Category Archives: Abuse

Debbie Goonan

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.  

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Nila Ridings

Nila Ridings

They told us time and time again that residential associations, no matter what form, whether HOA, Condo or, coop, are there to protect our property values. By preventing our neighbor from doing something obscene like choosing the wrong shade of white for their window shades or keeping a garden hose in the front yard or, heaven forbid, having a red front door, we and our property values will be safe. Is it true? DO red front doors strip away our property values? 

Nila Ridings, a former homeowner who bought a townhouse in a homeowners association for all the reasons one might voluntarily choose such a home, joins us On The Commons. Nila talks about all the reasons she chose the house she did and then takes us on a journey through her nightmare and fills us in on what went wrong. We’ll find out just how well her HOA-controlled property did when they foreclosed on her mortgage-free house and her retirement and savings accounts were depleted. She has made it her mission to warn other homeowners about the dangers lurking around every corner and tucked between every blade of grass in the uniformly cut and manicured lawns. Hear her story in her own words.

Listen to Nila Ridings

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John Sellers

20160618sellers

Increasingly in America homeowners are treated like incompetent idiots who are incapable of managing their own lives and their homes.  Members of the HOA industry have gone as far as to equate the owners as “children who do not know what is good for them”.  Naturally they are more than happy to make all our important decisions for us- and leave us with the bill!  To add insult to injury, the false advertising and misinformation that, under most other circumstances, would be punishable by law, is swept under the rug and ignored.  Unit owners in homeowner and condo associations are often ridiculed, harassed  and penalized for demanding transparency or even questioning the  actions of the association.  Their duty is to not ask why but to pay up and shut up.

Well, times they are a changing.  Slowly but surely more and more talented people have had enough and are starting to move mountains, one stone at a time!

John Sellers joins us On The Commons this week.  John has worked in the banking industry for years and knows just where to look for any irregularities.  So when things just didn’t smell quite right, he put his talents to work and started digging.  What he discovered is quite incredible.  Not only are the people who are supposed to be protecting your rights turning a blind eye to all the shenanigans going on behind closed doors, but they are also using YOUR tax dollars to cover up some missing funds in HOA banks.  John continued digging and was told to “get a hobby”.  Fortunately for us, he took that advice to heart, expanded his search criteria and started a blog called ArizonaHOA where he intends to not only share information but to also gather information from other homeowners. He estimates there have been 3,000 court cases involving HOAs in Arizona.  Chances are those did not happen because associations were doing such a wonderful job, as proponents of HOAs would have you believe.  Tune in, it is an eye opening interview.

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Karin Huffer

A timeless rebroadcast and a perpetual problem.

I am frequently contacted by homeowners who are being bullied and abused by board members and/or managers in the  association governing their neighborhood. More often than not, the source for the conflict is petty and ridiculous.   Notwithstanding the sort of personality that tends to gravitate to these positions, our legislators have seen fit to bestow extraordinary powers on them, tipping the balance very heavily in favor of the association. The experience of being caught in the crosshairs of the association causes stress induced health challenges for the homeowners.

But suppose the homeowner is disabled? The weaker and more vulnerable amongst us are more likely to be targeted because they are easier to bully, scare and abuse.  Is there any help for the?

Dr. Karin Huffer joins us On The Commons this week.  Dr. Huffer is a multi talented force to be reckoned with.  She is an author, a speaker, a trainer and now a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.  For years, Karin has known that people with disabilities are more likely to have their rights ignored, or trampled on by everyone, including the courts. She decided to do something about it.  She set up a web page and started a program called Equal Access Advocates.  She trains people to become advocates and to accompany people with disabilities in court to protect their rights. We’ll talk to Karin about her advocates, who they are and how they help their clients.  We learn a little more about the Americans With Disabilities Act and how her program ensures that people are treated fairly.  With an advocate by their side, people in court have someone very firmly in their corner.  

 

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Mike Gingrich

“Are you crazy?  If people knew what they were buying, they’d never buy a house in an HOA”.  That was the answer I got from a member of the HOA industry when I asked why housing consumers were not told the truth about what buying a house in an HOA entailed.  No more real words were ever spoken.  The road to an HOA or condo controlled dwelling is, by necessity, paved with lies.  So it is back to the good old “Caveat emptor,” or buyer beware philosophy.  That’s all well and good, but until relatively recently, information that is necessary for the consumer or homeowner to be able to ask the right questions or make an educated decision has been scarce. There is a lot of information for associations, and for the people who feed at he HOA trough but precious little for the person who will be funding the contents of that trough. You, the HOA homeowner.

Michael Gingrich joins us On The Commons this week.  Mike has a background in psychology and learned all about HOAs like most of us, up close and personal, he lived in one.  There is something about having to deal with all the problems and issues that are a part of almost every HOA that compels you to do your homework.  Mike was no exception.  In the process of doing his research and meeting others who found themselves in pretty much the same boat, Mike and his colleagues put together a pretty comprehensive web site called HOAs Harm .  Mike talks about the website and explains why they put it together.   You’ll want to check out the website and tune in to the show to get more information. You won’t want to miss it.

Listen to Mike Gingrich

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Jan Bergemann

Jan Bergemann
Jan Bergemann

The story goes that any homeowner in a mandatory membership homeowners’ association who is behind in their dues is inherently bad, they don’t want to pay their fair share and deserve to be kicked out. That’s the story the HOA industry lobbyists tell state legislators when lobbying for increased power for the HOA and the industry.  They paint a picture of these horrible freeloaders who think nothing of living off their neighbors. “It’s NOT FAIR” they cry. If there was even a grain of truth to any of that, it would be reason enough to pull the plug on a housing concept doomed to fail but instead the people caught in the trap are called every name under the sun and demonized.  

The story goes that any homeowner in a mandatory membership homeowners’ association who is behind in their dues is inherently bad, they don’t want to pay their fair share and deserve to be kicked out. That’s the story the HOA industry lobbyists tell state legislators when lobbying for increased power for the HOA and the industry.  They paint a picture of these horrible freeloaders who think nothing of living off their neighbors. “It’s NOT FAIR” they cry. If there was even a grain of truth to any of that, it would be reason enough to pull the plug on a housing concept doomed to fail but instead the people caught in the trap are called every name under the sun and demonized.  

But let’s take a look at the Florida family who live in Nottingham Harbor in Jackson Florida to get a real picture of what really goes on in HOA land.  

Chris and Robin Rolling bought a house in Nottingham Harbor to live and raise their seven children.  Robin as a petty officer in the navy and her husband Chris, like so many people recently lost his job and his income.  Robin was the family’s sole financial supporter for a time.  The predictable happened, with less income they had to decide on what is more important, feeding their 7 children or feeding the coffers of the over bloated HOA legal team.  They made the same choice all of us would have made under the same circumstances and they fell behind in their HOA dues by $800.  They proposed a payment plan which was rejected by the association so that the debt with penalties, interest and HOA ATTORNEY FEES soared to $5, 800.  That is a $5000 increase!nThere were still 7 kids that needed to be fed but now the “community” decided to bury them even deeper.

Jan Bergemann Joins us On The Commons.  Jan is the founder and president of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice  a grassroots homeowner friendly group that seems to do as much good as CAI manages to do harm.  CCFJ heard about the Rollings and decided to prevent the foreclosure of their home. We’ll talk to Jan and find out just how CCFJ managed to help the Rollings and keep the family of 9 in their home.   The HOA got their back dues plus a whole lot more.  I ask myself exactly who are the freeloaders in this story.  Tune in and I am confident you will reach the same conclusion I did.

Listen to Jan Bergemann

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Nila Ridings

Nila Ridings

For decades there has been a concerted effort nationwide by homeowners, and some legislators, to ensure proper and adequate disclosures of exactly what owning an HOA controlled home entails. One of the biggest pitfalls, as I see it, is that the message is missing the target by a wide margin.  While a place to live is a necessity, we all need shelter and a safe place to live, raise our families and nourish our soles, buying a house is an emotional purchase.  Once a potential buyer has approved the curbside appeal of a house and goes through the front door, they either hate the paint color in the entry, (an easy fix) and turn tail and head right back out, or they start to visualize themselves having breakfast at the kitchen bar, reading a book by the fireplace, enjoying the views from the living room windows and they start to fall in love with their vision of what living in this house would be like.  Informing them that there is an HOA that will “protect them from red doors in their neighborhood will not force them to remove their rose colored glasses.  The sale pitch is emotional so asking them to dig a little deeper is not going to be terribly productive.  How do we find a common language?

Nila Ridings joins us On The Commons.  Nila, an advocate for protecting housing consumers from falling into the HOA trap shares with us her personal nightmare.  In fact Nila was warned by her dad who was a builder, NOT to buy a house that is subject to a mandatory membership HOA.  But then she fell in love with a house.  It had so many lovely features, lots of promises and pots of dreams so just how bad could it be?  She dumped her lifesavings and her inheritance that she got from her father into buying her dream house.  And then she found out just how bad it not only can be, but is.   Tune in and hear Nila’s story and how, despite her unwillingness to pass on her nightmare to anyone else, another buyer, despite being warned, is in the hot seat of her HOA. 

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Jonathan Dessaules

An often cited benefit for residential associations used to be that they allowed the members greater control over their immediate surroundings. The other bonus they were promised was that collectively  they would gain political clout.  At least that was the sales pitch, along with the ever present promise of enhanced property values.  It all sounded wonderful and in a perverse sense sounded sort of logical. But as we have learned over the years not everything works the way it is supposed to.  In fact in the case of residential associations, the opposite is true.  Not only don’t the members have control over their immediate surroundings but have lost sovereignty over their own private spaces.  The existence of an HOA or Condo association is infinitely more intrusive and tyrannical than a neighborhood where the residents are on their own and allegedly have no control.  

Jonathan Dessaules joins us On The Commons. Jon is an attorney in Phoenix, Arizona.   As part of his practice   he represents homeowners against their associations.  He is one of a handful of attorneys nationwide who will only represent the owners and not straddle the fence hopping over to the HOA side when they feel like it.  Currently his is in a class of his own in Arizona.  He also has a  blog where he discusses HOA issues and gives general guidance.  It’s a great page to check out for quick guidance on some of the more common issues facing homeowners.  We talk to Jon about all the usual HOA issues common to all American homeowners but we also talk about a long and protracted case that he recently won.  His clients own a unit in an upscale condominium where the fees are in excess of $1,000/month. The condo shut the key card down, impeding access to the private unit and banned the use of the amenities until the owners forfeited  a  right they had.  So much for having greater control of your immediate surroundings in a residential association.  

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Jonathan Friedrich

Jonathan Friedrich

First you scare them, then you promise to protect them and then you own them.  Once that is accomplished, perpetrating the biggest consumer scam is a piece of cake.  Buying a few state legislators’ assistance, creating a very lucrative stream of “free” income for the municipalities, paving the way for developers to increase their profit margins exponentially seals the deal.  And that is how simple it has been to force housing consumers into HOAs where they can be robbed of their homes, their wealth and health and their peace of mind.  The lies that have been repeated over the decades to scare prospective homeowners appear to have become universally accepted truths.  After all, if you keep hearing the same thing over and over again, if must be true, right?  However, the one thing that is true is that non HOA controlled housing is almost nonexistent in most of the country.  So being told that the house you are buying is in a mandatory membership homeowner association is no surprise. 

Jonathan Friedrich joins us On The Commons.  When he retired, Jonathan left New York in search of lower property taxes and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada where he bought a house that needed a lot of work.  He rolled up his sleeves and got to work.  When he bought the house he was given an HOA disclosure package which contained a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions commonly known as CC&Rs.  Jonathan’s concern was getting away from crippling property taxes and not so much HOAs.  His focus was fixing the house he had just bought and making it habitable. He also became involved in his new community.  And that’s when the imperfections of his association and association living in general started rising to the top. He dealt with all the usual insanity that seems to go along with HOAs which not so surprisingly led to the court house.  After 5 long years in court, Jonathan won his case.  But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details and to truly appreciate the win one has to hear the details of his story, in his own words.  The twists, the turns, the lies, the misrepresentations made along the way should alert consumers of what to look for and where to look when buying a house.  There may be more to come as Jonathan is not finished cleaning up the mess. Stay tuned.    

Jonathan also has a web page HOA Corruption – Check it out.

Listen to Jonathan Friedrich

Tell us your stories in your own words 

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Caroline Douglas

You follow a case as it winds its way through the court system.  It seems so simple, so cut and dried that you wonder why so much time, money and hostility is invested in such a petty argument.  Why should it cost hundreds of thousands of hard earned dollars to figure out whether a homeowner in an association can have white roses instead of red ones?  Or whether or not a condo owner is allowed to have a small American flag on his or her front porch or if a family can have a swing set in the backyard for their children?  Why should these even be an issue?  And why would anyone in their right mind care?  And finally, after months of discovery, nasty letters, fines, bullying, isolation and abusive language, dividing up the neighborhood, name calling and other nastiness, the opinion from the judges is handed down deciding the case once and for all.  This is it, this is the end of this road. The wise men and women of the legal system have spoken and you are left with your mouth hanging open, wondering what on earth just happened.  

Caroline Douglas joins us On The Commons.  Caroline has a law degree although she is no longer a practicing attorney.  She has seen the dark side of the legal profession and decided to blow the whistle on what happens “behind the scenes”.  In an 800 page book called “The Dark Side: a law treatise on judging – with memoir”she explains it all and gives us clues to look for so we are not caught off guard.  In a fascinating interview she walks us through what goes on behind the scenes and how and why some of these off the wall decisions are reached.  Caroline has witnessed these irregularities both as a practicing attorney and a litigant caught in this legal “chamber of horrors”. You can reach Caroline at carolinegdouglas@gmail.com but you won’t want to miss this interview. 

Listen to Caroline Douglas

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