How do you suppose the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” would have ended had the town’s people been prohibited from yelling that the emperor was naked? The emperor was being robbed, lied to, made a fool of and convinced that he was indeed wearing beautiful new clothes, clothes that he could not see. Afraid of admitting he couldn’t see them he went along with their deception. Fortunately the thieves were not able to brainwash everyone and the truth did get out. These days it is so much easier to convince large groups of people by broadcasting the lies and then controlling free speech. It can be as simple as controlling words or preventing people from gathering or even setting up websites and enforcing much of that through the courts.
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons. Deborah is the host, prolific author and owner of the Independent American Communities, a must read blog if you want to keep up with what’s going on in HOA land. Two of her recent blogs dealt with a couple of my pet peeves, the much abused and often ignored 1st Amendment in HOAs and whether or not HOAs, as some people would have us believe, are here to stay. We’ll talk to Deborah about a 10 year lawsuit dealing with an owner’s right to free speech. In an effort to prevent the homeowner in this association from yelling that the emperor was naked, any excuse will do, they headed to court. In this case the creative argument was a trademark infringement. And then I ask Deborah whether or not we will ever be free of HOAs. She had some very interesting facts and comments.
The benefit of making mistakes should be that we learn from them and – hopefully- avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. So how come we never seem to learn from the mistake of imposing a 4th layer of government on housing consumers? This extra layer of government has no oversight, no separation of powers, no constitutional restraints and total and complete disregard for individual and property rights. Could the answer be that it really is not a mistake?
Caroline Douglas is back by popular demand, On the Commons . Caroline has a Juris Doctor, she has written a law treatise called The Dark Side and is about to teach the material from her book in several college courses in Baltimore, Maryland. Never having been personally caught in the abuses of an HOA gone off the rails, and never having litigated property association cases, she forces us to look outside the box we have put ourselves in. Tune in for a slightly different show.
We all dream of a safe, happy and healthy home in a safe, happy and healthy neighborhood. We all need and want the security that comes with a real “community” where we can raise our families, spend time with our friends and families and retire to when we want to shut the rest of the world out. Unfortunately that ideal of “home” seems to have been lost in a quagmire of a legal morass. whether in a residential association or out in the countryside. Gone are the days of a simple and peaceful life where neighbors were friends who looked out for each other. Sadly nowadays the people watching are not doing so to be helpful but instead looking for ways to destroy their neighbors and take their property away their property.
Martha Boneta joins us On The Commons this week. Martha, an organic farmer followed her dream and her passion for growing good wholesome food to feed her family, friends and neighbors. She soon discovered that not all her neighbors were pure of heart. Over the past 10 years they have sought to take her farm away from her. They have been abusive, underhanded and plain obnoxious. Throughout it all, she has stood firm, fought back and inspired many people to step forward to “Stand with Martha”. No matter how bad things get,Martha always has a kind word and a radiant smile . Her story and her positive attitude in the face of adversity have attracted people to support her. Legislators so outraged by how the laws are being abused by government agencies and appointed commissions have carried bills for her to try to right so many wrongs. Movie and documentary producers followed her battle for years releasing an award winning documentary earlier in the year called “Farming in Fear”. Martha also has a website, In Martha’s own words, “Today will never come again. Be Humble. Be Compassion. Be Love. Be Light”.
The New Jersey Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the Mediterranean South co-operative building in Fort Lee, New Jersey violated an owner’s right to free speech by prohibiting him from distributing campaign literature when he ran for a seat on the board. The co-op had a house rule that prohibited owners from distributing written material, the reason given is to “preserve the residents’ quiet enjoyment of their units and to cut down on paper pollution”. But, as we know, what is good for the goose is not always good for the gander because when the board distributed their diatribes, quiet enjoyment was never a consideration and apparently, unlike all other paper, the board’s missives did not pollute. On a somewhat humorous note, (or is it ironic?), the board included the following sentence in one of their leaflets; “Can you imagine the disaster that would befall upon Med South and all of us if this group of selfish people ever got control of the Med South Board?”
Robert Dublirer joins us On The Commons. Rob is a former New York Prosecutor, so well versed in the law and quite comfortable in a court of law so after years of having his rights trampled on and being lied to, he decided to put his knowledge and skills to work. He sued the Mediterranean South co-op to protect his right to communicate with his neighbors. The rules and regulations adopted by the board include some of the most restrictive gag orders on what the owners are allowed to talk about and discuss. Join us as Rob fills us in on all his battles from the time he moved in and was not given a handicapped parking space to ending up, not only protecting his rights, but also arguing for the rights of his fellow New Jersey HOA denizens.
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
Have you heard the one about homeowner associations being “democracy, up close and personal”? How about homeowners in HOAs are better able to influence their immediate neighborhoods than their counterparts who live in the real world? And one of my all time favorites, “If you don’t like the rules, you can change them.” See, there is absolutely nothing to worry about, it is all oh so very civilized.
Or is it?
Some Texas homeowners actually believed all that jazz. They thought they had a say in their neighborhood and decided bans on fences or fence heights to preserve the view of a nonexistent golf course made no sense. So, they did what any concerned person would do, they tried to amend the governing documents to change outdated, restrictions and pave the way for a more friendly place to live.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Bill Davis. Bill, a Texas attorney, represents homeowners who find themselves having to protect their rights and their homes from the associations they have the misfortune of belonging to. We’ll talk to Bill about a particular association and find out why, as a “legal formality” the association sued 120 members who signed a petition to amend the governing docs. We’ll also talk about some of the “games” attorneys and associations play to circumvent the rules, and in some cases, the laws.
A house is just a house, four walls and a door to keep the outside out and the inside in. It is simply a place where people live. A home, on the other hand, is a place where our affections are centered, where, to use an old cliché, the heart is. Sadly, we have gone from acquiring a house and making it our home to living in what is now known as a “unit”. The Dictionary defines a unit as “one of many”. There is nothing special about a “unit”. Nothing unique, nothing to distinguish it from all the others.
Notwithstanding the outer changes of our dwelling units, we still need to have a nesting place, a place all our own, a place that reflects who we are, a place that is safe and a place where we escape the outside world, even if just for a short while. In the homeowner association world that is taking over residential America, the concept of a home is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. We now live in corporations where every aspect of daily life is kontrolled, where threats and sanctions are the norm and where fear seems to rule the day. Joining us On The Commons this week is Harry Flagle. Harry is a multi talented gent with a heart as big as they come. A composer and song writer, Harry wrote the lyrics and the music to our theme song, “One Way Ticket to Hell” and donated the song to the homeowners striving to maintain some semblance of sanity in their neighborhoods. He owns several patents and is an Emmy Award winner for some of his contributions to the film industry. We’ll ask Harry why he wrote One Way Ticket to Hell and what the reaction to the song has been and then we’ll join Harry on a delightful stroll down memory lane to a time when life was simpler and the unimaginable was possible.