominium to cover any shortfall in the event that the insurance isn’t adequate to cover the entire $7.5 Million? How does the assertion that a condo protects and enhances property values work in a situation like this?
When your life veers off the normal, the safe, the known and the routine and gets derailed into a hostile, unknown land where you are fighting for your life, stress tends to become part and parcel of who you are. And stress, as we have learned on this show, adversely affects your health. It is always a lot worse when you are facing the adversarial situation on your own. Can having some friendly support mitigate some of the damage caused by the situation?
Dr. Karin Huffer joins us On The Commons.
A long time therapist, having watched what happens to victims of the justice system and the effects of stress they suffered, coined the term Legal Abuse Syndrome. Her book, by the same name, Legal Abuse Syndrome talks about the problem and possible remedies. She found that the key to mitigating the harmful effects of being a victim is to help each other. For the past several years she has trained volunteers to be that “support” to victims. Her new book is a revised and updated Kindle version of her first book. She has turned some of her attention to explaining, training and teaching Americans about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Americans with disabilities don’t always know they have rights or what those rights are and businesses, managers and bosses are not always aware of them either. Apparently neither are all the attorneys out there. So Karin is hard at work training them all. You can learn more and reach Dr. Huffer through her website, Equal Access Advocates.com but do tune in to listen to the amazing lady.
Some people describe the “American Dream” as home ownership. After all, we all want a place to call our own, a place that reflects our personalities, provides shelter, a safe haven, a place completely and totally under our control. Like almost everything else in association controlled housing the dream is a lie. These days everything associated with a home seems to be based on deliberate misinformation that is repeated nonstop to the point where everyone believes it. Why not? They have heard the same lies for a couple of generations, it has to be true, right?
Not so fast.
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons. Deborah is a prolific, analytical and detailed blogger. Her blog, Independent American Communities is a comprehensive study of what is going on in the world of association living. Today we debunk some of the more often told lies surrounding HOAs. Probably the biggest, and potentially most damaging whopper, is that HOAs protect property values. Citing from a white paper referencing various studies conducted about HOA restrictions and property values we learn what common sense has always told us. Having burdened your house with covenants, rules, regulations, “grass police” and all the other atrocities that are part and parcel of associations, we then turn to the physical structure of these houses made of “cardboard and scotch tape” and what we discover there is truly alarming. We talk a little about vinyl siding and Low e windows and we urge you to ask yourself whether this can possibly be “The American Dream” or is it more like the American nightmare?
Why is it that the single largest asset you own comes with more restrictions and controls placed on it than any other item you have? Own a car? You can choose the size, make, model, color, you can add seat covers, additional side mirrors to enhance your vision of your surroundings, add bumper stickers about your child’s scholastic achievements, your favorite teams, your pets, places you have visited or any other message that is near and dear to your heart. No approval needed from anyone for the color of your vehicle or permission to add more side mirrors. Permission for a bumper sticker announcing your pride in your children’ scholastic and athletic achievements? After all, isn’t it all part of your right to free speech? You own it, you control it. So why is it that your home, arguably the largest expenditure you have, the one item that reflects who you are and what you like more than anything else, is so burdened with rules, regulations, threats, fines and yes, foreclosure because you violated someone else’s aesthetic sensibilities. Whatever happened to being king and queen of your own castle?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney whose legal practice includes representing homeowners in HOAs has a unique insight into HOA problems. He has seen the bad and the ugly from all sides. We talk to Bill about what makes living in an HOA such an awful experience for so many homeowners and how the association and their legal council seem to have unfettered power over the owners. We also talk about the “carrot” or the BIG LIE that convinces housing consumers that there might be some benefit to giving up so much control over their lives and homes by subjecting themselves to an HOA. We talk about THE BIG LIE, the assertion that HOAs protect and enhance property values. What exactly are property values? How do HOAs protect these values when so many homeowners are losing their homes and their fortunes to the HOA boards, managers and their attorneys? And just what is the value of homeownership in modern day America?
Will candidates for public office be able to come and talk to you?
Residential America has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. Gone are the days when housing consumers bought a house or a plot of land and were lords of their mansions, kings or queens of their castles, where their word was law – within the confines of their property, of course. Increasingly living in residential America is more complicated, more restrictive and more expensive. Do American homeowners know and understand how and why their lives and homes have changed?
Donna Fossum joins us On The Commons. Donna is an attorney, a long time resident and condo owner in the City of Alexandria, Virginia. She was a senior policy analyst at the Rand Corporation, a former member of the Alexandria Planning Commission and a one time candidate for City Council. Donna, with her analytical background, has written the most comprehensive and complete report on the changing residential communities.
After a lot of research, Donna discovers what is essentially two cities in one, divided more or less equally by the east side and the west side of the City of Alexandria. She explains how this shift resulted in double taxation for approximately half of the homeowners in Alexandria. But probably one of the most eye opening discoveries she made was the differences in the political process and participation by the citizens of the two different halves of the city. Tune in and hear her talk about all the issues that significantly affect the way we live in America today and read her report, Fossum Files . While her research and analysis centered on Alexandria, the same issues and resulting problems exist across the country.
Wikipedia describes The Tragedy of the Commons as “a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action.” But isn’t that just human nature? Don’t we normally make choices and decisions based on our immediate needs and what benefits us? And isn’t that especially true for people who are generally struggling to make ends meet? Can the current model of HOAs and condos function properly for all?
Tyler Berding joins us On The Commons. Tyler is the principle attorney and founder of Berding-Weil, a California law firm. Tyler represents residential associations and has long been concerned about the lack of adequate reserve funding, construction defects, condo conversions and the flawed HOA and condo model. He is particularly concerned about the buildings as they near the end of their useful lifespans. What happens to the buildings that need to be refurbished? What happens to the owners and their assets? Who pays to make the units habitable if the reserves are inadequate to fund it all? Can retirees on fixed incomes and low income owners afford massive special assessments to cover the shortfall? What Tyler is talking about is the classic “tragedy of the commons”. Tyler shares with us his presentation for a summit next month. Tyler also has a blog called Condo Issues with lots of thought provoking blogs covering all things condo.
Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Whether Einstein said it or not is debatable but what is certain is that the quote is common sense. Yet for some reason we insist on doing the same thing over and over and over again, convincing ourselves that this time it will work. THIS time the results will be different. And yet again, we are disappointed and frustrated. This is especially true when it comes to “fixing” all the problems with residential associations. We believe that one more law requiring or prohibiting something will drastically alter the failing HOA system. But all those statutes do little other than complicate and compound the problems. Maybe it is time to start thinking outside the box and looking at different “solutions” – different ways of protecting homeowner assets and rights.
Caroline Douglas joins us On The Commons. Caroline is passionate about the Law, a subject she loves and is always willing to talk about and share thoughts and ideas with us. This week we brainstorm ideas that would allow homeowners to get what it is they want most, the right to be left alone and to enjoy the peace and sanctity of their own homes. We explore the possibility of taking the fight to a different arena and using a different battle cry. We learn about potential rights and remedies. Tune in for an idea packed hour of ways to stop doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting different results.
Early on, in what has become a national nightmare of epic proportions for American homeowners, the HOA horror stories really horrified the public. People who had been victimized by their neighborhood association were too embarrassed to admit they were being abused. All that has changed. The abuses and the horror stories seem to have become so much a part of every day life that we simply shrug them off and continue on our way until we find ourselves in the center of this web. Those fighting a seemingly unwindable battle are rightly consumed with saving their homes, their lives, their health and their sanity. In an effort to prevent more horrors and more abuses they have tried desperately, and failed miserably, to “fix” all that is wrong with the concept.
Professor Gary Solomon joins us On The Commons. Dr. Solomon has studied the HOA and condo blight on America and has written extensively on the effects residential associations have on the physical, mental, emotional health and welfare of Americans. Professor Gary Solomon has a website where you can read his papers. Dr. Solomon says it is time to stop focussing on the stories and to start working on the solutions. He identifies one of the biggest issues that is at the heart of the abuses and shares some of his ideas on how to stop the bleeding.
There is a very delicate balance in the world that, when left alone, tends to function and work as it was meant to, in complete harmony. Sadly we seem to be incapable of leaving things alone and have yet to learn that man cannot always improve what nature, time and custom have already perfected. And when that meddling is the result of personal aesthetics, well it can almost be seen as criminal. Today’s show is about protecting individual and property rights, defending the monarch butterflies, standing up to the bullies and winning.
Mike Pugh joins us On The Commons. Mike and his wife bought a house with a two acre meadow that is part of their property. It backs up to a line of trees and the meadow is only visible from the Pugh’s property. The meadow, with its abundance of milkweed plants, has been there for decades and is an important part of the monarch butterflies migratory path. And yes, there is a homeowners association involved. Isn’t there always when homeowners have to fight to protect their rights and their homes? The HOA decided that the meadow had to go and that’s how this fight started. After years of courtroom drama, the Pughs WON in a court of law. We’ll talk to Mike, learn more about the fascinating monarchs and the Pughs battles with the HOA. And as is typical, the HOA bullies can’t accept defeat gracefully, they still want the meadow mowed. So the battle continues. You can see Mike’s meadow here.