Gone are the days when being a property owner meant having dominion over your property. With the imposition of mandatory membership residential associations and the restrictive covenants that are attached to the deed, homeowners have lost some of the most basic and fundamental rights of the use and enjoyment of their homes. Those restrictions range from something as basic and mundane as a choice of plants, to the approved shade of white for the interior window blinds to something a little more serious like having a fence to keep children and pets safe and even to having children and pets at all.
Are restrictive covenants and neighborhood Nazis the only threat to a property owner’s right to ownership?
Dr. Bonner Cohen joins us On The Commons this week. Dr. Cohen is a Senior Fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a position he has had since 2002. He is also a Senior Policy Analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow; and the author of The Green Wave. Dr. Cohen takes us on a trip down memory lane and reminds us of the advantages and opportunities we enjoyed in the past and compares them to the way we live today. He explains how and why, slowly, very slowly, rights, education, health, wealth and the way we live have been adversely affected. He very clearly helps us follow the laws, regulations and policies that have stripped us of things we once enjoyed and took for granted. The changes were gradual, the results were by design and we never noticed them until they were here. Is it too late or can we wrest control of our world back from the special interests? Listen to Bonner Cohen
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 firstname.lastname@example.org but you won’t want to miss this interview.
I have never much liked the idea of mandatory membership homeowner associations. The concept of binding private real property to a hodgepodge of real estate owned by a third party, maintained and controlled by a motley crew of individuals with no expertise in the art of management has always seemed counterintuitive to me. That the model is not working is no real surprise. What galls me the most however, is the idea that a handful of owners and hired managers are allowed to fine the owners. This practice does get very personal. People have been fined for some of the most ridiculous things. A few examples include having a dusty roof and mailbox, a cracked flowerpot on the front porch, an “unapproved” garden hose in the yard, and “unapproved object” in a flowerpot (small US flag), talking to neighbors on front porch of ones own home, interior window blinds the wrong shade of white, a pet that exceeds the allowed weight limit, unapproved number of rose bushes, trash cans visible from the street. The list goes on and on, all as ridiculous as these examples. Fining is a power that is often used as a bully tool and abused and should be STOPPED. Fines can lead to the loss of a home through foreclosure and the loss of an owner’s financial security.
Frank Short joins us On The Commons. Frank, an attorney and a popular repeat guest of the show, discusses fines in HOAs and Condominiums. He explains why we have fines and who benefits from the fines. Over the years there have been a number of court cases about fines. He discuses those cases, explains what the courts considered and tells us how they ruled. He also explains the constitutional connections. This is an excellent show from the archives. For those being fined by their HOAs for whatever reason, this show is a must for the owner and their attorneys. Share your stories on: From the HOA Trenches
There are several reasons to thank the Virginia Legislature this year, not the least of which is to have all the new bills in for us to talk about on our annual St. Patrick’s Day show. ˇSome years the news is pretty grim for homeowners because the special interests have managed to convince our esteemed law makers to further empower HOAs. ˇThis year, however, things were a little different and our legislators actually had the best interest of their constituents in mind. ˇ
Frank Shortˇjoins usˇOn The Commons. ˇFrank is an attorney and a friend and our resident St Patrick’s Day leprechaun and takes us through all the new bills and laws that affect the Virginia Property Owners Association Act (POAA) and the Condo Act. ˇHe explains the new laws, tells us whether they passed or failed and how they would affect us. ˇThis year we talk about 6 bills, some passed and others were tabled. ˇShould the ones that were passed over this year be reintroduced next year? ˇHow would they protect the homeowners’ rights and their property? ˇCould some of the bills be used as a model for other states? ˇTune in, you won’t want to miss this one.
With special thanks to Senator Chap Peterson for sponsoring a bill titled “The Homeowners Bill of Rights”. ˇThanks also to Senator Dave Marsden, Delegates Chris Peace, Brenda Pogge and Tom Rust forˇsponsoring homeowner friendly bills this year. We appreciate your efforts on our behalf.
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.
When I started producing the show 14 years ago, I wondered if I would have enough material to cover during the initial 6 month contract. I need not have worried because the HOA wars multiplied like rabbits, homeowners and attorneys on both sides of the battle fields wanted to tell their side of the story and legislators started scratching their heads wondering what to do about all the complaints they were getting from their constituents. I guess that was before the days when the polls decided everyone was madly in love with the idea of being abused and just loved living the kontrolled life.
In my quest several years ago to make sense of the assault on hearth and home in America, I met the gentleman we will be talking to on this show. Tom was fighting a much bigger battle in a much bigger arena and he was making a difference. People in power started listening to what he had to say and some even acted on his advice proving that a small, handful of thoughtful and committed people can change the world.
Joining us today On The Commons we have Tom DeWeese. Tom is the founder and President of the Virginia based American Policy Center. He has been an advocate for freedom, property and individual rights for the past quarter of a century. We talk to Tom about just a few of the successes he has had over the years, learn a little about the important points when initially starting on the road to righting the ills of the world and just how critical having a written plan can be. He is a dynamic speaker who is energetic and passionate about message. He is currently working on webinars you can sign up for on his website: www.americanpolicy.org Check it out, you’ll find lots of other good information there as well.
Proponents of homeowner associations would have us believe that HOAs are “democracy up close and personal”. They insist the owners have more control over the neighborhood than they otherwise would and being neighbors, the leadership would be of the kinder, gentler variety than the further removed, less personal municipal government could provide. They’ve got part of it right, anyway. HOAs can be extremely “up close and personal” and that is not a good thing. As for democracy, it is almost nonexistent in kontrolled kommunities around the country.
Neighbors and community members can be a little too close for comfort when it comes to providing any kind of governance that is needed to run a development. Personality clashes, personal feelings and long standing friendships/animosities are more than likely to interfere with any requirement for fair dealing. This lack of neutrality and imbalance of power can make life inside the borders of associations a living hell.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Billy Martin. Billy lives in a townhouse development in Houston, Texas where his first battle with the HOA was over a flag. The issue wasn’t whether or not he had the right to fly the flag but a dispute over the placement of the flag. It went to court and Billy won. The judge agreed that the flag was on private property and not HOA controlled property. That, however, is not the end of the story. What happened next is terrifying. (See News Story) We will talk to Billy and find out what he discovered when he came home from a trip and found his house had been vandalized.