As Americans we like to think of ourselves as being a free people, able to come and go as we please, live how and where we like, spend time with our friends and neighbors, watch the TV shows and movies that interest us and read the books we want to read. But things they are a changing. And if you are a regular listener of our show, On The Commons and reader of this web page you would be guessing now that I would be talking about the choices and liberties that have been taken from us in regards to our homes, our color choices, the plants in our gardens, the birdbaths and the bird feeders on our private grounds, and all the other little details that make our homes uniquely ours. And you would be right. But it is getting worse. What if I were to tell you that “they” (whoever “THEY” are) are also after your intellectual and possibly even recreational growth? Nah, that can’t be possible, can it?
Caroline George joins us On The commons. Many of my listeners will remember Caroline’s past visits as many people have taken the time to comment on her shows. You may also remember that Caroline wrote a book titled, The Dark Side of Law, a law treatise on judging. It is a huge and a hugely heavy book that we have talked about on the show.
Through her thousands of interviews and reviews of actual court cases she brings the process of going to court down to an easier to understand level and demystifies much of what goes on behind the scenes.
The book WAS available on Amazon, that’s right, WAS, past tense. It seems that Amazon decided to BAN the book so you can no longer buy it or read it or get any help from it. Why is Amazon deciding what you can and cannot read? Who else is involved in making some of your basic and personal decisions for you? What other books have been banned? Who is making these decisions and what gives them the right to do so? Tune in.
One of the most despicable and abusive practices that has become an acceptable part of the American culture recently is that of fining by residential associations. Why is the HOA industry so enamored with the power to fine? Is it really designed to FORCE people to act, live and behave according to some aesthetic plan concocted by the architects of controlled living? Whatever the real reason, it is a punitive measure that strips a person of his or her assets. A few dollars can soon mushroom to tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars, resulting in the loss of someone’s home. Proponents of this offensive practice wonder how else one can force compliance by a neighbor. But is that really what they are concerned about or do they have ulterior motives? Who benefits?
Joining us On The Commons this week is Frank Short. Frank is an old friend of the show, a personal friend and a lawyer. And, as only Frank can, he takes us on a historical trip through court cases that have examined fines. We hear about the issues, the arguments and what the courts at various levels and in different states have ruled. He packs an hour with a comprehensive and chronological look at fines, the courts and the legislatures. You will not want to miss it.
The true value of anything is what a buyer is willing to pay and what a seller is willing to accept in exchange for that item. If demand is high on something, and supply is low, the value tends to go up. On the other hand if there is a glut on the market of an item, the value goes down because it is said to be a buyers market. That’s pretty much the way it works when it comes to determining value. And that includes housing. So I am a little perplexed by the claim that a house that is subject to a mandatory membership housing association increases the value of the property. It makes no sense and flies in the face of the traditional understanding of how values are arrived at and understood. It is especially perplexing given that so many housing consumers specifically request non HOA housing but are told they do not exist. “There is nothing on the market.” On the off chance that a non HOA house becomes available it is advertised as “Non HOA” and that’s a valuable marketing tool. It sets it apart from other houses on the market. It is true that non HOA housing is rare, often old and sometimes require a complete overhaul and update, making them expensive. But they are still highly sought after.
Bill Davis joins me On The Commons. Bill, a frequent guest, friend and attorney lives in Texas and is one of only a few attorneys who represents homeowners against their HOAs. He is well versed and experienced on what routinely goes on . Bill and I talk about property values, what needs to be included when calculating the monetary value as well as other values and costs that we seldom think about. One thing we both agree on is that housing consumers need to have all the facts and all the information they can get in order to make an educated decision on what they are buying, or not buying. It is also important to know what questions to ask. Join us as we dive into all the ins and outs of determining the true value of that jewel with the beautiful view that you just fell in love with.
That there are problems in HOAs is a given, ask anyone, even some of the most ardent of HOA proponents will agree, there really and truly are problems. OK, so what next? Maybe starting at the begging. What if you were to ask 100 people what the problems are, experience has shown that you will get 200 very different answers. The reason is that everyone sees it from their personal perspective and their personal problem. This is an incredibly complex problem with so many moving parts to it that ” fixing” it has to start with a list of exactly what needs to be fixed, and that in and of itself will be a long list. But you have to start somewhere and the best starting point is discussing the issues openly, freely, honestly and fearlessly. Without that you’ll never get out of the starting gate.
Samuel Pilli joins us On The Commons. Sam and his colleagues have developed a website called Zonzon which allows homeowners in HOAs, condos, coops and other closed groups to communicate freely with each other. Sam believes this is the answer to all that ails HOAs. We will talk about his secure communication idea, discuss some of the other mitigating factors involved and find out how Zonzon might play a role in evening out the playing field.
The last few decades have seen some radical changes in the way we live, starting with our personal rights and our traditional rights as homeowners. Along with HOA mandates homeowners lost their dominion over their most private and personal asset. This new way of life has been beaten into us and the resulting health issues have been well recognized and documented. Living under the microscope and the fear of being singled out for some ridiculous offense has increased the daily stress. As if that was not bad enough, along comes the Covid 19 pandemic. In addition to the usual traditional stresses that are part and parcel of our lives, we now have to live with a deadly virus. The fear on contracting this virus added to all the unknown aspects associated with it has taken a toll on us. Is there something we can do to mitigate the potential damage and protect ourselves and our families from yet another potential enemy?
Dr.WES ROCKI joins us ON THE COMMONS
Dr Rocki has focused more on how we, as humans, can help to heal ourselves rather than relying on a host of medicines. He is a great believer in self healing and how to manage our own health and well being. In a very timely and fascinating interview Dr. Rocki walks us through the process of taking control of our lives, our environment and our health. At a time when it seems we are being hit from all sides, he presents us with some common sense solutions to an otherwise contradictory and confusing barrage of misinformation. You’ll want to tune in to this one.
To keep everyone at Fairfax Public Access safe the station closed down in March along with all other businesses around the world and for that I thank them but we are starting to open up, take a deep breath and get back to doing what we love. We recorded our first show.many more to come.
Much has happened during the many months since we last were in touch but the mile marker for me is that on July 1st, 2020 On The Commons celebrated its 20th anniversary without much fanfare. And to think that when I applied for the show I wondered whether I would have enough material to fill the 6 month contract I got. I’m excited that we not only managed to fill the hours but I still have a hard time fitting all the shows in. We’re back on the air and we will be working diligently to get caught up and to bring you the news and views you want to hear.
John Cowherd joins us for our first post Covid 19 On The Commons show. John is no stranger to you, he is an attorney in Virginia who represents homeowners with problems with their associations. Problems in condos, coops and HOAs are commonplace but with the imposition of extra cleanliness guidelines, social distancing and all the fear people have, how does it affect managing associations? Can members participate in association meetings? Have statutes been tweaked to cover the current conditions? John has a lot of thoughts on why it is important to keep owners engaged and how to ensure they are allowed to participate in the meetings.
Like so much of the world, Radio Fairfax is closed to protect all the employees and volunteers. We will be back in full swing as soon as the coronavirus scare is over. Please take good care of yourselves and keep healthy. Shu and the Technical Staff at On the Commons.
Coronavirus is dominating the news worldwide right now. To add to all the confusion, this strain of coronavirus is new so science and the medical community are working around the clock to learn about it, figure out how to treat the patients who have contracted it and to develop vaccines to prevent the future spread of the virus. There is much to learn about this virus and there is always fear of the unknown. However, with all the misinformation floating around, the unknown is creating a lot of confusion and increasing the fear factor manifold.
Ed Allcock joins us On The Commons. Ed, an attorney with Marcus, Errico, Emmer and Brooks, a Massachusetts law firm that represents condominiums and HOA. Ed took a step back and started looking at common sense ways to mitigate the spread of this potentially deadly virus, especially in high density buildings such as high rise condominiums where people come into contact with public facilities. With a little thought, common sense and some help from his high school daughter’s leadership he came up with a plan on how can board members and managers can reduce the risk of cross contamination in their buildings Ed wrote an article, “Coronavirus:What should Condominium Associations Do?” With common sense ideas and some very worthwhile ways of combating the spread. We’ll talk to Ed about his article, what he has learned in the process and how we call do our bit to avoid being victims but warriors fighting back.
Just when I thought that nothing in the condo/HOA world could ever shock or surprise me someone comes up with something that leaves me scratching my head and wondering if the entire world has gone stark raving mad. Is this just the latest out of the CAI book of allowing their members to increase their income without having to do much? Is it something that is happening just locally or is it more widespread than I realize? Where do condos/managers get their authority or is this a new trend that you should watch out for? I’d like to hear from you on this.
Caroline Douglas joins us On The Commons. Caroline is a non practicing attorney, author of the book “The Dark Side” and a popular guest on the show. As usual Caroline likes to look at the big picture, see what is going on nationally, analyze the underlying reasons and causes and to provide us with a scenario that ties many aspects together. Today we talk about choirs, songs and general incivility and focus on the big picture. But we also talk about parking in condos and something that I have learned about 2 condos in Northern Virginia 20 miles apart. My daughter and grandson who recently moved back up from Florida rent condos, both have Florida license plates on their cars and both have been denied parking permits in their respective condos because of it. I have yet to find the authority for this practice. Have they been tasked by the State to enforce state statutes? County ordinances? What difference does it make to the condo where their license plates are from? They rent, pay exorbitant monthly rents but yet they are denied parking passes. In one case for the tenant, my grandson whose car was towed to the tune of $350. In my daughter’s case, she can park in her driveway but no permits for guests. I have not been able to visit either one of them because of the draconian parking rules and practices. Caroline and I talk about this and Caroline shares her thoughts on this situation.
“I bet you have never heard this one, Shu. Let me tell you what my HOA is doing to me. ”
Welcome to housing American style because as shocked as they are when they reach out to me, their story is not as uncommon as they think.
Even though I thought I had heard it all, a few years ago one listener from Florida managed to educate me on just how bad things really are. She was a single mother of an infant who was being forced out of the condo she owned. Yes she would get paid less than market value for it and what she would get was nowhere near enough to help her find another home. In essence, she and her baby were on their way to being homeless. She introduced me to the practice of condo terminations and bulk buyers to explain how this was being done.
John Cowherd joins me On The Commons . John, a frequent guest On The Commons, is an attorney in Northern Virginia who represents the homeowners in litigation and disputes against their residential and commercial associations. He also maintains a blog called Words of Conveyance I am always grateful to John for keeping me in the loop of what is going on in the courts as well as the legislature in Virginia and for coming on to inform our listeners about it all. We talk to John about HB 1548, a Virginia bill introduced and sponsored by Delegate Marcus R. Simon. This bill appears to be flying through all the committees and chambers in Richmond, on its way to becoming law much too quickly. What this law would do is strip the owners of rights and protections they have as condo owners making it so much easier for developers and investors to profit financially, leaving them much poorer than they were before getting involved in a condo. So much for protecting property values. As my mother always said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
In the land of the free and the brave, the brave are having a hard time being free in their HOA controlled homes. In some associations there is always someone willing to inspect private property, searching for any perceived violation no matter how ridiculous. Almost a decade ago one of the condo spies spied a flag, a small flag, a really small flag in a flowerpot on the front porch of a homeowner, and they were off and running. The violation notices and threat letters started arriving in the mailbox, followed by fines and expensive legal warnings from the HOA attorneys. Yes, you know who they are. When will they stop harassing and abusing Americans, especially veterans, for flying a flag? When will we realize that there are serious health issues associated with living under an HOA microscope and all the associated stress? When will this insanity stop?
Larry Murphree joins us On The Commons. Larry committed the ultimate sin by placing a small US flag in his flower pot on his front porch. Sweetwater condo association was quick to let him know that there was “an unapproved object in his flower pot”. As you can imagine, Larry was rightly offended. His flag was NOT an “unapproved object”. We talk to Larry about his life in Sweetwater Condo, the constant harassment, the abuse, the nitpicking and the pettiness and the sheer stupidity that is part and parcel of a bad HOA. There are a lot of really funny stories about life in his petty association in general. And then we learn about his current home. Tune in for some great giggles, then on Monday, February 24th head on over to Duval County Court House at 9 AM for what we hope will be his final hearing. Go and support him. Remember, there is strength in numbers.