The truth is that none of us has a crystal ball and can’t predict exactly what will happen, but life has taught us that certain pitfalls and dangers lurk around the corner and could cause a lot of problems. One of those problems is not having enough money set aside if the walls come tumbling down around us. In a condominium, it is mandatory that the board ensures that they fully fund the reserves unless they want to impose special assessments to make the necessary repairs to ensure that the buildings are safe and sound. It is inconceivable that the entire building will fail, right? Well, we have just witnessed one of the most horrific disasters that resulted from a condo that shrugged off their responsibility to fund the reserves and also to make the necessary repairs and replacements as they came due. Entire families lost everything they owned. If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is to make sure the condo collects the needed reserves and that we, the members, pay them when they are due. A special assessment will be a lot less convenient at a later date.
They built a condominium where a shared building is owned by a business, managed by a board of directors, and funded by the members. What can go wrong? This arrangement complicates things considerably. The owners are required to comply with decisions made by others whether they like it or not. Unlike a traditional form of ownership, where the buyer buys and owns the building and is solely responsible for the maintenance, the members of the condominium are stuck with the responsibility of paying for any problems. And those problems can be disastrous, as we saw when the Surfside condo collapsed, killing entire families.
Jan Bergemann joins us On The Commons. As many of you know, Jan is the founder and President of the Florida-based Cyber Citizens for Justice. Jan has done a fantastic job at CCFJ and is very knowledgeable about condos and HOAs. He has long advocated for fully funding association reserves. Following the catastrophe at Surfside, he took things one step further. Jan called a town hall meeting with legislators and leaders from all different Florida groups to look at ways to prevent this from happening again. Fortunately for all of us, they recorded the meeting on Youtube and for all to watch. I urge you to take the time to tune in and consider something similar in your state. Here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hotkUUlYqk
Please note that the wrong promo was sent out with this show. We are publishing the same show to this site as is playing on Fairfax Public Access this Saturday.
This show is dedicated to Donie Vanitzian 1950-2017 who was found dead on December 28, 2017. For 16 years Donie wrote a weekly column for the LA Times answering questions for homeowners who were caught in a web with their homeowner associations. In addition to her column, she wrote several books on HOAs. She was a great friend to homeowners who had nowhere else to turn and will be greatly missed.
Over the years we have watched the people in positions of power in residential America come up with some of the dumbest rules and policies governing private property. If they couldn’t have such potentially tragic consequences, annual awards for the dumbest of them might make for a great comedy show. However, judging by the headlines, they don’t need any encouragement. Probably one of the most insane to hit the news lately is the mind bogglingly stupid rule from Auburn Greens Complex HOA in Auburn, California requiring the owners to leave their garage doors open during the day or face a fine of $200. This should be a hard sell for proponents of fines and protecting property values.
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons. Deborah blogs on Independent American Communities where no HOA story misses her attention. She is a prolific writer and augments all her posts with additional research and more details thus enriching her posts. She has become a go-to person for all the latest HOA land. I asked Deborah to help us do a round up of some of the idiotic rules that seem to be adding to the stress levels of American homeowners. She had a string of such stories lined up within minutes. We talk about some of them, by no means did we scratch the surface of the sheer insanity that is out there. You will no doubt agree that Condos and HOAs are a failed concept and beyond repair.
Rumor has it that people who buy property in a homeowners association know exactly what they are getting. We are told by the industry that we all agreed to it. That sounds good. So why are there so many problems and so many lawsuits if we are all on the same page? Could the problem be that we don’t all speak the same language? Or is that too simple an explanation?
Bill Davis. a Texas attorney has made representing homeowners in HOAs a focus of his legal practice. That is very fortunate for all of us because he is always willing to educate us and explain some of the twists and turns we encounter in every day life. Bill joins us On The Commons. He helps us to untangle the wording in a California case where a homeowner bought a condominium with a right to rent out her unit. Pretty simple and straight forward. Well, maybe not, she ended up with words like restrictions and prohibitions to contend with. So, what did she agree to? And who decided to muddle things up by using all these words to change the meaning of the rights she bought and OWNS. Tune in and see if you are clear on the rights you own.
Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make us realize we have been ignoring the elephant sitting right in front of us in the middle of a tiny room. For years many of my guests On The Commons have warned us that we are not saving enough in our association reserve accounts. Having served on the board of directors of my HOA and having served briefly on the finance committee, I knew we had a reserve account that was healthy. I did not want to deal with a special assessment. Weren’t we like all other other residential associations across the country? I have always advocated making sure residential associations fund their reserves. Imagine my shock and surprise when my listeners let me know, in no uncertain terms, just how wrong I was. Their concern was that there was no one guarding the cookie jar. Too much money has been embezzled from HOAs. A very valid problem. Some industry members were unaware that this was going on and seemed genuinely shocked when I brought it up. How could they possibly not know?
Julio Robaina, a former Florida Legislator, joins us On The Commons. Julio had promised that he would always protect the rights of home and condo owners and he has kept his promise. When the Surfside condo collapsed, Julio’s former colleagues asked him if this is about what he was warning them? You shouldn’t have to lose so many people to prove you knew what you were talking about. Following the tragic collapse, Julio is working with the legislature, coming up with legislation that would prevent a repeat performance and allay any fears home and condo owners typically have about leaving bags of money on the table, unattended. Julio joins us and explains his new legislation. I LOVE it. I think he has covered all the bases. When Julio’s bill is enacted as written and not stripped of important points, it should serve as a model to be adopted and enacted throughout the rest of the country. Since we will not be able to clone him for every state, we, the home and condo owners, will have to do the heavy lifting. Tune in to today’s show, you will be inspired to have the same bill in your state.
My heart breaks as I watch the news. Whether you understand the true meaning of freedom or not, those who have lost it are willing to risk everything to get it back. Ileana was born in Romania and is a survivor of the communist utopia. She is an author, a freelance writer for multiple papers, including the Canada Free Press, a frequent radio commentator including a return guest On The Commons, a sought-after guest, and someone willing to fight to protect our freedom. Whether you believe freedom is just a word uttered by others and means little but people who have lost their freedom, even briefly, understand the loss of having a personal choice.
Ileana grew up in Communist Romania and experienced the gradual loss of freedom. She is working hard to defend the freedoms we enjoy in America. Listen to what she says and understand that you are about to lose more than what you thought. And it starts with your home.
Our regular listeners know that we are passionate about protecting our personal rights as well as our property rights. After all, just how free can we be when control of our home is taken away from us? The degree to which we lose personal rights and privileges on a daily basis is staggering. Whoever thought that in the land of the free and the home of the brave that what time you open and close your window blinds is controlled by the neighborhood? Who else in the world has to get permission to park a car on one’s private property? Over the years, we have heard from people who are being fined for decorating their homes for the holidays; Christmas and Easter decorations have come under attack, as have religious symbols of all religions and religious holidays. Flags have grabbed the headlines and been controlled for size, the time they were put up, where they were put and how long they were allowed to stay up. Many of us thought it just could not get worse. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we were wrong. How much worse? Tune in.
Caroline Douglas and Jonathan Moseley join us On The Commons for a lively discussion on the latest. Jonathan is a Virginia attorney licensed in Virginia, the District of Columbia, among other courts. Caroline, a frequent guest On The Commons, has written a book called “The Dark Side a Law Treatise on Judging,” once available on Amazon, but it has been removed and is no longer available because someone apparently at Amazon doesn’t believe you should be able to read it.
Jonathan is representing a Virginia congressional candidate whose FaceBook posts have been censored and removed. Hmm, social media seems to be the latest battleground for our rights. This is something that has to stop and stop right now. We need to be able to communicate and communicate freely. And On The Commons, we do. We talk about social media and the laws protecting tenants from being evicted from their rental properties during the pandemic. The rules designed to protect tenants have expired and have not been renewed YET. They probably will. While this does not apply to home OWNERS, it will affect any HOA homeowner who leases their properties, so you will need to know about it. I learned a lot from these exciting guests. I am looking forward to having them back sometime soon.
The tragedy of the Champlain Tower collapse in Florida has the rest of the country, and perhaps the world, scratching their heads wondering why an otherwise seemingly well-built building would all of a sudden just collapse in the middle of the night? What happened to cause the building to crumble, burying many of the owners and residents in the rubble? How do we prevent something like this from happening again if we don’t know what caused it? There are as many thoughts and ideas as to the cause but nothing concrete yet. Was it, as some people speculate, rusted-out metal rebars? Did the saltwater have anything to do with it? Could the concrete have been too thin? Was it the proper consistency? And the all-time favorite, the owners failed to have sufficient reserves? I suppose there are loads of reasons why the building could have fallen so dramatically, but that is not helping us prevent it from ever happening again. So barring a conclusive reason for the failure of the structure, we turn our attention to the things we need to improve on to catch any flaws during the construction phase of a building. This is where the local governments need to step in and stop whining.
Jan Bergemann joins us On the Commons. Jan is the founder and president of the Florida-based Cyber Citizens for Justice. Jan is always generous with his time and in-depth knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes in Florida. Today is no exception. His insider knowledge helped explain a lot of mysteries. We still have no conclusive evidence, but the Federal government is sending money and the workforce to dig a little deeper into the tragedy. Finally, our tax dollars may be doing some good instead of being wasted. Here, we hope we get some solid answers and make sure there will never be a repeat performance.
I have always felt the HOA and condo models were flawed. Not that I thought there is something sinister built into them. I don’t. I met with Byron Hanke at his home about a year before he died and know, without a doubt, that his intentions were good when he introduced his model for what we know as condo and homeowner associations. But not all good ideas and plans work out as imagined. What is often overlooked and ignored in the planning stages is the human factor. Sadly, we got a wake-up call recently when the Surfside tower collapsed in the middle of the night in Florida, killing many people. We still don’t have a final count. As I write this, the recovery efforts continue. We still don’t know what caused the collapse; there is much speculation but nothing conclusive yet. We need to know the exact cause if we hope to prevent a repeat of this horror. Grasping at straws will not help.
Julio Robaina joins us On The Commons. Julio was a much-loved, tireless legislator in Florida before he was timed out. He spent tireless hours holding open meetings across the state, meeting with homeowners and talking to hundreds of them. Julio heard the stories straight from the Homeowners about the problems, the abuses, and concerns. He brought their thoughts and ideas to the legislature, where he crafted bills based on what was needed. Julio took what the homeowners told him very seriously and listened to how they wanted to be protected. After all, he reasoned, who would know better? Not all his bills passed. His colleagues argued with him, are they second-guessing their votes now?
The question is, could the tragedy at Surfside been averted had some of his warnings been heeded? So what happens now? Julio, who I nicknamed “The Energizer Bunny” many years ago, is still working tirelessly to get legislation enacted to protect condo owners and homeowners. Julio and I worked late in the night to record this show for you. Please tune in and listen to it. Let’s make sure this never happens again, anywhere in the world.
The tragic news from Surfside Florida has the world stunned. How could such a thing happen? What caused a condo tower to collapse in the middle of the night? Mayors and local politicians are quick to go on camera and assure all that something similar could never happen in THEIR town. Why not? How can we be sure that a condominium like Champlain towers won’t just collapse in the middle of the night again? Why did the tower collapse killing so many people sleeping peacefully in their beds? What caused the building to pancake? There has been a lot of conjecture on what caused it, but so far, nothing definitive. Water intrusion, climate change, rusty rebar, and salt have been cited as possibilities. Maybe there is some truth to all of these causes, and perhaps a combination of them. But we need to know for sure, if possible. We need to know how to prevent something awful like this from happening again.
Evan McKenzie joins us On The Commons.
Evan is a law professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He studies urban politics, land use law and policy, and common interest housing developments, including condominiums, HOAs, and housing cooperatives. He is the author of several books and articles about common interest housing, he is the media’s go-to guy for comments on any housing issue that grabs the headlines. I am honored to have him On The Commons again. Who better to share his thoughts and ideas for the collapse of and how to prevent something like this from happening again? There are preventive steps that can and must be taken to ensure there are no repeat performances. Tune in and listen to what Evan has to say. As always, his ideas are full of common sense and easy to follow and understand. You won’t want to miss it.
Regular listeners to On The Commons know that I find the practice of fining a neighbor appalling. However, proponents of this practice will argue that it is the only way to control people’s behavior. I still haven’t figured out why John has the right, authority, or duty to ensure complete and total obedience to stupid rules such as whether or not the grass is mowed correctly? Regardless of how reprehensible, I do have to admit that I find the practice of having someone wandering around with a clipboard in hand, documenting transgressions, no matter how minor, does seem to keep the grass at the approved height and the trashcans out of sight. Perhaps the actual government, state, Federal, and other small governments could adopt the HOA M.O. to prevent car thefts, break-ins, and other real crimes. Maybe if all the real criminals were fined and foreclosed on, they would not have anywhere to stash their loot.
Bill Davis joins us in a brand new show On The Commons this week. Bill takes us behind the scenes and explains how very easily and quickly homeowners find their homes being auctioned off at a foreclosure sale on the courthouse steps. Actual governments should have it so good. Please tune in and listen to Bill explain it all.