Category Archives: Condominium

Tom LePage


I have been scratching my head, trying to understand the thinking behind homeowner and condo associations. It was a big mystery 36 years ago when I first encountered these confounding things.  It is still a huge mystery. Condo associations are a different breed of animal but I still fail to understand the need for all the gibberish that seems to be part and parcel of this ancient and once simple and uncomplicated housing concept. After almost 30 years of studying residential associations and trying to understand them, I am still scratching my head.  What would happen if we removed that 4th layer of government and taxing power?  Would the world collapse?  Perhaps local municipal governments would have to become better stewards of public funds instead of thinking money grows on trees?  Now that would be a tragedy, wouldn’t it?   Or would we become a nation of red doors, cars on blocks and toilets adorning front yards? Does anyone really believe that?  We are told that this form of governance brings us “democracy, up close and personal”.  Still trying to understand that one. All the pretty speak surrounding this type of homeownership assures housing consumers they will have far greater influence over the way their communities work.  I say hogwash!

Tom LePage joins us On The Commons this week.  Tom is a property manager north of the border, in Ontario, Canada.  With over 30 years of experience in the field of property management he branched out into consulting and says he has a passion for well managed condominiums.  Tom has been following all the nonsense that goes on here, south of his border and is, no doubt, scratching his head as well. He is the founder of Condo-Ology and maintains a blog that can be accessed from his web page.  Property managers here, there and everywhere are a dime a dozen but one thing that makes Tom different is his firm belief in TRANSPARENCY.  That word is one of the first words you will find on his website.  Join us for a fun interview as we compare and contrast typical association issues, talk about potential “fixes”, discuss some that have been tried in the US and start to explore more ideas.  Tom has a lot of ideas that deserve to be heard so listen to part one now as I hope he will be back sometime soon with more of his ideas.



Don DeBat

Don DeBat

There is a rumor that condominiums are carefree living at their best.  No lawns to mow, no snow to shovel (in areas where it snows) no maintenance, all an owner has to do is pick up the phone, call the manager or a friendly board member, report a problem and poof, as if by magic, the problem is taken care of.  Right?  Well, if you believe that I have bridge to sell you.  No one tells you about your responsibilities as an owner or the hours “volunteers” donate to the association. There are other misconceptions associated with condo living, carefree living is the least of them.

Don DeBat joins us On The Commons this week.  Don is a long time reporter, a newspaper columnist who has written hundreds of newspaper columns on condominium and homeowner association living.  He is a Pulitzer Prize nominee for a series he wrote on shoddy home repairs, He has authored a number of books, including co-authoring “Escaping Condo Jail: Navigating the Risks and Surviving the Perils of the “Carefree Community Lifestyle” with Sara Benson.  The multi talented DeBat wrote the press release for the new homeowner satisfaction survey conducted recently by the Coalition for Community Housing Policy in the Public Interest (CHPPI) We talk to Don about his career as a Real Estate reporter, his research for his latest book and we find out how he managed to get his nickname, Batman.  Tune in for a fun interview.  


Linc Cummings


Byron Hanke is largely credited with being the grandfather of what we often refer to as “homeowner associations”.  But this concept of homeownership includes condominiums, co-ooperatives as well as fee simple single family homes.  As I started looking at the bigger picture of HOAs, I wondered about the origins of the concept.  I called Byron Hanke several times and talked to him on the phone.  He never agreed to be interviewed but was generous with his time when it came to talking one on one.  In October of 1999 I got a call from Lincoln Cummins, one of the three founders of CAI and its second President, inviting me to a summit to be held at at Anne and Byron’s house in a place called “Scientists Cliffs” in Maryland.  Scientists Cliffs served as a model for HOAs.

Lincoln Cummings joins us On The Commons this week.  Linc has been involved from the very beginning so has a unique perspective.  He takes us on a trip down memory lane to the very early days of association housing,  introduces us to the people involved and talks a little about the thoughts and plans they had.  We’ll find out whether or not their ideas materialized as imagined or whether some things went astray.  We’ll also ask Linc, hindsight being 20/20, if he could go back to the very beginning, would he do anything differently.


John Cowherd

Trump Chicago

Consumers are purchasers and users of products and services.  They have certain expectations, particularly if the item or the service they buy is expensive.  Often some of these items come with warranties.  Sometimes these warranties come in writing but at other times they are implied.  Despite the glossy brochures, the clever ads with the catchy descriptions, the promises and the dreams that are being bought and sold, are American housing consumers getting what they think they are buying?

John Cowherd joins us On The Commons.  John is a Virginia attorney with a passion for protecting individual property rights.  He represents owners in court. He is also a passionate blogger called Words of Conveyance where he writes about some of the issues homeowners and housing consumers face on a daily basis.  We learn about a law suit arising out of the purchase of a couple of luxury Hotel Condominium units in Trump Tower in Chicago.  We discuss the perils and the merits of owning common elements in a residential association.  We also talk about warranties.  What should consumers know about them and what to look out for. It is important to know and understand what is being bought.