David Kahne

David Kahne

David Kahne joins us On The Commons this week.  David is an attorney in Houston Texas.  He has worked in HOA and Condo law for many years as an attorney in court representing homeowners and as an advocate for HOA reform.  David has been working on an interesting case that he will tell us about.  Working through the case and doing his research, it became clear to David that some legislative fixes me be in order.  Since David will be telling us all about the case I will leave it up to him to explain it but I urge you all to tune in and listen very carefully because he is asking us for our thoughts and any ideas we may have on how to hold board members responsible for violating the governing documents.  Right now board members can fine homeowners in violation of almost everything but when a board member steps off the straight and narrow path homeowner are left holding the bag.  That needs to change   Tune in, listen in and send us your thoughts and ideas.  

Listen to David Kahne

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Lincoln Cummings

Lincoln Cummings
This interview was recorded and broadcast earlier.   

Byron Hanke is largely credited with being the grandfather of what we often refer to as “homeowner associations”.  But this concept of homeownership includes condominiums, co-ooperatives as well as fee simple single family homes.  As I started looking at the bigger picture of HOAs, I wondered about the origins of the concept.  I called Byron Hanke several times and talked to him on the phone.  He never agreed to be interviewed but was generous with his time when it came to talking one on one.  In October of 1999 I got a call from Lincoln Cummins, one of the three founders of CAI and its second President, inviting me to a summit to be held at at Anne and Byron’s house in a place called “Scientists Cliffs” in Maryland.  Scientists Cliffs served as a model for HOAs. 

Lincoln Cummings joins us On The Commons this week.  Linc has been involved from the very beginning so has a unique perspective.  He takes us on a trip down memory lane to the very early days of association housing,  introduces us to the people involved and talks a little about the thoughts and plans they had.  We’ll find out whether or not their ideas materialized as imagined or whether some things went astray.  We’ll also ask Linc, hindsight being 20/20, if he could go back to the very beginning, would he do anything differently.  
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John Sellers

20160618sellers

Increasingly in America homeowners are treated like incompetent idiots who are incapable of managing their own lives and their homes.  Members of the HOA industry have gone as far as to equate the owners as “children who do not know what is good for them”.  Naturally they are more than happy to make all our important decisions for us- and leave us with the bill!  To add insult to injury, the false advertising and misinformation that, under most other circumstances, would be punishable by law, is swept under the rug and ignored.  Unit owners in homeowner and condo associations are often ridiculed, harassed  and penalized for demanding transparency or even questioning the  actions of the association.  Their duty is to not ask why but to pay up and shut up.

Well, times they are a changing.  Slowly but surely more and more talented people have had enough and are starting to move mountains, one stone at a time!

John Sellers joins us On The Commons this week.  John has worked in the banking industry for years and knows just where to look for any irregularities.  So when things just didn’t smell quite right, he put his talents to work and started digging.  What he discovered is quite incredible.  Not only are the people who are supposed to be protecting your rights turning a blind eye to all the shenanigans going on behind closed doors, but they are also using YOUR tax dollars to cover up some missing funds in HOA banks.  John continued digging and was told to “get a hobby”.  Fortunately for us, he took that advice to heart, expanded his search criteria and started a blog called ArizonaHOA where he intends to not only share information but to also gather information from other homeowners. He estimates there have been 3,000 court cases involving HOAs in Arizona.  Chances are those did not happen because associations were doing such a wonderful job, as proponents of HOAs would have you believe.  Tune in, it is an eye opening interview.

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Sam and Maria Farran

Sam and Maria Farran

Have you noticed how all sense flies out the window when an involuntary membership homeowners association is involved?  All of a sudden we fear anything that is not part of that uniform look and feel of a kontrolled kommunity.  A different shade of blah can topple an entire neighborhood, an unapproved garden hose, dusty mailboxes, flags, rose bushes and pudgy pooches are all a threat to property values.  An addition that doesn’t quite konform to the existing architectural guidelines will no doubt turn the neighborhood green with envy.

Oh, get real!

Joining us On The Commons this week are  Maria and Sam Farran.  The Farrans  weren’t about to believe all the nonsense they were told.  They did their homework, knew the rules and the laws and decided to fight back.  After years of court room drama, they won their cases and were awarded attorney fees and court costs.  However, there was a snag. You see, in the process,  their HOA ran out of money and went bankrupt.  But there is a happy ending after all. As Maria says; “We used to be a corporation that ran a neighborhood, we are now a neighborhood that runs a corporation”. I won’t ruin it for you so tune in and find out how they got their money and what happened to the association.  You’ll love it.How did they do it?  Well, look for their new and improved governing documents On The Commons and yes, you may use them as a template if you too want to return common sense and a sense of community to your neighborhood.

Listen to Sam and Maria Farran
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Karin Huffer

A timeless rebroadcast and a perpetual problem.

I am frequently contacted by homeowners who are being bullied and abused by board members and/or managers in the  association governing their neighborhood. More often than not, the source for the conflict is petty and ridiculous.   Notwithstanding the sort of personality that tends to gravitate to these positions, our legislators have seen fit to bestow extraordinary powers on them, tipping the balance very heavily in favor of the association. The experience of being caught in the crosshairs of the association causes stress induced health challenges for the homeowners.

But suppose the homeowner is disabled? The weaker and more vulnerable amongst us are more likely to be targeted because they are easier to bully, scare and abuse.  Is there any help for the?

Dr. Karin Huffer joins us On The Commons this week.  Dr. Huffer is a multi talented force to be reckoned with.  She is an author, a speaker, a trainer and now a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.  For years, Karin has known that people with disabilities are more likely to have their rights ignored, or trampled on by everyone, including the courts. She decided to do something about it.  She set up a web page and started a program called Equal Access Advocates.  She trains people to become advocates and to accompany people with disabilities in court to protect their rights. We’ll talk to Karin about her advocates, who they are and how they help their clients.  We learn a little more about the Americans With Disabilities Act and how her program ensures that people are treated fairly.  With an advocate by their side, people in court have someone very firmly in their corner.  

 

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Tyler Berding

Regular listeners to the show know that I have never bought into the notion that HOAs protect and even enhance property values.  When you look at all the moving parts in a house controlled by a homeowners association, in no way can I see how that could be the truth.  Professor Robertson, who was on the last show, did the research and found that HOAs not only do not protect and enhance values as claimed, but actually diminish the values.  Now that made a lot more sense to me.  But then I got an email from my friend Tyler Berding, an attorney in California, wanting clarification on what properties Professor Roberts based his study on. We are guessing they are single family homes, comparing similar sized homes with roughly the same square feet and amenities (number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and other amenities, construction and location, one in an HOA and the other Free as a bird and not in an HOA.  But then Tyler reminded me of one of the big pitfalls in this entire HOA discussion and that is language.  We don’t use terms that are common to everyone.  Some people and places refer to them as common interest developments, others call them property owners associations, and yet others refer to them as condominiums, cooperatives, attached and detached housing and the list goes on and on.  I am beginning to think we have a modern Tower of Babel.  

Tyler Berding joins us On The Commons Tyler is a founding partner in the California based law firm of Berding and Weil.  Tyler and his fellow attorneys specialize in Common Interest development  law.  We talk about language and the differences in the different forms and styles of these dwelling units and then dive into construction.  Like I said, there are so many moving parts to a house in a homeowner association.  We don’t often dig in deep enough when discussing the issues in HOA/common interest developments/ condominiums, etc, etc. I still can’t see how a house in an HOA can possibly protect and enhance the value, regardless of what you call it. in fact given all the parts it makes more sense that HOAs strip the owner of so much more.  But regardless, I always enjoy talking to Tyler and learn so much from him.  Tune in, I hope you enjoy the show as much as I did.

Listen to Tyler Berding

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Professor Leon Robertson

For the past several decades, states have required that housing consumers, buying into a mandatory membership housing association, be provided what is commonly called a “disclosure package.”  Some states provide a list of what the package must contain.  Much of the information is accurate but confusing and makes little sense. Even some attorneys have a hard time trying to decipher some sections.  Realtors and some settlement attorneys shrug off any questions as “you agree to pay so much a month to get trash and snow removed,” where applicable.  No bells go off.  “HOAs protect property values” has become such a common notion that buyers do not dig any further and accept it on face value.  Intuitively that statement makes no sense whatsoever but, absent proof to the contrary, people still believe it.

Leon Robertson joins us On the Commons this week.  Professor Robertson, a retired Yale University professor, discovered HOAs like the rest of us, by buying into one and finding out that it was nothing like he expected.  Being a professor and very thorough, he started researching HOAs, land records, tracked sales, and wrote a paper titled Correlation of Homeowner Associations and Inferior Property Value Appreciation.  After he crunched the numbers and analyzed the research projects, the result was that far from increasing and enhancing property values, HOAs diminished property values.  Perhaps, in fairness and honesty, housing consumers should be given a copy of Professor Robertson’s paper before signing on the dotted line.

Based on his experience, Professor Robertson wrote a book called The HOA Murders – A Novel of Suspense.  I have it on my kindle and can’t wait to dive into it.  Don’t miss the show with Professor Robertson,  

Listen to Professor Leon Robertson

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Mike Gingrich

“Are you crazy?  If people knew what they were buying, they’d never buy a house in an HOA”.  That was the answer I got from a member of the HOA industry when I asked why housing consumers were not told the truth about what buying a house in an HOA entailed.  No more real words were ever spoken.  The road to an HOA or condo controlled dwelling is, by necessity, paved with lies.  So it is back to the good old “Caveat emptor,” or buyer beware philosophy.  That’s all well and good, but until relatively recently, information that is necessary for the consumer or homeowner to be able to ask the right questions or make an educated decision has been scarce. There is a lot of information for associations, and for the people who feed at he HOA trough but precious little for the person who will be funding the contents of that trough. You, the HOA homeowner.

Michael Gingrich joins us On The Commons this week.  Mike has a background in psychology and learned all about HOAs like most of us, up close and personal, he lived in one.  There is something about having to deal with all the problems and issues that are a part of almost every HOA that compels you to do your homework.  Mike was no exception.  In the process of doing his research and meeting others who found themselves in pretty much the same boat, Mike and his colleagues put together a pretty comprehensive web site called HOAs Harm .  Mike talks about the website and explains why they put it together.   You’ll want to check out the website and tune in to the show to get more information. You won’t want to miss it.

Listen to Mike Gingrich

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Jan Bergemann

Jan Bergemann
Jan Bergemann

The story goes that any homeowner in a mandatory membership homeowners’ association who is behind in their dues is inherently bad, they don’t want to pay their fair share and deserve to be kicked out. That’s the story the HOA industry lobbyists tell state legislators when lobbying for increased power for the HOA and the industry.  They paint a picture of these horrible freeloaders who think nothing of living off their neighbors. “It’s NOT FAIR” they cry. If there was even a grain of truth to any of that, it would be reason enough to pull the plug on a housing concept doomed to fail but instead the people caught in the trap are called every name under the sun and demonized.  

The story goes that any homeowner in a mandatory membership homeowners’ association who is behind in their dues is inherently bad, they don’t want to pay their fair share and deserve to be kicked out. That’s the story the HOA industry lobbyists tell state legislators when lobbying for increased power for the HOA and the industry.  They paint a picture of these horrible freeloaders who think nothing of living off their neighbors. “It’s NOT FAIR” they cry. If there was even a grain of truth to any of that, it would be reason enough to pull the plug on a housing concept doomed to fail but instead the people caught in the trap are called every name under the sun and demonized.  

But let’s take a look at the Florida family who live in Nottingham Harbor in Jackson Florida to get a real picture of what really goes on in HOA land.  

Chris and Robin Rolling bought a house in Nottingham Harbor to live and raise their seven children.  Robin as a petty officer in the navy and her husband Chris, like so many people recently lost his job and his income.  Robin was the family’s sole financial supporter for a time.  The predictable happened, with less income they had to decide on what is more important, feeding their 7 children or feeding the coffers of the over bloated HOA legal team.  They made the same choice all of us would have made under the same circumstances and they fell behind in their HOA dues by $800.  They proposed a payment plan which was rejected by the association so that the debt with penalties, interest and HOA ATTORNEY FEES soared to $5, 800.  That is a $5000 increase!nThere were still 7 kids that needed to be fed but now the “community” decided to bury them even deeper.

Jan Bergemann Joins us On The Commons.  Jan is the founder and president of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice  a grassroots homeowner friendly group that seems to do as much good as CAI manages to do harm.  CCFJ heard about the Rollings and decided to prevent the foreclosure of their home. We’ll talk to Jan and find out just how CCFJ managed to help the Rollings and keep the family of 9 in their home.   The HOA got their back dues plus a whole lot more.  I ask myself exactly who are the freeloaders in this story.  Tune in and I am confident you will reach the same conclusion I did.

Listen to Jan Bergemann

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Nila Ridings

Nila Ridings

For decades there has been a concerted effort nationwide by homeowners, and some legislators, to ensure proper and adequate disclosures of exactly what owning an HOA controlled home entails. One of the biggest pitfalls, as I see it, is that the message is missing the target by a wide margin.  While a place to live is a necessity, we all need shelter and a safe place to live, raise our families and nourish our soles, buying a house is an emotional purchase.  Once a potential buyer has approved the curbside appeal of a house and goes through the front door, they either hate the paint color in the entry, (an easy fix) and turn tail and head right back out, or they start to visualize themselves having breakfast at the kitchen bar, reading a book by the fireplace, enjoying the views from the living room windows and they start to fall in love with their vision of what living in this house would be like.  Informing them that there is an HOA that will “protect them from red doors in their neighborhood will not force them to remove their rose colored glasses.  The sale pitch is emotional so asking them to dig a little deeper is not going to be terribly productive.  How do we find a common language?

Nila Ridings joins us On The Commons.  Nila, an advocate for protecting housing consumers from falling into the HOA trap shares with us her personal nightmare.  In fact Nila was warned by her dad who was a builder, NOT to buy a house that is subject to a mandatory membership HOA.  But then she fell in love with a house.  It had so many lovely features, lots of promises and pots of dreams so just how bad could it be?  She dumped her lifesavings and her inheritance that she got from her father into buying her dream house.  And then she found out just how bad it not only can be, but is.   Tune in and hear Nila’s story and how, despite her unwillingness to pass on her nightmare to anyone else, another buyer, despite being warned, is in the hot seat of her HOA. 

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News and Views About Homeowner Associations