Shouldn’t we be trying to simplify life? With all the technological and scientific advances that have been made recently, we have the resources and the ability to really free up our time, allowing us to devote ourselves to our families and friends and on the things that make us happy. Instead, we are being bogged down in layers and layers of red tape. If we did get rid of the things that really make no sense, would the abuses simply vanish and would we, in effect, create a kinder, friendlier environment?
Barbara Stage joins us On The Commons. Barbara is an attorney in central Florida, where she represents homeowners as well as homeowners associations (HOAs). The slogan on her website reads; “Protecting the rights of homeowners across the state of Florida”. Barbara recently wrote a letter to the Florida Legislature advocating for greater oversight of HOAs and also for less costly alternatives to preserving one’s rights against their association. We talk to Barbara about some of the atrocities she has witnessed over the years in Florida HOAs. We find out what kind of advice industry attorneys give their HOA clients and we talk about HOAs refusing to cash checks from homeowners and sending legal notices to wrong addresses. And that’s just for starters, there is so much more. I ask myself again, what on earth are we thinking?
We’ve all heard how an alleged debt of a mere handful of dollars can balloon into a king’s ransom at the hands of an HOA and their attorneys. And no, I am not talking about investments for the homeowners. And certainly not about the empty (read bogus) promises of protected and enhanced property values. Sometimes these debts are due to a legitimate assessment that was missed for some reason. And all too often the “debt” is due to a fine imposed by the association for violating a recorded covenant, a silly rule that was conjured up on the spur of the moment or, increasingly, because the transgression in question violated someones esthetic sensibilities. In other words there is no rhyme or reason for the ensuing war among the neighbors. Notwithstanding all the accompanying sanctimony that attempts to validate these outrageous fees, penalties, charges and surcharges, they are solely for the benefit of the industry that feeds at the trough of the owners. For years the homeowners’ pleas for statutory relief and protection from these abuses have fallen on deaf ears. State legislators have failed to enact legislation to end these practices.
David Kahne joins us On the Commons. David is an attorney in Houston, Texas. His practice includes representing homeowners who find themselves on the receiving end of the malice that is increasingly common in residential associations. In addition to working with individual homeowners, David is an advocate for the rights of property owners. He has worked with legislators and advocacy groups in Texas and around the country. He testifies at the Texas State legislature for increased protections for the owners. We talk to David about this year’s legislative activities and the need for the proposed legislation. We also talk about a swimming pool case in Spring, Texas. A young couple put in a pool in their backyard and to protect their toddlers and the neighborhood children, they erected a fence around the pool. And the objection was? Well, tune in, David will explain it.
Imagine the resulting destruction if a classroom full of kindergartners had been given boxes of matches and told to play with fire. No safety instructions, no oversight, no plans to prevent the inevitable mayhem and chaos, just the blanket permission for children to play with fire. Now I know what you are thinking, no sane and rational person would ever do anything that reckless and stupid. OK, so maybe we don’t actually give a room full of 5 year old boxes of matches but can you see much of a difference between that scenario and what is happening in condo and homeowner associations across the country? How about state legislatures?
Frank Short joins us On The Commons. Frank, a long time friend, a government attorney and a popular guest on the show follows proposed legislation and explains how these laws, if enacted, would work in real life. We focus on just one of those bad bills today and talk about a towing bill that was introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates earlier this year. Unfortunately this bill survived and went on to become the law while its companion bill in the Virginia Senate failed. Keep that picture of 5 year olds with their boxes of matches in mind as you consider the ramifications of how this new law will affect consumers, voters, taxpayers and anyone else caught in the web that has been spun by legislators. Maybe it is time to recognize that our elected officials can’t be trusted any more than any other predator when it comes to protecting their constituents. Is it time to take away the matchboxes from the “little ones” and start providing some desperately needed adult supervision?
I am beginning to think that any lie will do. As long as no one looks too closely, as long as the lie sounds plausible, as long as it is delivered with a straight face, it is good to go. You really do not have to go too much farther than the lies that are told when selling HOAs. Just think of the ones that are routinely used to make surrendering sovereignty of our homes sound like such an honor and you will understand what I mean. A few buzzwords that need no explanation readily come to mind; “carefree living”, “protecting property values” and “democracy up close and personal”.
Such a deal! You give up the right to decide what to plant in your front yard in return for having a say in what happens in the community.
So how does that work?
Marjorie Murray joins us On The Commons. Marjorie is the founder and president of the Center for California Homeowner Association Law. Over the years she and the Center for California Law have tirelessly tracked legislation and have worked with like minded groups and legislators to ensure that homeowner friendly laws are enacted. They have educated law makers about the hidden dangers and pitfalls of proposed bills that would benefit the HOA industry to the detriment of the owners and have fought valiantly to defeat them when they have come up. One such bill that reared its ugly head in California this year was AB1799 The bill was introduced and explained as a cost saving measure for associations. On the surface it may sound like a great idea BUT WAIT A MINUTE, what would it really do? And just how well would this new law, had it passed, square with the “Democracy up close and personal” benefit to HOA living we are promised? Marjorie explains in detail what this bill would have done and gives some solid tips on how to find, and fight, these bills when they are introduced in a State Capitol near you. You know they are coming to your neck of the woods. She also gives some good advice on how to expose the, um, shall we we say, untruths in the claims? You’ll want to tune in and never underestimate the importance of letting your legislators hear from you.
Reporters are finally getting bold enough to start reporting the horror stories that keep cropping up in homeowner associations across the country. Sometimes they even get the facts straight. The stories are frequently as ridiculous as reporting crying babies to the HOA, to fining owners for having unapproved garden hoses in their yards or having the wrong shade of white blinds in their widows. These stories will make you scratch your head and wonder if absolutely everyone is so ridiculous and out of touch with reality to believe that these are important issues. Occasionally the headlines will promise a meatier story, one that we should be aware of that could affect us all. The many embezzlement stories that result in special assessments that we read about would fall into that category. But if you really want to know what is happening “behind the HOA closed doors”, where do you go?
Nila Ridings joins us On The Commons. Nila is an HOA homeowner in Kansas where life is nowhere near as rosy as she expected it to be when she bought her house. She has since done her homework, been active in the legislative arena, lobbied to get homeowner rights codified in Kansas and has shared her knowledge and insights with owners caught in the crosshairs of their associations. She is a frequent blogger on Ward Lucas’ Neighbors at war. And if one wants to find the unreported stories, one asks Nila. I did just that. We all hear the silly stories, the “too many rose bushes”, the costly ones about driveways having to be torn out because they are 2 inches wider than the approved plans, but which stories does she hear too often for comfort? Which stories tug at her heartstrings the most? Her number one story is not one the media reports on often but should.
Right from the very beginning there were problems in mandatory membership Homeowner Associations. No matter how creative the spin or how big the lies about the illusive benefits of HOA living, the sad truth is, the problems were always there. Every effort to “fix” them resulted in bigger problems and even more headaches. They, in turn, led to bigger and more unconscionable abuses by the HOAs against their own homeowners. Every subsequent “fix” simply exacerbated the problems. And contrary to what the advocates of controlled living would have us believe, none of the horror stories are “isolated incidents”. Every state grapples with the same problems every year and every year new laws are proposed, argued over, some enacted, many of the good ones passed over and a year later we are all back trying to “fix” the same problems, yet again.
After four decades of this charade, you’d think we’d learn, wouldn’t you?
Frank Short joins us On The Commons. Frank is an attorney with an Irish wit, a strong sense of right and wrong and a very keen understanding of the HOA laws and the inherent issues. He has been around long enough to have a rich supply of HOA stories. Frank joins us for our annual St. Patrick’s Day round-up of HOA bills that have been introduced in Virginia. We look at the bills, talk about what they will do and whether or not they will help homeowners. We also talk about some very good proposed legislation in Illinois. And to keep it interesting and fun, Frank regales us with actual tales 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.
Homeowner associations are so confounding, confusing and complicated they can be difficult to understand. Proponents of HOAs will have us believe associations are “democracy up close and personal”, that they offer homeowners greater control over their immediate surroundings, that unlike local municipal governments who are more removed, members of an HOA actually have a say in how they live in their neighborhood. Sounds so pleasant, doesn’t it?
Well, homeowner associations are, and can be, very contradictory. What the sales pitch above does not tell you about life in this Pleasant Paradise is that far from being democracy up close and personal, homeowners really have no say in how the association is run, how their money is spent or anything else. The board might have a say or a voice and the only recourse the homeowners have to a bad board is to “vote the bums out”. The other bit of nonsense is that to ensure things are run well it is important to hire licensed professionals to manage you, the owners and your assets.
And of course, the greatest canard of all is that HOAs protect property values.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Nevada State Senator Mike Schneider. Mike has worked with homeowners over the years, has introduced legislation to provide more balance between the actual homeowners and their associations and has, over the years, been available to join us. He has watched as the FBI raided dozens of Las Vegas businesses, confiscating mountains of documents, boxes of paperwork and van loads of records. The investigation is ongoing. Four of the key players in this drama are dead, several attorneys, managers, contractors and other licensed professionals have entered plea agreements with the state. Now that the trial appears to be imminent there is another twist to this multi year drama, defense attorneys are being asked to sign confidentiality statements promising not to make evidence available. We’ll talk to Mike about the hijacked elections, the fraud and the BILLIONS of dollars siphoned out of Las Vegas HOAs by friendly licensed professionals. One answer that will not be forthcoming is just how all this has protected property values.