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.
When trying to decipher the issues and problems with personal rights and private property rights, I often feel overwhelmed. There are just so many ways all our rights are stripped that trying to track them all is a bit like what I imagine drinking from a fire hydrant would feel like. At the very least you get soaked, breathing would be extremely difficult and it is questionable just how much you actually manage to drink. And that is exactly how I feel when dealing with these issues. The micromanagement from all levels of the real governments, their omnipotent NGOs and the lowly first rung petty dictators in your local HOA is unbelievable. There is no end to the rules, laws, regulations, ordinances, covenants designed to control almost every aspect of your life.
Tom DeWeese joins us On The Commons. Tom is the founder and president of the Virginia based American Policy Center and the editor of The DeWeese Report. He is an author, a speaker, an advocate, an activist and, with several decades of studying the master manipulators and the property robbers worldwide, a font of knowledge. He is passionate about what he does and with a well-organized and easy to follow narrative manages to fit in many missing pieces to the jigsaw puzzle the rest of us are trying to solve. He zooms his lens out and looks at the big picture and then easily slips the puzzle pieces in place, before zooming back in and bringing the picture into focus. I always learn so much when I spend some time listening to Tom. By the way, did I mention he is also a very nice person and fun to talk to? He is. You’ll want to tune in.
Claiming to be a 5th generation landowner, Philip Thompson said, “I will do whatever it takes to help preserve the countryside we call home”. The countryside he calls home is in Fauquier County, Virginia about an hour outside Washington DC. He inherited much of the land in the countryside he called home, then proceeded to place a large tract into a conservation easement managed by the Piedmont Environmental Council, (PEC). Much like the Declarations in residential associations, the easements restrict the use of the property. Much like a residential association, power is given to the administrator. And we all know that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”(Lord Acton) regardless of who has it.
Dr. Bonner Cohen joins us On The Commons. Dr. Cohen is a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research. He also serves as senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. He is an author, has spoken at conferences, and appears on TV and radio. Dr. Cohen, a friend of Martha Boneta, has been following the horrors and abuses taking place in Liberty Farms. He wrote an article about the latest round of lawsuits. We find just what Mr. Thompson meant when he said he would do “whatever it takes…” And for “before” and “after” pictures of what the farm looked like under the Thomas’s and the PEC’s stewardship, watch Farming in Fear.
We all dream of a safe, happy and healthy home in a safe, happy and healthy neighborhood. We all need and want the security that comes with a real “community” where we can raise our families, spend time with our friends and families and retire to when we want to shut the rest of the world out. Unfortunately that ideal of “home” seems to have been lost in a quagmire of a legal morass. whether in a residential association or out in the countryside. Gone are the days of a simple and peaceful life where neighbors were friends who looked out for each other. Sadly nowadays the people watching are not doing so to be helpful but instead looking for ways to destroy their neighbors and take their property away their property.
Martha Boneta joins us On The Commons this week. Martha, an organic farmer followed her dream and her passion for growing good wholesome food to feed her family, friends and neighbors. She soon discovered that not all her neighbors were pure of heart. Over the past 10 years they have sought to take her farm away from her. They have been abusive, underhanded and plain obnoxious. Throughout it all, she has stood firm, fought back and inspired many people to step forward to “Stand with Martha”. No matter how bad things get,Martha always has a kind word and a radiant smile . Her story and her positive attitude in the face of adversity have attracted people to support her. Legislators so outraged by how the laws are being abused by government agencies and appointed commissions have carried bills for her to try to right so many wrongs. Movie and documentary producers followed her battle for years releasing an award winning documentary earlier in the year called “Farming in Fear”. Martha also has a website, In Martha’s own words, “Today will never come again. Be Humble. Be Compassion. Be Love. Be Light”.
From an early age, we give children coloring books and a box of crayons and teach them to “color inside the lines”. We also “help” them pick the right colors. Pink elephants? Oh my! Blue hair? You can’t do that! Here is a nice bright yellow crayon instead.
When my daughter was little I used to buy her un-coloring coloring books. These books consisted of stories with just a few lines, or part of a drawing and encouraged children to complete the picture and add to the story before coloring it. Looking back I wonder if those coloring books contributed to my daughter’s rebellious nature? I also whether we are training our children, from a very early age, to “conform to accepted norms”? If we won’t encourage our children to think outside the box, will they be able to do just that as adults or will they continue to stay safely within the lines?
Bill Davis, for whom boxes and lines just don’t exist, joins us On The Commons. From the day Bill, a Texas attorney, switched his practice to representing homeowners in HOAs, he has been busy with some of the most interesting cases. We talk to him about several of his cases, marvel at the incredible gall some “neighbors” have, listen to some of the crazy and whacky stuff that goes on in HOAs. Through it all we hear stories of real people, find humor and horror. Bill entertains us and instructs us. He explains the legal issues, talks about Texas law and points out the nuances. And by refusing to stay inside the lines drawn by the HOA industry, he manages to come up with some unique and creative strategies to protect his clients’ property and their rights. Be sure to tune in and listen to the show and if any of the cases Bill discusses sound a little too familiar, make sure your attorney also listens in.
The peeps are rebelling! Finally! No longer do homeowners believe that uniformity and conformity enhance property values. Nor do they believe that a homeowners associations creates “community”. They are tired of living in fear and refuse to be silenced any longer. With every negative story about HOAs that hit the media, hundreds and thousands of people have been commenting. Oh, I admit, a handful still repeat the inane sound bites like “you agreed”, “if you don’t like it, move”. Agreed to what? Being abused and losing your home? What idiot would do something like that? Move? Where to? Their comments make no more sense now than they ever did. By far most of the comments are pro homeowner and passionately anti HOA. Are you listening, CAI?
And did you ever think that an HOA could actually do some good?It’s ingenious! Keep reading and tune in to the show.
Nancy Hentschel joins us On The Commons this week. Nancy and her husband live in a large Homeowners association of single family homes in Texas. A few weeks ago they finally bought a couple of dinosaurs they fell in love with over a year ago. Once the dynamic dino duo took up residence in New Territory, something quite remarkable happened. Predictably they heard from the association but they also heard from their neighbors. As Nancy said, she met more of her neighbors than she had in all the years they have lived there. They not only came to the house but they wrote all over the internet. Some of the comments were short and to the point, “keep the dinos. Please, oh please”. “I think this is really cool, I wish they were my neighbors” and “Putting the neighbor in the neighborhood, one big claw at a time.” But there is more. Thanks to Nancy’s ingenuity and generosity, what started out as an expression of individuality, is doing some real good. The dinosaurs are moving around the neighborhood and checking out other front yards. For a $50 donation to any charity of their choice, all her New Territory neighbors can host the dynamic duo for 3 days before they move on to another yard. With approximately 5000 homes in New Territory, the dino walkabout can do some serious good. Cheers to the Hentschel’s, their “authentic community”, a neighborhood that refuses to be silenced and a couple of prehistoric creatures who have come back to show us the error of our ways. What fun!