Over the years battle weary homeowners across the country have reached out to share their tales of woe as they try to survive in their own homes. Some of the stories are sad, others make me mad, some are funny, silly, ridiculous, outrageous, abusive, horrible and even deadly but the one thing they all have in common is that they reinforce my belief that this housing concept is structurally flawed and cannot be tweaked and made into something a little more homeowner friendly. Nothing short of a major overhaul will suffice to drag it out of the dark ages.
Jerry Berg joins us On The Commons. Jerry lives in a condominium in Kansas and like many other homeowners in America, Jerry wondered, out loud, what was happening to all the money the association was collecting from the homeowners. That was 5 years ago. His curiosity earned him a severe beating with a crow bar, which landed him in the hospital. He was jailed a couple of times, fined $100 seventy one times. One of those fines was for walking his dog “too slowly” across their private driveway. His court case was recently postponed so he continues to live in limbo, just waiting for justice to be served. Hoping that justice will be served. In the meantime he has had more surgery and the insanity in his neighborhood continues.
Claiming to be a 5th generation landowner, Philip Thompson said, “I will do whatever it takes to help preserve the countryside we call home”. The countryside he calls home is in Fauquier County, Virginia about an hour outside Washington DC. He inherited much of the land in the countryside he called home, then proceeded to place a large tract into a conservation easement managed by the Piedmont Environmental Council, (PEC). Much like the Declarations in residential associations, the easements restrict the use of the property. Much like a residential association, power is given to the administrator. And we all know that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”(Lord Acton) regardless of who has it.
Dr. Bonner Cohen joins us On The Commons. Dr. Cohen is a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research. He also serves as senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. He is an author, has spoken at conferences, and appears on TV and radio. Dr. Cohen, a friend of Martha Boneta, has been following the horrors and abuses taking place in Liberty Farms. He wrote an article about the latest round of lawsuits. We find just what Mr. Thompson meant when he said he would do “whatever it takes…” And for “before” and “after” pictures of what the farm looked like under the Thomas’s and the PEC’s stewardship, watch Farming in Fear.
This is a rebroadcast of a show first recorded in 2014 but the case is still ongoing.
When the scene is set for fraud and abuse, the crooks, criminals and villains will come by the droves. Residential associations, be they condos, homeowner associations or cooperatives, where membership is mandatory, the power and authority is in the hands of a few and there is an enormous industry that feeds off these housing schemes and more importantly, the owners have been left pretty much defenseless, is an open invitation to all those who conspire to do wrong. Just how much corruption goes on every day is unknown. Even in Las Vegas when it became apparent in 2008 that the FBI was investigating wrong doings by board members, managers and HOA industry attorneys, the full extent of what went on is is still largely unknown.
Nevada State Senator Mike Schneider joins us On the Commons this week. Senator Mike, as he is known to his constituents, joins us to talk about the FBI investigation that became apparent in 2008 and is still ongoing. The problems and the scams are incredible, ranging from election fraud to construction defect lawsuits. There have been many indictments, many sentences handed down and many more mysteries and unanswered questions that still hound this situation. There are sealed records, gag orders, four alleged suicides, at least one attorney beaten to a pulp, kneecaps smashed with a baseball bat and left for dead, stark naked on the streets of his neighborhood. As Mike says, “dead men can’t talk”. Were they suicides? And if they were, what could be so bad that it is preferable to take ones own life than face the consequences? It also begs the questions of why sealed records and gag orders? What else are they hiding? And just how pervasive are these practices? We all know that that what goes on in Las Vegas really doesn’t stay there and that the same things is being replicates across the country. The FBI just hasn’t managed to get to them all. Will they or will everyone else simply get away with it while our legislators blindly ignore the problems?
Ladies and gentlemen, I have news for you, if it hurts it is NOT good for you. The only people who would have you believe that nonsense are those who are out to take advantage of you and to harm you. One of the biggest scams that has been harming Americans for the past several decades is residential associations. If these associations are such a great deal, why not provide housing consumers with honest, truthful information about what they are buying into? However, that disclosure will have to include all possible risks to their homes, their wallets, their health and the health and well being of their children. It is not about pools, tennis courts, community centers and all the glitz, but also about harassment, fines, being put under the microscope, special assessments, foreclosures, and all the abuses for such ridiculous alleged infractions, such as children’s bikes that are visible, basket ball hoops, hopscotch on the sidewalk. It is about living, living as a family without fear, raising happy healthy children instead of couch potatoes with weight problems and a lifetime of health problems.
Dr. Gary Solomon joins me On The Commons this week. Dr. Solomon has dedicated the last several years of his life to to educating the public about the health risks of living in an HOA. He has written one of the most creative and comprehensive e-books called HOA:Crisis in America which he has made available online free to everyone. You can read the book, listen to it or watch video clips. It is book that everyone should read, whether in the hallowed halls of our State and Federal Capitols, academia and especially his colleagues in the medical world. The medical practitioners who have the task of healing and curing their patients need to understand the root cause of the problems their patients are suffering. Every time I talk to Dr. Solomon, I learn something new and I get to know the man a little better. He is definitely a man well worth getting to know.
Let the children play in HOAs. They deserve a normal childhood and will not devalue property.
Stress, for the most part, is unavoidable. Problems at work, traffic jams on the way home, being late picking up the kids from the sitter, all are stressful situations. They are all part of life. We deal with the problems as they happen and go on with our lives. But then we go home to find a threat letter from the homeowner association because the mailbox is dusty or the mulch is the wrong color or the wrong size and we have 2 days to tear it out and replace it with the correct size and color of mulch – or else. The kids are hungry and are whining. That’s it, that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. We have taken as much as we can take so we take out our anger and frustration on the kids.
Children should not have to suffer. Unfortunately all too often they are the ones who bear the brunt of our frustrations.
Dr. Gary Solomon joins us On The Commons this week. Dr. Solomon has long warned us about the harmful effects of stress caused by HOAs on homeowners. He has written a book HOA; Crisis in America as well as several papers on how stress affects us physically, mentally and emotionally. These include HOA Syndrome , Elder Abuse and his latest, Child Abuse by Proxy. Dr. Solomon talks about child abuse by proxy on this show, he explains how it works and what happens to children who are abused. We talk about the fallout of bringing children up in associations where life can turn into a study of pettiness and power abuse.
Why are American homeowners being forced to live under a microscope? How can we put a stop to the horrors in HOAs? Dr. Solomon has some very interesting and simple thoughts on that. Don’t miss it.
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.
Violence is alive and well in residential America. So is bullying. And so are the feelings of helplessness, loneliness and frustration that countless American homeowners face on a daily basis. Quite a few of these stories do make the headlines but many more of them never see the light of day. We’ve heard from homeowners who were beaten up during meetings for asking questions, we’ve heard about the elderly being shoved and pushed by the bullies in charge, we’ve heard about pets being poisoned and shot, we’ve heard about owners and guests being terrorized by cars on the streets of their developments. We’ve heard about the stresses of association living get to the point where death is preferable. There have been more suicides and attempted suicides in residential America than we can even begin to imagine.
What is it about this version of the American Dream that causes so much violence, stress and pain for the members? And why is the real government so oblivious to these problems?
Jerry Berg joins us On The Commons. Jerry is a Kansas condo owner who has experienced first hand some of the violence that seems to be prevalent in America’s over almost half a million mandatory membership condos and homeowner associations. We’ll talk to Jerry and find out what led to the violent confrontation that put him in the hospital after being beaten up with a crowbar and put the manager in jail, at least briefly. We’ll also find out why, after several years, nothing has been resolved and the cases are ongoing. We’ll learn how the bullying in his particular association caused two of his neighbors to commit suicide.
“If it hurts, it must be good for you”. Remember that one? Fortunately we got smart and realized that if it hurt it really was not good for us. Along the same lines of thinking is the other oft repeated canard which is that homeowner associations protect property values. “If your HOA makes you miserable and physically ill, is abusive, is grossly mismanaged, is secretive, etc. etc. etc., it is OK because it protects your property values.” This makes about as much sense as “if it hurts, it’s good for you.” Despite the fact that protected property values claim is totally unsubstantiated, we hear it over and over again.
Maybe it is time to get smart and to stop being so gullible. Next time you are told HOAs protect property values, insist on tangible proof. Preventing a neighbor from painting their front door red is not acceptable and it really doesn’t prove anything.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Jill Schweitzer. Jill is a Real Estate Broker in Scottsdale, Arizona where there are a lot of mandatory membership HOAs and condominiums. She is concerned about all the problems in these kontrolled properties and has taken it upon herself to try to understand what is going on. She actually put pen to paper and did the math. She tracked and analyzed property values in 10 condo projects in Scottsdale over a period of 10 years. Her findings are on her website hoasavers.com. It might come as no surprise that contrary to protecting property values, HOAs can actually devalue property. Tune in, we’ll talk to Jill about a myriad of problems that seem to be part and parcel of HOAs, find out why she decided to look into HOAs and what she is planning on doing to protect her clients’ property.
Have you noticed how often the phrase, “it protects property values” is used to justify the most ridiculous behavior in homeowner associations? It is a one size fits all excuse or explanation for the bizarre, ludicrous, absurd, wacky and outrageous shenanigans by so called kommunity leaders. Over the years we have heard it all – unapproved garden hoses, too many rose bushes, a driveway that is three inches wider than approved, a pudgy pooch or a rogue bird feeder. The list is endless.
It will come as no surprise to you then that at The Tides Condominium at Sweetwater in Florida fully grown adults sat around one day and came up with “flowerpot rules”. When it comes to property values, you see, nothing is too insignificant for these selfless altruists who give so freely of their time and expertise to determine what you can put in your flowerpot. Kompliance with konformity in kondos is of utmost concern as you might have guessed, and violators are sought and penalized lest they devalue property.
Joining us On The Commons is Larry Murphree. Larry lives in Jacksonville, Florida where, by the largess of the kondo leaders, he is allowed to have a flowerpot but the tiny flag tucked in with his flowers is verboten. His flagrant disregard of the rules got him a letter from the kondo kommandos notifying him that there is an “unauthorized object” in his flowerpot. When Larry refused to remove the flag, passionately believing in his 1st Amendment rights as well as his right to have it there, he was fined $100 a day for protecting his rights. Florida law allows fines up to $1000 (bless their hearts) but through some very creative accounting, the kondo threatened to foreclose on Larry’s unit to collect $8000 they alleged he owed. Please join us to learn the details of this absurd situation, find out what the most recent law suit filed by the kondo sought and what the local realtors have to say about why buyers are not beating a path to this particular project’s gate. Also, check out Larry’s website at http://letmeflytheflag.com
There is a rumor out there that 9 out of 10 owners in homeowners associations are delighted with their living conditions. Apparently the Community Associations Institute has a hard time believing those numbers as well because they seem to be commissioning a new survey every year or two – just to make sure, I suppose. The statistics and the numbers are, well, quite incredible but they must be true, otherwise we wouldn’t be reading about them in in every article about HOA horror stories.
The folks I hear from are not the deliriously happy homeowners the pollsters seem to unearth every year or so. I hear from people who are being terrorized, bullied, demonized and abused by a housing scheme that is beyond repair. I talk to people who are terrified of going home, of answering the door or the phone or picking up their mail. Perhaps that explains why they are not represented in all these happy surveys? The sorry fact is that HOAs are ruining a lot of lives and destroying a lot of people.
But there is strength in numbers and sometimes that can be a beautiful thing. Joining us On The Commons this week is Larry Fletcher. Larry and his neighbors decided they didn’t want to be harassed and abused by a board president with too much free time on his hands and a passion for writing threat letters and issuing fines. So they went to court and challenged the fines and the nit picky violations and they won their case. In the process they got a kinder, gentler president. But that did not guarantee that theirs would be a happy neighborhood forever after. They realized they were one election away from having another tyrant at the helm so they set out to ensure that they would always have a real sense of community where neighbors cared for each other and celebrated together. You will LOVE their story and what they did to get there. You will also understand why Larry sounds like such a cheerful chap.