Why is it that the single largest asset you own comes with more restrictions and controls placed on it than any other item you have? Own a car? You can choose the size, make, model, color, you can add seat covers, additional side mirrors to enhance your vision of your surroundings, add bumper stickers about your child’s scholastic achievements, your favorite teams, your pets, places you have visited or any other message that is near and dear to your heart. No approval needed from anyone for the color of your vehicle or permission to add more side mirrors. Permission for a bumper sticker announcing your pride in your children’ scholastic and athletic achievements? After all, isn’t it all part of your right to free speech? You own it, you control it. So why is it that your home, arguably the largest expenditure you have, the one item that reflects who you are and what you like more than anything else, is so burdened with rules, regulations, threats, fines and yes, foreclosure because you violated someone else’s aesthetic sensibilities. Whatever happened to being king and queen of your own castle?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney whose legal practice includes representing homeowners in HOAs has a unique insight into HOA problems. He has seen the bad and the ugly from all sides. We talk to Bill about what makes living in an HOA such an awful experience for so many homeowners and how the association and their legal council seem to have unfettered power over the owners. We also talk about the “carrot” or the BIG LIE that convinces housing consumers that there might be some benefit to giving up so much control over their lives and homes by subjecting themselves to an HOA. We talk about THE BIG LIE, the assertion that HOAs protect and enhance property values. What exactly are property values? How do HOAs protect these values when so many homeowners are losing their homes and their fortunes to the HOA boards, managers and their attorneys? And just what is the value of homeownership in modern day America?
Not too long ago a friend sent me a link for a video and recommended I watch it. I did. I was shocked and horrified when I realized I was looking at a homeowners’ association. As far as I could see, there was no rhyme or reason to have an HOA in this bucolic part of the country. I have since learned that the property owners in this otherwise peaceful setting each own hundreds of acres of land accessible by dirt roads.
We’ve allowed ourselves to be fooled into believing municipal governments just don’t have the money to provide the services real estate tax dollars are supposed to pay for, therefore HOAs are a necessity to provide those services. Not that I believe that for a moment but if I did, try as I might, I could not find any reason to justify the imposition of an HOA on this particular neighborhood. Check out the video and please let me know if an HOA makes sense to you. I am convinced we have lost all sense of reality and sanity in this country.
Mary Ann Fordyce joins us On The Commons. Mary Ann has a chicken business in a rural community in Texas, where many of her neighbors are also business people, several have livestock and there is at least one other chicken businesses owner as well. Not surprisingly this chicken owner was a board member who sold Mary Ann her first chickens and got her started on her business. And for awhile, all was well. But then life in this peaceful corner of the country changed. We’ll talk to Mary Ann and get some of the details of why her dreams came crashing down and how she lost first one house and is now hanging on, trying to protect the second house she and her husband bought, from being foreclosed on. I’ll ask her what purpose her HOA serves and how it protects her when her closest neighbor is a mile away. I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear what happened to the only common area these property owners had. Maybe the fate of that park is the answer to why an HOA was even part of this neighborhood? Check out Mary Ann’s web site Blue Star Ranch . This lady is determined to help educate housing consumers about the perils of HOAs.
Some people insist on referring to HOAs as communities. If we describe people; who live in the same geographical area as a community; that might be accurate. However, in a contrived situation like today’s mass-produced residential associations, geography is about the only thing most of the owners have in common. The hierarchical structure of a forced membership association does nothing whatsoever to foster a sense of community, rather it seems to cause isolationism and imposes fear in the residents. In a very real sense their real governments and left to fend for themselves against all manner of abuses have abandoned the owners. In some of the worst cases, homes are being stolen by those in the upper echelons of the HOA hierarchy and sold on the courthouse steps for pennies on the dollar.
Ryan Torrens joins us On The Commons. Ryan is a young attorney in Tampa Florida who was introduced to the horrors of foreclosures right out of law school. Shortly thereafter he started his own firm, The Torrens Law Group, where he specializes in protecting homeowners facing foreclosure from banks and homeowner associations. We talk to Ryan about the situations that promote a climate that not only favors foreclosures but also in some respects makes them commonplace. We get tips on what to do when a homeowner finds themselves in that situation, and probably more importantly, what not to do. We also talk about key legislation that might go a long way in preventing some of the worst abuses.
On The Commons celebrates 16 years of bringing you news and views of condo and homeowners associations. This is the first show of our 17th year on the air. Thanks to everyone for making this possible.
Sometimes it appears that the the powers of the world are stacked against the individual. No matter what the situation, the individual often finds him or herself standing alone, facing seemingly insurmountable odds. How did we ever get to this point? That sense of having lost control is growing across all areas of life. It has even invaded our most cherished private sanctum, our home. But I believe that the power and the will of the people is not quite ready to be relegated to the annals of history. Every so often there is a glimmer of hope and a sign that all is not yet lost. And that little spark you see in the dark comes from the Virginia Supreme Court.
John Cowherd joins us On The Commons. John is an attorney in Northern Virginia and one of a handful of attorneys nationwide who will represent homeowners in their battles with their homeowner and condo associations. John also has a blog called Words of Conveyance so he is always on the lookout for news and stories of interest to share with his readers and our radio audience. Today we will talk about The Day the Universe Changed as a result of a Virginia Supreme Court decision issued on June 16. In his blog, John quotes Steve Emmert, a VA appellate law blogger, who claims this decision represents a “nuclear explosion”. That can only be good for homeowners. Join us as John walks us through the case and explains what the Parrish v. Federal National Mortgage Association is all about and explains how this case may help homeowners facing foreclosure and eviction.
Newton discovered that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Is that what we today call “unintended consequences”? How often do we head down one path towards a goal without thinking through the end results? Could we avoid many of the pitfalls we are dealing with if we stopped long enough to think things through?
One of those unhappy and unpredicted results may well be the sheer number of zombie foreclosures being reported nationwide. The unfortunate circumstances the homeowners find themselves in and the rather significant negative effect those vacant houses have on their immediate surroundings is an area of concern. And since most of the housing in many parts of the country is in mandatory membership residential associations, these zombie foreclosures also impact associations through lost assessments.
John Cowherd and Jeremy Moss join us On The Commons. Both are attorneys in Virginia and both specialize in HOA and condo association law. They also both have blogs where they discuss zombie foreclosures. Jeremy’s blog is called The Moss Report and you can access John’s blog at Words of Conveyance John, changed his practice and now represents homeowners in HOAs. Jeremy, an attorney with Mercer-Trigiani, represents associations. I am grateful to both gentlemen for coming in to the studio and sharing their thoughts. We’ll talk about zombie foreclosures, explain what they are and talk about why we have so many of them now. We’ll also discuss different ideas on how to deal with them. There is a lot to learn by listening to this interview.
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.