It’s a great time to reflect back on the almost 18 years of On The Commons. It is Thanksgiving night, the festivities are over with, the kitchen is clean and all is quiet, a perfect time to let my mind wander back to the over 900 shows we have done. Yes, I say WE, because I didn’t do them on my own- I am so thankful and grateful for the over 900 guests who have joined me, told their stories, explained the laws, talked about the legislation they were proposing, the books they had written, the projects they were working on and the many other issues affecting the place we call home. Some of their stories have made us extremely angry, others have left us wondering if we heard correctly, some have made us cry and others made us laugh, we have cheered and rejoiced when the homeowner won and we always wished them our very best. But this show will leave you with so much hope. You will be energized, excited and anxious to get started. I know that’s how I felt.
Martha Boneta joins us On The Commons. Martha owns a small family farm in Northern Virginia. It has always been her dream to grow food and feed others. But when she finally got her farm, her dream came with some really nasty surprises. Not one to roll over and let the bad guys get the best of her, Martha stood her ground and fought back to protect her farm and her rights. Now she is working on setting up a national grassroots network and invites everyone to join the fight for freedom. And at the heart of freedom is property rights. How can freedom exist without the right to own property, whether it is a farm, a mansion or a small condo? As Martha said, “Now, more than ever, across our nation we need to rise up and answer the call to defend the American Dream.” You will be excited at her ideas and will agree with much of what she has to say. You can reach her via her website or by phone, 571-839-1143. Stay tuned for the official launch of this grassroots movement, scheduled for sometime in January. And when it launches, Martha will be back with details – she promised.
And this Thanksgiving I am thankful for all of you, all the people who will fight back for justice and freedom and I am really proud to call Martha a friend. Now you have to tune in, don’t you?
Anyone who has ever spent any time studying the condition of housing, American style, has to wonder how We the People, took a fairly simple and straightforward concept of homeownership and turned it into such a disaster. Oh, we have been fed a lot of platitudes, lied to and with smoke and mirrors watched as individual private rights were turned into duties and obligations, making the owner a serf. No matter how one looks at it, the condition of homeownership in the US today is plain wrong. I will be offered explanations such as, “You agreed”, HOAs protect property values”, “It is the way of the future” “Get used to it, it isn’t going away.” It is all nonsense. Not everyone is going to just roll over and accept the status quo. Remember, heroes are not made of doormats.
Jan Bergemann joins us On The Commons. Jan is the founder and president of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice a grass roots organization protecting the rights of individual property owners A hard working and very active advocate in all the areas affecting Floridians, Jan has studied the stories, the laws, the cases and the trends for a number of years, and he has some rather unique insights into what is happening. While his observations are mostly focused on his state, the issues are definitely more national in scope. We talk to Jan about the confusion of what an HOA really is. Proponents and attorneys will tell us it is a “contract” and that we “agreed” to the provisions of the Declaration. While we can argue that ” we agreed” till the cows come home, the fact is HOAs are contractual in nature. It should, therefore, be relatively simple to understand, shouldn’t it? Why isn’t it? And just what are HOAs, really? Tune in, we’ll tell you – well, we’ll tell you what they are not. So, what are they?
I have never bought into the notion that Home Owner Associations are a necessity for any dwelling especially if it is free standing. And I am not sure you can convince me that there is any value added even in a high rise situation. Oh, I can hear the gasps out there! Take a deep breath! There certainly is no reason at all in a development where all the lots are measured in acres instead of inches, as they seem to be these days. All right, I exaggerate, maybe not inches but certainly feet. Probably the worst aspect of the current residential association model is the governance. It creates two classes of “neighbors” where some neighbors have authority over others. This in turn ensures that there will always be some form of conflict that provides lots of opportunities to enrich the legal profession.
Michael Pugh joins us On The Commons. Many years ago, Mike and his wife bought a large house on almost 6 acres of land in Virginia. And yes, there is a mandatory membership HOA. I suspect that is due to municipal mandates because there really is no rhyme or reason for imposing yet another layer of government on the residents. In fact there is every reason in the world not to have one. On the back 2 acres of the Pugh property that butts on to Tranquility Road, the developer put in a meadow. A little bit of nature before man interfered with it. For the last 27 years those 2 acres have been maintained as a meadow where the wildflowers grow and provide a refuge for the animals and insects and where the monarch butterflies are protected. It is indeed a tranquil haven, and had been until the HOA reared its ugly head and demanded that the meadow, that is only visible from the Pugh’s property, be mowed down. This battle, sadly, is headed to court. The Pughs are determined to protect their property rights, their meadow and the beautiful monarch butterflies that return to their meadow every year. And in case you are wondering, no, there is nothing in the governing documents prohibiting the meadow. It has always been there. And with a little luck and some common sense, it always will be.
The local paper did a story on the Pughs and their meadow called Meadow Must Go Says HOA. Doesn’t that say it all? There is also a video of the meadow in all its glory that you will want to watch.
Homeownership is not a new idea, it has been around a long time. For ages people have saved their money/got a mortgage bought a house and lived happily ever after. When did this sensible concept get replaced and why did we have to make such a complicated mess out of an otherwise simple and easy to understand part of life? Who benefits? Certainly not the housing consumers. And what exactly are we paying for when we fall in love with that perfect house and put our lifesavings on the table to buy the house? How much is that dream home REALLY costing us? Are we given a full break down of the costs, now and in the future? If not, should we be told before we turn our pockets inside out to get the keys to the house?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney and one of only a handful of attorneys nationwide, who represents homeowners and consumers at odds with their HOAs. A frequent guest, Bill has an uncanny ability to get to the bottom of the problem and shed a slightly different light on issues that most of us have never thought about. We talk to Bill about how our understanding of property values, that carrot that is dangled in front of every homeowner to get them to give up rights, has changed the way we see property, property rights and property values. Concepts once easily understood but now ” subject to interpretation”. We also talk about true costs of buying a home and identify some of the hidden costs and how they affect our ongoing financial outlay. We have a lot of questions, a few answers and a piece of advice: “take off those rose colored glasses and get to the bottom of this housing mess”.
Dangling a carrot in front of homeowners to force them to give up their rights.
Individual freedom, along with personal and private property rights have been eroding gradually over the last few decades. This is especially true for homeowners in mandatory membership residential associations. What is particularly galling about all this is that homeowners are told they knowingly and willingly gave up these rights – they ” agreed” and some go so far as to add “so stop your wining!” This is a total misrepresentation of the facts. No sane person in the world would agree to subject themselves to double taxation and the unfettered abuses of an industry gone wild. The harm that can be done to families, the health and welfare of the citizens and especially the children living in HOAs can easily be demonstrated by this story.
Bobbie Goolsby joins us On The Commons. Bobbie, a loving grandmother bought her granddaughter, Emma, now 6 years old, a pink playhouse. This playhouse is Emma’s safe space, it is her world. It is where she goes to feel safe, to get her therapy, to relax, to unwind and to mend and try to get better. It is what every home should be. This is something Emma understands. It is a concept that the neighborhood HOA does not appear to understand. Calling it a “metal shed” they demand it be removed immediately or face a court battle. This, despite the fact that the homeowners were assured, BEFORE buying their home, that the playhouse would not be a problem.
In a candid and heartfelt interview Bobbie tells us about Emma and how they almost lost her. What she means to the family and the joy this precious, friendly and outgoing child brings them.
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.
Having a little corner of the world all to yourself is a dream for many. A place to call yours, to fill with the people and the things you love, to put your own personal stamp on it. But over the years the rights to that little corner of the world, or that piece of property that you own, have eroded and continue to erode. That needs to stop.
Tom DeWeese joins us On The Commons. Tom is the founder and president of the Virginia based American Policy Center. He is a passionate advocate for property rights, a prolific writer and speaker. Looking at the state of property ownership today and seeing all the policies that have stripped owners of their rights he sees opportunities for change. He wrote an article titled Five Actions Ben Carson Must Take to Control HUD’s Tyranny We talk to Tom about some of the problems and how he believes the problems can and must be corrected. We also wander off topic – just a little – and learn so much more about the possibilities that would be realized in a freer environment while fully protecting our property rights.
Misinformation is all over the place, especially when it comes to HOAs and the loss of individual and property rights and freedoms. Somehow a hand full of industry special interests have been able to convince legislators, judges and real people that millions of Americans have knowingly and willingly given up Constitutional rights and protections. Try as I might, I simply can’t understand, or accept, that seemingly intelligent people would believe such outrageously false statements without question.
When faced with so much misinform and so many outright lies, it then is incumbent on us to set the record straight. But how? It is all about getting the message out. The message and the messengers have to be factual, unemotional and credible. Long rants, crying uncontrollably and obfuscating the facts with gibberish will get us exactly where we are. Nowhere. Maybe it is time to rethink our strategy and our messengers.
Andy Ostrowski joins us On The Commons. Andy is a former attorney who has been working on court reform in Pennsylvania. He ran unsuccessfully for Public office in an effort to right the many wrongs he has seen. Along the way he stumbled into a quagmire of property rights horrors and abuses in condos and HOAs in his neck of the words in Central Pennsylvania. He added those issues to the long list of injustices he was determined to fight. He has been working on getting his Law License reinstated and in the meantime he started hosting his own radio show where he included a number of property rights advocates and activists. The show is currently on hiatus but he hopes to bring it back soon. We talk to Andy about the problems and the challenges of setting the record straight on so many of the issues. We also discuss the need for credibility when getting that message out. Credibility? Tune in to find out.
In memory ofJill Schweitzer, a valiant warrior in the property rights battle for transparency and honest. Jill lost her life on October 25, 2016. Here is a show from July 2014
“If it hurts, it must be good for you”. Remember that one? Fortunately we got smart and realized that if it hurt it really was not good for us. Along the same lines of thinking is the other oft repeated canard which is that homeowner associations protect property values. “If your HOA makes you miserable and physically ill, is abusive, is grossly mismanaged, is secretive, etc. etc. etc., it is OK because it protects your property values.” This makes about as much sense as “if it hurts, it’s good for you.” Despite the fact that the “protected property values” claim is totally unsubstantiated, we hear it over and over again.
Maybe it is time to get smart and to stop being so gullible. Next time you are told HOAs protect property values, insist on tangible proof. Preventing a neighbor from painting their front door red is not acceptable and it really doesn’t prove anything.
Jill Schweitzer joins us On The Commons. Jill is a Real Estate Broker in Scottsdale, Arizona where there are a lot of mandatory membership HOAs and condominiums. She is concerned about all the problems in these controlled properties and has taken it upon herself to try to understand what is going on. She actually put pen to paper and did the math. She tracked and analyzed property values in 10 condo projects in Scottsdale over a period of 10 years. Her findings are on her website hoasavers.com It might come as no surprise that contrary to protecting property values, HOAs can actually devalue property. Tune in, we’ll talk to Jill about a myriad of problems that seem to be part and parcel of HOAs, find out why she decided to look into HOAs and what she is planning on doing to protect her clients’ property.
One of the most oft cited benefits of living in the US has always been the right to own property. Having a roof over one’s head and being able to provide a safe and happy home for one’s family has been referred to as the American Dream. Imagine, a house in the middle of a yard, surrounded by a lush green lawn, fruit trees, flowers and room to play with the kids, grandkids and pets. It doesn’t get much better than that!
So when and how did the dream go so very wrong? When did it become such a nightmare? When did the homeowner stop being the architect of his property, the pilot of her own destiny, the author of his or her story? And when did she or he become the hunted and the target in this insane war in the neighborhood? What is happening in our residential developments is sounding the death knell for what some believe to have been a greatest experiment in freedom.
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, an attorney in Texas, defends homeowners caught in the middle of the insanity that seems to have become very much part and parcel of “living the American Dream”. He knows and understands the legal structure of deed restricted developments but more importantly he also knows their limits. Join us as we discuss some of the torture tactics used to bully a homeowner and the far reaching consequences of the actions of these abuses. We also hear the incredible facts in one case that highlights what can happen when neighborhood thugs are given unfettered power to browbeat and bully a neighbor.