Homeownership is not a new idea, it has been around a long time. For ages people have saved their money/got a mortgage bought a house and lived happily ever after. When did this sensible concept get replaced and why did we have to make such a complicated mess out of an otherwise simple and easy to understand part of life? Who benefits? Certainly not the housing consumers. And what exactly are we paying for when we fall in love with that perfect house and put our lifesavings on the table to buy the house? How much is that dream home REALLY costing us? Are we given a full break down of the costs, now and in the future? If not, should we be told before we turn our pockets inside out to get the keys to the house?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney and one of only a handful of attorneys nationwide, who represents homeowners and consumers at odds with their HOAs. A frequent guest, Bill has an uncanny ability to get to the bottom of the problem and shed a slightly different light on issues that most of us have never thought about. We talk to Bill about how our understanding of property values, that carrot that is dangled in front of every homeowner to get them to give up rights, has changed the way we see property, property rights and property values. Concepts once easily understood but now ” subject to interpretation”. We also talk about true costs of buying a home and identify some of the hidden costs and how they affect our ongoing financial outlay. We have a lot of questions, a few answers and a piece of advice: “take off those rose colored glasses and get to the bottom of this housing mess”.
Dangling a carrot in front of homeowners to force them to give up their rights.
The song, “Both sides now” has been on my mind a lot since talking to my guest. Reading the lyrics, I understand why. The lyrics pretty much sum up the gist of this interview. I always find it interesting that when it comes to housing, two people can look at the same problems and issues and come with a different point of view, sort of like the lyrics in the song that keeps playing over and over in my mind. Angel hair, ice cream castles and feather canyons are in the clouds but then the clouds only block the sun and rain and snow on everyone. Maybe it is time to look at condos and HOAs from “both sides now”.
Vicki MacHale joins us On The Commons. Vicki is the co-owner of Ark Management in California with 23 years experience under her belt. She has seen lots of clouds, especially when it comes to the way HOAs and condos are managed and has written about her thoughts and observations. In a recent article titled Emissaries of Change She has also written a letter to Governor Jerry Brown about her concerns for underfunded associations and the largely inadequate legislation that is mainly a knee jerk reaction to a headline grabbing incident. Vicki and I both agree on the problems and the issues but we do tend to look at “both sides” in this interview. I learned some things from my chat with Vicki and believe it is time for all concerned to come together and look at “both sides now”.
Individual freedom, along with personal and private property rights have been eroding gradually over the last few decades. This is especially true for homeowners in mandatory membership residential associations. What is particularly galling about all this is that homeowners are told they knowingly and willingly gave up these rights – they ” agreed” and some go so far as to add “so stop your wining!” This is a total misrepresentation of the facts. No sane person in the world would agree to subject themselves to double taxation and the unfettered abuses of an industry gone wild. The harm that can be done to families, the health and welfare of the citizens and especially the children living in HOAs can easily be demonstrated by this story.
Bobbie Goolsby joins us On The Commons. Bobbie, a loving grandmother bought her granddaughter, Emma, now 6 years old, a pink playhouse. This playhouse is Emma’s safe space, it is her world. It is where she goes to feel safe, to get her therapy, to relax, to unwind and to mend and try to get better. It is what every home should be. This is something Emma understands. It is a concept that the neighborhood HOA does not appear to understand. Calling it a “metal shed” they demand it be removed immediately or face a court battle. This, despite the fact that the homeowners were assured, BEFORE buying their home, that the playhouse would not be a problem.
In a candid and heartfelt interview Bobbie tells us about Emma and how they almost lost her. What she means to the family and the joy this precious, friendly and outgoing child brings them.
I have never much liked the idea of mandatory membership homeowner associations. The concept of binding private real property to a hodgepodge of real estate owned by a third party, maintained and controlled by a motley crew of individuals with no expertise in the art of management has always seemed counterintuitive to me. That the model is not working is no real surprise. What galls me the most however, is the idea that a handful of owners and hired managers are allowed to fine the owners. This practice does get very personal. People have been fined for some of the most ridiculous things. A few examples include having a dusty roof and mailbox, a cracked flowerpot on the front porch, an “unapproved” garden hose in the yard, and “unapproved object” in a flowerpot (small US flag), talking to neighbors on front porch of ones own home, interior window blinds the wrong shade of white, a pet that exceeds the allowed weight limit, unapproved number of rose bushes, trash cans visible from the street. The list goes on and on. All as ridiculous as these examples. Fining is a power that is often used as a bully tool and abused and should be STOPPED. Fines can lead to the loss of a home through foreclosure and the loss of an owner’s financial security.
Frank Short joins us On The Commons. Frank, an attorney and a popular repeat guest of the show, discusses fines in HOAs and Condominiums. He explains why we have fines and who benefits from the fines. Over the years there have been a number of court cases about fines. He discuses those cases, explains what the courts considered and tells us how they ruled. He also explains the constitutional connections. This is an excellent show from the archives. For those being fined by their HOAs for whatever reason, this show is a must for the owner and their attorneys.
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.
I keep thinking that there really must be a breaking point. A point where American housing consumers start digging a little deeper and looking beyond the frills and the pretty upgrades in a house they are considering buying. I hope they start looking for construction inspection reports (if such a thing exists and if not it might be a good idea to turn around and RUN as far away as possible). They should also find out whether or not there is a mandatory, involuntary membership requirement in a homeowners association. An upgraded backsplash in the kitchen is not going to make up for a house that is poorly constructed, starts falling down around them and is run and managed by people they would be better off never having met. The quality of their lives in such a place could very well become material for a horror story.
But, you think, the courts are always there to sort it all out, aren’t they? Tune in. It is time to take those rose colored glasses off and take steps to prevent yourself from getting trapped in a real live horror movie.
Nila Ridings joins us On The Commons. Nila could be the poster child for what happens when the HOA seemingly has a personal vendetta against a member. Her story starts many years ago when her driveway started sinking and got lower than the garage floor, causing problems in her house. There were other construction problems that the HOA chose not to replace on her property, citing inadequate funds as the reason. Miraculously they found the money to make the repairs on other homes in the development. He request for access to the financial records of the HOA was, predictably, denied even though this is a basic right of the members. To understand the twists and turns in her story and the road that led to years worth of very costly litigation and the loss of her house, you will have to tune in and hear Nila explain it and then to find out that at the end of the day, she was even denied her day in court. Over the years Nila has used the knowledge she has gained from her own battles to help others who find themselves in a war for their home, their rights and their sanity while fighting for her own home. Her story might help you loosen your grip on those rose colored glasses you have.
I find it ironic that we spend the first 18 – 22 years of our lives learning how to be adults and to make decisions that will affect us and our lives only to end up in an HOA, feeling like we did in when we were in kindergarten. “Eat your vegetables”, “Wash your hands”, “Pick up your toys”, “Go to bed” and if you don’t behave, it is “time out” or “NO TV”. Only as an adult, supposedly having been taught how to make the right decisions, in an HOA it tends to be, “Your blinds are the wrong shade of white”, “You have an unapproved garden hose”, “no cars in the driveway”, “Too many roses in your yard” OR ELSE, “fines” “foreclosures”. and other nasty penalties hurled in our direction.
We’ve all heard the saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!” . It makes sense and sounds easy enough but what if life hands us more than mere lemons? What happens when life comes at us full force, out of the clear blue and knocks us for a loop? And that can be especially true if we live in one of the nation’s hundreds of thousands mandatory Homeowner associations. How do we make lemonade out if that mess? And that is especially true when one of the absolute big taboos is HOAs is “LEMONADE STANDS” ? Even children trying to be helpful and mature beyond their years have found themselves in the crosshairs of a rather stupid HOA. What to do?
Dr. Wes Rocki, MD, PHD joins us On The Commons. Wes is a retired physician who has been working in alternative medicine for a while. Much of his focus has been on self-healing which is something that is sorely needed in every life and especially in what resembles battle zones in our neighborhoods. We talk to Wes about our natural and normal reactions to finding ourselves being attacked and in harm’s way. We find out how to protect ourselves or, at a minimum, how to react and even how to put our opponents off balance. We touch a little on “fear” which is a big part of how we are controlled and put at a disadvantage. We talk about how we react and can take charge of at least part of the situation. You will want some of Wes’ advice in your survival tool kit.
There is a huge difference between the way businesses and governments operate. Businesses typically keep their eye on the bottom line and minimize unnecessary expenses. If there is a cost effective way of doing something, they’ll find it and use it. Governments, on the other hand, only seem to care about the size of their departments. The more staff they have, the greater their budgets and the higher their salaries. To help get to that point they rely on regulations, red tape and more staff to oversee useless rules. And the money to pay for all this waste? No worries, just raise taxes. I knew all that so when I first encountered HOAs and was told that certain services were provided “privately” the only thing I found alarming was that the taxes were 3 times as high as they had been where I had come from where everything was included, in fact the HOA assessments were higher than my property taxes had been.
My long held beliefs about the efficiency and cost effectiveness of businesses began to unravel as I watched a “privatized government” at work. These creations of the special interests enjoyed all the benefits of the unaccountable governments while masquerading as efficient businesses. This new model was forced on owners in residential associations, be they condos, co-ops, HOAs or any of the newer concoctions that seem to creep into our daily vocabulary. It embodies all the worst characteristics of both businesses and governments.
Chuck Welsh joins us On The Commons. Chuck, an avid boater, a US Naval Officer for a number of years and a former developer bought a brand new pre-construction condo in a gated development in Florida. The design for the property came complete with plans for a marina. The entire project sounded like it was designed with Chuck in mind. A beautiful unit, amazing views, room for his boat and the promise of a carefree lifestyle with property values soaring through the roof. Isn’t that what we are all promised? Regular listeners and readers of this blog know that when it comes to housing in the US, things are never quite as smooth or problem free as one might expect. Sadly that was the case with Chuck’s ideal condo. All the elements of his dream home were there – in a dream – the problem was that the nightmares started when Chuck woke up. We’ll talk to Chuck about what happened that led to 10 years of his life that was far from “carefree” and his condo – well, even with an upswing in property values, ended up costing him a lot of money, not to mention being dragged through the courts for four years. And that private marina that was the icing on his cake? Well, that didn’t work out so well either. Tune in for all the details as well as a fascinating discussion on the future of privatized residential governments.
I seem to zip through life at breakneck speeds, taking most things for granted and never really thinking about the reason we do things any particular way. Oh, once in a while I ask myself, “What were they ever thinking?” when I run into something a little strange. However, when things are working well the farthest thought is to wonder why it works. It is so much easier to start looking at things that don’t make sense and figure out how to improve it.
And for a show whose sole focus is property rights, that was a little short sighted. How can we protect ownership and rights without knowing how to properly define the property in question? That is one those things most of us have always taken for granted.
Kenneth Ditkowsky joins us On The Commons. Ken is an attorney in Chicago who, when he was fresh out of law school, full of self confidence and a can-do attitude found himself on the ground floor of redefining property boundaries and ultimately changing skylines in cities across the country. Maybe even the world? We’ll talk to Ken about the Prudential Building, the first high rise in Chicago and the hundreds of pages of legal speak explaining the ownership structure. Ken and his partner accepted the challenge and simplified it, reducing the document down to a more manageable size. In the process they paved the way for high-rise residential buildings to be built and ultimately changing the face of the Chicago. We’ll talk about all the things most of us take for granted and never give a second thought to. We’ll learn about different ways to determine the legal boundaries of a piece of property and find out what happens when mother nature decides to ” shift” the things we take for granted. I was spellbound as I listened to Ken. Tune in for a fascinating show.
Not too long ago a friend sent me a link for a video and recommended I watch it. I did. I was shocked and horrified when I realized I was looking at a homeowners’ association. As far as I could see, there was no rhyme or reason to have an HOA in this bucolic part of the country. I have since learned that the property owners in this otherwise peaceful setting each own hundreds of acres of land accessible by dirt roads.
We’ve allowed ourselves to be fooled into believing municipal governments just don’t have the money to provide the services real estate tax dollars are supposed to pay for, therefore HOAs are a necessity to provide those services. Not that I believe that for a moment but if I did, try as I might, I could not find any reason to justify the imposition of an HOA on this particular neighborhood. Check out the video and please let me know if an HOA makes sense to you. I am convinced we have lost all sense of reality and sanity in this country.
Mary Ann Fordyce joins us On The Commons. Mary Ann has a chicken business in a rural community in Texas, where many of her neighbors are also business people, several have livestock and there is at least one other chicken businesses owner as well. Not surprisingly this chicken owner was a board member who sold Mary Ann her first chickens and got her started on her business. And for awhile, all was well. But then life in this peaceful corner of the country changed. We’ll talk to Mary Ann and get some of the details of why her dreams came crashing down and how she lost first one house and is now hanging on, trying to protect the second house she and her husband bought, from being foreclosed on. I’ll ask her what purpose her HOA serves and how it protects her when her closest neighbor is a mile away. I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear what happened to the only common area these property owners had. Maybe the fate of that park is the answer to why an HOA was even part of this neighborhood? Check out Mary Ann’s web site Blue Star Ranch . This lady is determined to help educate housing consumers about the perils of HOAs.