Category Archives: Abuse

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. 

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Larry Murphree

Larry Murphree

When the forces of evil succeed in kicking individual and property rights under the rug, then start playing word games trying to explain how you never really had those rights in the first place, it is time to take the kid gloves off.   

Everything about HOAs makes my blood boil but nothing has enraged me quite as much as the way a homeowner was treated by the very industry that sucks the life out of our homes, our families, our communities and destroys our peace of mind.  This has to stop!  While the catalyst for today’s story may have been a small flag, this is not about a flag but about our rights as homeowners and our right to live in peace in our homes.  

Larry Murphree joins us On The Commons.  Larry, an Air Force veteran, updates us on his battle with his condominium board and the industry attorneys who advise them on how to mistreat and abuse the homeowners.  The battle has been raging for over 7 years and still goes on.  We’ll talk to Larry and get the details of how his decision to move into a condo has adversely affected his life and his bank account.  Of all the horrors, abuses and invasion of one’s privacy, none even come close to the offensive treatment at the hand of a board and it’s attorney hell bent on destroying an owner and robbing him of all he has spent a lifetime working for.  All this is being done legally.  Legislators, are you listening?

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Shelly and Mike Marshall

This is Not Shelly or Mike Marshall

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?

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This is not Shelly or Mike either

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Deborah Goonan

Deborah Goonan

We seem to live in a culture of unprecedented intolerance, incredible rudeness and bullying.  None of these traits are conducive to a society that is civilized, fair or pleasant.  In fact the opposite is true.  Do we continue down this path, unchecked, acting and behaving like animals? What are the consequences of such abusive behavior? 

For a glimpse of where we might be headed, we need to look no further than the HOAs that are forced on America’s homeowners.  Without the checks and balances required by the Constitution and absent any oversight the so called leaders in these associations act and behave like the adult versions of the bullies they probably were in school.  And absent any “adult” to prevent the abuse, there will be tragic consequences.

Deborah Goonan joins us  On The Commons. We are both very saddened to announce that a homeowner who fought to protect her home, her family and her rights lost the biggest battle of all, her life.  Many of you had corresponded with Andrea Barnes over the years and are familiar with the terror and insanity she had to put up with in her HOA.  Andrea was a young mother of 3 children that she loved  and was very proud of.  She was a very talented photographer and a gifted writer.  And as everything in HOAs the problems and the HOA complaints were petty.They included her trashcan, a birdhouse her kids made her in school, a hose wheel (unapproved? Wrong shade of gray? who knows!). So quite apart from the barrage of violation notices for petty alleged infractions, the association isolated her, the abuse spilled onto the kids at school and they removed her from the community Facebook page.  

They parked at the end of her driveway and sat there watching the house. Oh, she also had Meniers disease, a disability that is not outwardly visible but a disability nonetheless.  The stress she lived under in her association was relentless.  But then this is what HOAs are about.  I have to wonder if the HOA had the authority to do any of the things they did to Andrea and do to countless other homeowners on a daily basis.  It is time to pull the plug on homeowner associations!  It is time to learn how to be a caring, polite and civilized country once again. 

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Andrea Barnes

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Silvia Wright

Silvia Wright

We have become a very transient society. I was quite surprised when I first came to the US that one of the first questions we ask someone we meet is, “where are you from?” Our roots have become spread across the globe, leaving behind our friends, families, neighbors, traditions, language, culture and all the other things that are part of who we are.  It hasn’t always been that way.  There was a time when families lived in the same community and were there for all the milestones.  Family lore and history were well known, pride of our ancestors and their accomplishments and legacies were all part of our every day lives.  We had a stronger sense of who we were and where we came from. 

Sylvia Hoehns Wright joins us On The Commons.  Sylvia is one of a handful of people who knows who she is and where she came from.  She is the 5th generation to live on a family owned tract of land.  There are 9 houses in her neighborhood all owned and inhabited by family who all share the same roots and values.  There is no mandatory membership homeowner association so no abuses, horror stories or attempted land grabs that we talk about here.  Right?  Well, not so fast.  A couple of parcels of land were sold and the new owners who don’t share Sylvia’s history, values or traditions would love to be able to get her off her land.  She has written a book called  Lawfare, American Property Rights versus Muslim Supremacy   Tune in to hear Sylvia’s story.  

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Jessica Suico

 I have often wondered, and worried, about children growing up in HOAs who watch their parents suffer at the hands of the HOA bullies. What is the message we are giving them?  Will they be willing and able to fight to protect their homes and families when they are raising their children in these irrational and often abusive residential associations?  Or will they simply roll over and hope the horrors end, believing this is normal? “This is just the way it is” or “They are all like this”, never realizing they can fight back and they can make life better for all concerned? 

Imagine my delight when I ran across an article penned by a college student and published in the college newspaper, The Advocate.  The article is titled;   Illegal evictions harm families, neighborhoods.  

I had to find out more about it.

Jessica Suico joins us On The Commons. Jessica is a second year student at Contra Costa College in San Pablo, California.  She is majoring in journalism and works on The Advocate, the college newsletter.  The paper normally reports on all things college related, new classes, upcoming events on campus and other  news  items or topics of interest that would affect student life.  Jessica’s article is a little out of the norm for her paper but, I believe, so very important.   She witnessed the harassment and subsequent eviction of her mother and aunt from their home.  She also saw the frustration as her mother and aunt exhausted all venues seeking non existing help for people in similar situations. They may have been able to get some help had they known where to look.  That has to be part of the education.  However, in the end, a couple of elderly ladies who have had health problems were evicted, ended up in the hospital and rendered homeless.  Using the college newspaper was an excellent way of, not only getting the story out, but also of education other young college students who will be facing similar problems unless we stop the bleeding in private residential America SOON.

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Larry Murphree

When the forces of evil succeed in kicking individual and property rights under the rug, then start playing word games trying to explain how you never really had those rights in the first place, it is time to take the kid gloves off.   

Everything about HOAs makes my blood boil but nothing has enraged me quite as much as the way a homeowner was treated by the very industry that sucks the life out of our homes, our families, our communities and destroys our peace of mind.  This has to stop!  While the catalyst for today’s story may have been a small flag, this is not about a flag but about our rights as homeowners and our right to live in peace in our homes.  

Larry Murphree joins us On the Commons.  Larry, an Air Force veteran, updates us on his battle with his condominium board and the industry attorneys who advise them on how to mistreat and abuse the homeowners.  The battle has been raging for over 7 years and still goes on.  We’ll talk to Larry and get the details of how his decision to move into a condo has adversely affected his life and his bank account.  Of all the horrors, abuses and invasion of one’s privacy, none even come close to the offensive treatment at the hand of a board and it’s attorney hell bent on destroying an owner and robbing him of all he has spent a lifetime working for.  All this is being done legally.  Legislators, are you listening?

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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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Debbie Goonan

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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Bill Davis

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.

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