As my mind goes back over the decades to the Christmases of my youth, I recall the love and warmth of my family, friends and the neighbors. I smile at the memories of decorating the tree and the house, and relive the excitement of the coming festivities and the general sense of goodwill and joy. Of course, I had never even heard of an HOA. They didn’t exist back then and I can’t help but think how much better off we were. The biggest gift we had was that we were left alone and allowed to celebrate the way that made the most sense to us.
In the years since, we have changed the landscape of residential America. No longer are people left to their own devices and allowed to enjoy decorating their homes without threats and interference. Every little item is micromanaged to the point where the joy of Christmas has been taken out of it.
How did we ever get to that point?
Bill Davis joins us On the Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney, found himself in a number of law suits having to protect his rights and his property from his HOA. Having learned about HOA law and seen the games that were being played, it was a natural transition to representing other owners who found themselves fighting to protect hearth and home. We talk to Bill about some of his cases, and a few of the “games” that he uncovered. Many people would not be surprised at how much some of the board members resemble a good old-fashioned crime family. Bill is always entertaining and his interviews are always an eye-opener. You will want to hear what he has to say.
On the Commons will be back in the middle of January, 2018. In the meantime, we wish you all a healthy and happy holiday season.
I find it ironic that we raise our children to value individuality, diversity, acceptance and freedom, yet sadly what we teach them by example is the exact opposite. In fact we have created a world where individuality is tantamount to a sin, diversity and acceptance can best be described as mere suggestions not to be taken seriously and freedom is a totally foreign concept. We have allowed special interests to create an artificial world where even the freedom of self expression can be, and is, detrimental to our health and wealth. How else does one celebrate individuality except through self expression? And how do we handle diversity? If we hide all the things that make us different and unique, how do we learn to accept and embrace our differences? Like everything else, the best place to start is at home. Let’s do away with all the insanity that is part and parcel of mandatory HOA living. Like Communism, it is never going to work. It is time to take a lesson from a children’s song “Come with me, take my hand and we’ll go to a land where you and me are free to be you and me.”
Dr. Ileana Johnson joins us On The Commons. Ileana is a published author, her book, Echoes of Communism. She is a columnist, commentator and blogger. Her blog is called IleanaJohnson . She grew up in Romania under the Communist regime where no one was permitted to have more than anyone else, and uniformity was the order of the day. As she described daily life in Rumania, where respect for people and property were non existent, I was struck by the similarities to modern day life in America’s HOAs. The similarities were many but the differences were sometimes simply titles. “Economic police”? “Chair of the Architectural Control Committee”? After all, a thug by any other names still smells as foul. (With apologies to William Shakespeare) . “Come with me, take my hand we’ll go to a land where you and me are free to be you and me.” You will want to hear this interview.
Years ago, I asked Linc Cummins why he and his colleagues pushed the idea of HOAs so hard. What was their incentive and what were they thinking? Linc is one of the three founders of CAI so he has been involved with building HOAs from the very beginning. His answer surprised me. He explained that we were becoming a more transient society and as we moved from one place to the next, we left behind friends and family and in the process lost our support systems. He said he envisioned creating a “community” where people worked together, helped each other, became a family and formed that support network. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the exact opposite seems to have happened. Far from working together as a community, the HOA has created different classes of people, those with power and authority and those without. Rather than community, we have “war zones” and instead of a network of support, we have a divided group of people living in a dysfunctional development.
Neil Brooks joins us On the Commons. Neil could be the poster child of what happens when this gang of neighborhood thugs band together against one of their neighbors. Except Neil is one of many poster children across the country who have suffered unspeakable harm in a system with no checks and balances. Instead of creating a sense of family who would support each other, Neil’s neighbors ganged up against him. We learn about Neil’s disability and find out why he was not able to find the peace and quiet he needed to recuperate. The problems with his neighbors exacerbated his medical problems. He is currently facing a fairly grim future. We talk about his experiences in particular and the problems in HOAs in general. Can HOAs ever become the nurturing extended community Linc and friends envisioned all those years ago or are they destined to be dysfunctional enclaves to be avoided at all costs?
Gone are the days when being a property owner meant having dominion over your property. With the imposition of mandatory membership residential associations and the restrictive covenants that are attached to the deed, homeowners have lost some of the most basic and fundamental rights of the use and enjoyment of their homes. Those restrictions range from something as basic and mundane as a choice of plants, to the approved shade of white for the interior window blinds to something a little more serious like having a fence to keep children and pets safe and even to having children and pets at all.
Are restrictive covenants and neighborhood Nazis the only threat to a property owner’s right to ownership?
Dr. Bonner Cohen joins us On The Commons this week. Dr. Cohen is a Senior Fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a position he has had since 2002. He is also a Senior Policy Analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow; and the author of The Green Wave. Dr. Cohen takes us on a trip down memory lane and reminds us of the advantages and opportunities we enjoyed in the past and compares them to the way we live today. He explains how and why, slowly, very slowly, rights, education, health, wealth and the way we live have been adversely affected. He very clearly helps us follow the laws, regulations and policies that have stripped us of things we once enjoyed and took for granted. The changes were gradual, the results were by design and we never noticed them until they were here. Is it too late or can we wrest control of our world back from the special interests?
It’s a great time to reflect back on the almost 18 years of On The Commons. It is Thanksgiving night, the festivities are over with, the kitchen is clean and all is quiet, a perfect time to let my mind wander back to the over 900 shows we have done. Yes, I say WE, because I didn’t do them on my own- I am so thankful and grateful for the over 900 guests who have joined me, told their stories, explained the laws, talked about the legislation they were proposing, the books they had written, the projects they were working on and the many other issues affecting the place we call home. Some of their stories have made us extremely angry, others have left us wondering if we heard correctly, some have made us cry and others made us laugh, we have cheered and rejoiced when the homeowner won and we always wished them our very best. But this show will leave you with so much hope. You will be energized, excited and anxious to get started. I know that’s how I felt.
Martha Boneta joins us On The Commons. Martha owns a small family farm in Northern Virginia. It has always been her dream to grow food and feed others. But when she finally got her farm, her dream came with some really nasty surprises. Not one to roll over and let the bad guys get the best of her, Martha stood her ground and fought back to protect her farm and her rights. Now she is working on setting up a national grassroots network and invites everyone to join the fight for freedom. And at the heart of freedom is property rights. How can freedom exist without the right to own property, whether it is a farm, a mansion or a small condo? As Martha said, “Now, more than ever, across our nation we need to rise up and answer the call to defend the American Dream.” You will be excited at her ideas and will agree with much of what she has to say. You can reach her via her website or by phone, 571-839-1143. Stay tuned for the official launch of this grassroots movement, scheduled for sometime in January. And when it launches, Martha will be back with details – she promised.
And this Thanksgiving I am thankful for all of you, all the people who will fight back for justice and freedom and I am really proud to call Martha a friend. Now you have to tune in, don’t you?
Anyone who has ever spent any time studying the condition of housing, American style, has to wonder how We the People, took a fairly simple and straightforward concept of homeownership and turned it into such a disaster. Oh, we have been fed a lot of platitudes, lied to and with smoke and mirrors watched as individual private rights were turned into duties and obligations, making the owner a serf. No matter how one looks at it, the condition of homeownership in the US today is plain wrong. I will be offered explanations such as, “You agreed”, HOAs protect property values”, “It is the way of the future” “Get used to it, it isn’t going away.” It is all nonsense. Not everyone is going to just roll over and accept the status quo. Remember, heroes are not made of doormats.
Jan Bergemann joins us On The Commons. Jan is the founder and president of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice a grass roots organization protecting the rights of individual property owners A hard working and very active advocate in all the areas affecting Floridians, Jan has studied the stories, the laws, the cases and the trends for a number of years, and he has some rather unique insights into what is happening. While his observations are mostly focused on his state, the issues are definitely more national in scope. We talk to Jan about the confusion of what an HOA really is. Proponents and attorneys will tell us it is a “contract” and that we “agreed” to the provisions of the Declaration. While we can argue that ” we agreed” till the cows come home, the fact is HOAs are contractual in nature. It should, therefore, be relatively simple to understand, shouldn’t it? Why isn’t it? And just what are HOAs, really? Tune in, we’ll tell you – well, we’ll tell you what they are not. So, what are they?
Shouldn’t we be trying to simplify life? With all the technological and scientific advances that have been made recently, we have the resources and the ability to really free up our time, allowing us to devote ourselves to our families and friends and on the things that make us happy. Instead, we are being bogged down in layers and layers of red tape. If we did get rid of the things that really make no sense, would the abuses simply vanish and would we, in effect, create a kinder, friendlier environment?
Barbara Stage joins us On The Commons. Barbara is an attorney in central Florida, where she represents homeowners as well as homeowners associations (HOAs). The slogan on her website reads; “Protecting the rights of homeowners across the state of Florida”. Barbara recently wrote a letter to the Florida Legislature advocating for greater oversight of HOAs and also for less costly alternatives to preserving one’s rights against their association. We talk to Barbara about some of the atrocities she has witnessed over the years in Florida HOAs. We find out what kind of advice industry attorneys give their HOA clients and we talk about HOAs refusing to cash checks from homeowners and sending legal notices to wrong addresses. And that’s just for starters, there is so much more. I ask myself again, what on earth are we thinking?
If people knew what they were getting into, would they still buy in an HOA? I was convinced that they wouldn’t, but I was wrong. Thirty years ago when I first became aware of HOAs and started to understand what we were dealing with, HOA mandates were already in place in Fairfax County and probably across the country as well. However, there were still pockets of older neighborhoods so some choices still existed. Now, even most of those older neighborhoods have been razed to the ground only to be replaced by some new faddish fantasy that will no doubt sound positively utopian but in practice be unworkable.
Shelly Marshall and Michael Marshall, PhD join me On The Commons. Shelly is an HOA Warrior. She is a prolific writer of self help books including a book on HOAs, what to look for and how to understand what you are getting into. Dr. Marshall, Shelly’s brother, is a Psychology Professor and practitioner. This dynamic duo have combined forces to answer the question; “Why can’t people hear us?”. Shelly warned Mike about the risks involved in buying a condo and told him to keep looking but that didn’t stop him. For awhile everything went well until one day when his utopian dream came crashing down. So why didn’t he listen? Why don’t people learn from other people’s stories? Mike and Shelly, along with Deborah Goonan, are working on a case study, doing some research with the intent of publishing a paper answering this question. In an easy to understand and simple way, Mike explains the psychology behind human nature. He and Shelly fill in with facts, stories and typical situations that take place every single day. This is a very exciting piece of research and a fascinating interview. For all those people who believe that “HOAs are here to stay,” are you listening?
Change is part of life. It always has been and always will be. Consider all the changes that have taken place over the last few decades and how those changes have affected our lives. Depending on how far back you want to go it is not too hard to see just how things have changed. Cars and roads made it possible for us to expand our world, expand our horizons and explore all the hidden wonders that were beyond our ability to walk to. Computers and cell phones have brought the world even closer and enabled us to see and know what goes on around the world. Another, not really celebrated change by the owners, is the imposition of mandatory membership residential associations like HOAs and Condos. Notwithstanding the fact that housing consumers, for the most part, dislike them, proponents of this regime are quick to say, “HOAs are here to stay”. But are they?
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons. Deborah has a widely read blog called Independent American Communities . She is active on several social media sites and is a prolific writer. A recent blog of hers titled “Reality check: HOA managers face decline of their industry, like it or not.” caught my eye. I had to read it and when I did, I had to have her join us to talk about it. We talk about the changes, some industry stats and some of “the changes” currently taking place, especially in condominiums. Of course there are problems that simply can’t be ignored and we don’t. However there are so many more that need to be talked about, analyzed, discussed and put on the skyline that we will have to tackle them the next time we get together On The Commons. It is clear that change is inevitable, nothing is here to stay, and the more we try to control the natural flow of life, the bigger problems we will be creating. To find Deborah on her various social media sites, follow the links below.
I have never bought into the notion that Home Owner Associations are a necessity for any dwelling especially if it is free standing. And I am not sure you can convince me that there is any value added even in a high rise situation. Oh, I can hear the gasps out there! Take a deep breath! There certainly is no reason at all in a development where all the lots are measured in acres instead of inches, as they seem to be these days. All right, I exaggerate, maybe not inches but certainly feet. Probably the worst aspect of the current residential association model is the governance. It creates two classes of “neighbors” where some neighbors have authority over others. This in turn ensures that there will always be some form of conflict that provides lots of opportunities to enrich the legal profession.
Michael Pugh joins us On The Commons. Many years ago, Mike and his wife bought a large house on almost 6 acres of land in Virginia. And yes, there is a mandatory membership HOA. I suspect that is due to municipal mandates because there really is no rhyme or reason for imposing yet another layer of government on the residents. In fact there is every reason in the world not to have one. On the back 2 acres of the Pugh property that butts on to Tranquility Road, the developer put in a meadow. A little bit of nature before man interfered with it. For the last 27 years those 2 acres have been maintained as a meadow where the wildflowers grow and provide a refuge for the animals and insects and where the monarch butterflies are protected. It is indeed a tranquil haven, and had been until the HOA reared its ugly head and demanded that the meadow, that is only visible from the Pugh’s property, be mowed down. This battle, sadly, is headed to court. The Pughs are determined to protect their property rights, their meadow and the beautiful monarch butterflies that return to their meadow every year. And in case you are wondering, no, there is nothing in the governing documents prohibiting the meadow. It has always been there. And with a little luck and some common sense, it always will be.
The local paper did a story on the Pughs and their meadow called Meadow Must Go Says HOA. Doesn’t that say it all? There is also a video of the meadow in all its glory that you will want to watch.