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.
Words have meanings and the word community generally imparts a sense of belonging. People in a community tend to have something in common. They come from similar backgrounds, are generally in the same socioeconomic group, perhaps share hobbies and interests. They have something that binds them together. In the good old days, before “communities” were designed and force-fed on Americans, the sense of community evolved naturally. Neighbors were friends who helped and looked out for each other. They took in a child who might have inadvertently been locked out, picked up packages for neighbors or retrieved a trash can that was blown down the street by the wind. In this brave new world of controlled living, the sense of community is no longer communal but rather a gathering of people who delight is spying on their neighbors. Now a child who is locked out might get rescued by the police, mail is left out and the association is called to report a stray trash can.
Ileana Johnson joins us On The Commons this week. Ileana is an American by choice and a Romanian by birth. She is a freelance journalist, an author, a speaker and a radio commentator. She also maintains a blog. Ileana and her husband currently live in a Homeowner Association in Virginia where inspections are conducted regularly to ensure that no blade of grass exceeds the allowable length and that all things visible on the property conform to some rather vague standard. Creativity and individuality are highly frowned upon. Ileana tells us about life in her 300 square foot apartment in Communist Romania and draws some parallels between Communist Romania and HOAs, American Style. Sometimes it is hard to find much difference.
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.
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.