This show is dedicated to Donie Vanitzian 1950-2017 who was found dead on December 28, 2017. For 16 years Donie wrote a weekly column for the LA Times answering questions for homeowners who were caught in a web with their homeowner associations. In addition to her column, she wrote several books on HOAs. She was a great friend to homeowners who had nowhere else to turn and will be greatly missed.
Over the years we have watched the people in positions of power in residential America come up with some of the dumbest rules and policies governing private property. If they couldn’t have such potentially tragic consequences, annual awards for the dumbest of them might make for a great comedy show. However, judging by the headlines, they don’t need any encouragement. Probably one of the most insane to hit the news lately is the mind bogglingly stupid rule from Auburn Greens Complex HOA in Auburn, California requiring the owners to leave their garage doors open during the day or face a fine of $200. This should be a hard sell for proponents of fines and protecting property values.
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons. Deborah blogs on Independent American Communities where no HOA story misses her attention. She is a prolific writer and augments all her posts with additional research and more details thus enriching her posts. She has become a go-to person for all the latest HOA land. I asked Deborah to help us do a round up of some of the idiotic rules that seem to be adding to the stress levels of American homeowners. She had a string of such stories lined up within minutes. We talk about some of them, by no means did we scratch the surface of the sheer insanity that is out there. You will no doubt agree that Condos and HOAs are a failed concept and beyond repair.
There was a time when we believed that if something hurt it had to be good for us. We’re a lot smarter now and realize that pain is an indicator that something is wrong. We are also learning that not all pain is physical. Increasingly it is emotional and psychological and that is especially true in the case of the pain inflicted on owners by residential associations. Finally homeowners are refusing to accept the false assertion that HOAs protect property values. They are no longer willing to put up with the abuses common in residential associations just to protect the mythical notion that their property will be worth a dollar or two more if they spend thousands of dollars in medical bills. They know it is a lie. So why, they now ask, do we really need HOAs? Who really benefits from them?
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons. Deborah is a prolific blogger and a tireless researcher. Her blog, Independent American Communities tracks all the latest trends and stories in America’s many forms of residential associations. Lately she has been writing about HOA members who are talking about disbanding the corporate structure of the neighborhood. We talk to Deborah about the growing number of homeowners looking into dissolving the corporation that is part and parcel of their neighborhood and returning it to the people who live there. She tells us that homeowners like their homes and their neighborhoods, they just can’t stand their HOAs and all that goes with them. In a recent blog about Walnut Grove, an Omaha neighborhood, she starts with a quote that reads: “The first step to getting what you want is having the courage to get rid of what you don’t want.” And that’s just what some homeowners are doing. They want their homes, their neighborhoods and to be left alone to live in peace and to get what they want they need to get rid of what they don’t want – the HOA.
Once upon a time people bought a house, painted the front door a color of their choice, found a door knocker they loved and house numbers that looked just right, planted their favorite flowers, shrubs and bushes, stood back, admired their work then went in and shut the world out of their private space. But then came homeowner associations with their tomes of covenants, rules, regulations, permits, approval forms, nosy neighbors, nasty neighbors, fines for having unapproved garden hoses in their front yards, cracked flowerpots on their front steps, dusty mailboxes and window shades that are the wrong shade of white. And suddenly there was nothing left of the owners choice. Even the joy and pride of homeownership was gone only to be replaced with fear, acrimony, hate and discontent. Have HOAs improved housing or are they destroying a once sacred way of life?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney and frequent guest, expanded his practice to include representing homeowners in the fight of their lives with their residential associations. In most states it is that time of year when legislators gather to propose legislation, often sponsoring bills to strip homeowners of more of their rights and to empower HOAs to exert ever more control over the owners. We talk about that and we also brainstorm about the need for HOAs. Are they truly needed and what real purpose do they serve? We wonder if there are cheaper, better and more efficient ways of delivering any services that might be perceived as benefits to homeowners in residential neighborhoods. Maybe it is time to start thinking outside the box and investigating ways of improving and simplifying life at home.
As life gets more and more complex and complicated, I believe we need to keep the most basic and fundamental core of our lives as simple and clutter free as possible. And nothing can be more basic than our need to shelter, i.e. our homes and by extension, our neighborhoods. Unfortunately local municipal governments and special interests have highjacked the sanctity of our homes, destroyed our communities and burdened us with yet more governance, more regulations and increased the risks associated with our homes. Instead of unwinding and re-energizing at the end of the day, many of America’s homeowners come home to fight to keep what they have. However, in order to be able to do that, they need to know what to look for, how to fight and what to do.
John Sellers joins us On The Commons. John, a retired banker, lives and owns several HOA burdened properties in Arizona. With his background in finance, he decided to “follow the money” and the trail led him to discover a whole host of irregularities. Problems that most of the rest of us non financial types would not recognize as potential problems and would therefore completely overlook them. Fortunately John saw the red flags everywhere so he decided to stir things up, just a wee bit. He started a blog where he talks about the issues and has the attention of the state legislators who recognize some of the issues and are willing to work with him as well as other Arizona residents interested in implementing protections for the owners. It is no surprise that one of the biggest issues and problems in residential associations is money related. And while finding out the financial health of an association may seem like an insurmountable, it needn’t be. Tune in for a fascinating interview.
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.
The most effective way of breaking up a larger concentration of power is to “divide and conquer” or “divide and rule”. And one of the easiest ways of doing that is through the use of fear. It is no secret that many HOA homeowners live in fear. The statutory powers associations have been given across the country puts the owners at a huge disadvantage. And associations have been known to use, and in some cases, abuse those powers. Sometimes all it takes is making an example of one homeowner in a neighborhood to ensure that everyone toes the line without any problems. That is the Fear factor. But do the neighbors have a duty to get involved or should they just roll over and hope things blow over soon? Joining us On The Commons this week is Ward Lucas. Ward is an award winning investigative journalist who found himself tangled up in the HOA web. So what does an investigative journalist do when he thinks something smells bad? He investigates associations and when he discovered that he was not alone, he wrote a book called Neighbors at War. He then started a blog by the same name neighborsatwar.com We’ll talk to Ward about his book, his blog and get a feel of what is going on around the country. We’ll also talk about what it takes to stand up to the neighborhood bullies and why, even though there are more homeowners than association employees, the homeowners are losing the battle.
The dictionary has many definitions for the word “home” but to me home is that safe place we all go to recharge our batteries, be with those we love or enjoy the solitude those 4 walls provide. It is a place that is uniquely our own. Houses, apartments, hotel rooms and units can all look alike, but much like fingerprints and snowflakes no two homes are ever exactly alike. In a world that seems to fear individuality and promotes uniformity, a home has even more importance than ever.
In our brave new world of cookie cutter dwelling units, crammed into modern day kommunities , more often than not the heart and soul of what we once called a community is gone. In addition to all looking alike and living alike we now also are expected to be alike.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Barry Silver. Barry, an attorney who practices in Florida, has spent his career fighting for the rights of individuals, including homeowners in HOAs. Currently Barry is working with several homeowners in a particular association where the owners are being evicted from their own homes. These owners are paid up, they do not owe any money so it is not a case of “mooching off their neighbors” as proponents of this dysfunctional housing scheme would use as an acceptable reason for this barbaric behavior. They are, however, elderly so they are vulnerable. Their alleged “crimes”, and the reason they are being evicted are petty, absurd and ridiculous. We’ll talk to Barry about these homeowners, what they are being targeted for and where they are now.
The horror stories and tales of abuse in America’s HOAs keep pouring in and there seems to be no end to the sheer gall and stupidity of some Homeowner association board members and managers. The alleged violations range from the ridiculous to the heartless to the absurd.
Beyond the petty peeves of the small minded nits in the neighborhood, another emerging characteristic, or by product, of these ‘hoods appears to be verging in the barbaric. In a recent story out of Florida, an 80 year old gentleman was evicted by the HOA for planting vegetables in his small garden patch. The stress of being alone and homeless sent him to the hospital with heart problems. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the neighbors actually cheered when they heard the news.
What makes people in kontrolled kommunities react with glee at a neighbor’s misfortune? In the days before these new fangled “ghettos” became as common as muck, neighbors were friends and pitched in to help. They had real communities.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Dr. Gary Solomon. Dr Solomon, a psychologist in Nevada, noticed that something was amiss in the shiny “community” he moved into. While the grounds may have looked manicured, the residents did not appear to be particularly happy and he wondered why. His research led him to write a couple of papers on HOAs, the HOA Syndrome and Elder Abuse. And since then he has been cautioning us about the harmful affects HOAs have on our health. We talk about the health issues and the potential for further abuses with new technology that could make America’s kontrolled kommunities, or ghettos, as Dr. Solomon calls them, even more stressful.