John Cowherd

“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.”  

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Larry Murphree

Larry Murphree

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.  

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Jan Bergemann

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  

As you can see, contrary to popular belief the Bill of rights does not give us certain rights.  The Founders recognized that these were God given rights and sought to prohibit government from taking them away. Little did they know that “Congress”, in all its wisdom  would find a way of empowering a fake government, aka a residential association where these rights would be trampled on at will.  The explanation is that by owning a home you “agreed” to forfeit your

Constitutionally protected rights.  NO, you did not.  

Jan Bergemann joins us On The Commons.  Jan is the founder and President of the Florida based  Cyber Citizens for Justice    An outspoken, no nonsense advocate for individual rights, he has worked tirelessly to provide some common sense in an otherwise corrupt system.  We talk to Jan about the state of controlled housing in Florida and especially about a bill making its way through the Florida Legislature granting Floridians their God given rights.  I know, it sounds absurd, doesn’t it?  But having empowered associations with extraordinary powers, the legislators are trying to reign them in, just a tiny little bit. It’s a start.  Join Jan and me for a lively discussion of this new bill and how, when passed, will reaffirm constitutionally protected rights. 

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Deborah Goonan

As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as being the freest people in the world.  And we are – or perhaps we were.  Gradually over the years American homeowners have been conned into believing they have given up some of those rights if that house is in a homeowner association.  Other times they have been misled into believing they never had any rights in the first place.  Bundled up in all of our rights we have what are often referred to as “natural rights” also inalienable rights.  These are rights that Belong to us and cannot be taken away.  Some of these rights are enshrined in the Bill of Rights.  The first of those rights is included in the 1st Amendment.  It guarantees the right of free expression, including freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, religion and speech.  Nowhere in the Constitution did I find an exception for Homeowner associations.  What a shocker!

Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons.  Deborah writes a blog called Independent American Communities and has become a walking encyclopedia of all the problems in HOAs across the country.  She has recently been following a troubling trend of HOAs stripping owners of their right to free speech part of the protections of the First Amendment.  We talk about Val Vista Lakes HOA in Gilbert Arizona whereThe association was threatening the residents with $250/day fines for exercising their right to free speech.  Find out why.  Check out  Independent American Communities  and do tune in to the show.  

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Donna Fossum

A timely gem from the archives!

Residential America has changed dramatically over the last 50 years.  Gone are the days when housing consumers bought a house or a plot of land and were lords of their mansions, kings or queens of their castles, where their word was law – within the confines of their property, of course.  Increasingly living in residential America is more complicated, more restrictive and more expensive.  Do American homeowners know and understand how and why their lives and homes have changed?

Donna Fossum joins us On The Commons.  Donna is an attorney, a long time resident and condo owner in the City of Alexandria, Virginia.  She was a senior policy analyst at the Rand Corporation, a former member of the Alexandria Planning Commission and a one time candidate for City Council.  Donna, with her analytical background, has written the most comprehensive and complete report on the changing residential communities. After a lot of research, Donna discovers what is essentially two cities in one, divided more or less equally by the east side and the west side of the City of Alexandria. She explains how this shift resulted in double taxation for approximately half of the homeowners in Alexandria.  But probably one of the most eye opening discoveries she made was the differences in the political process and participation by the citizens of the two different halves of the city.  Tune in and hear her talk about all the issues that significantly affect the way we live in America today and read her report,  Fossum Files .  While her research and analysis centered on Alexandria, the same issues and resulting problems exist across the country.

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Stephen Marcus

It is no secret that I am no fan of residential associations, largely because people don’t always know what they are getting into.  And when they have an inkling and specifically ask for non HOA housing, none are  available.The decision is made by third parties who have a vested interest in imposing mandatory membership  associations on housing consumers.  

Granted, there are exceptions to every rule and some would argue that 55 or older communities might fall under that category.  For some people it is the perfect solution. Or is it?

When Collin’s parents died within 2 weeks of each other, leaving 14 year old Collin an orphan.  He went to live with his grandparents in Prescott, Arizona.  The Passmores, a couple in their 70’s, live in a 55 and older development where no one under the age of 19 is allowed. And now, a year later, 15 year old Collin has been told by the HOA that he has to leave because he is too young to live there.  

Stephen Marcus joins us On The Commons.  Steve, a Massachusetts attorney and long time member of the Community Association Institute represents condominiums and homeowner associations in Massachusetts.  While Steve is not involved with this heart wrenching story I asked him to talk about 55 and older communities.  What are we dealing with and how can we make residential America less threatening?  Are the HOA attorneys being truthful when they predict gloom and doom for HOAs and board members who do not enforce every rule swiftly and decisively?  Where did 19 come from?  Is there room for compassion in residential America?  We’ll get a few answers and perhaps have more questions.  

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Bill Davis

We get mail, emails, messages and other forms of communication.  Always happy to hear from you.    I find it interesting that so many of you have the same name,  “Anonymous”, often there is no name or return address for snail mail or email addresses so this show is dedicated to responding to a couple of recent messages.   

First of all, I got a letter proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that all is not well in HOAland.  The letter starts off by saying   “my HOA board is provoking me to commit suicide.”  I can fully understand the sheer frustration of having to deal with a bunch of bullies but PLEASE don’t commit suicide.  No HOA is worth your life.    I have yet to find any truthful and honest benefit of an HOA for the owners.  Sadly many frustrated, harassed and abused HOA owners have committed suicide over the years.  And the HOA lives on to abuse more homeowners.  The best advice I have for you is to GET OUT and, with other HOA survivors help  get the message out.  Talk to legislators IN PUBLIC, preferably with cameras on so they can’t just sweep your comments and concern under the rug as they have a tendency  to do.  It is time they understand what they have done and FIX IT. 

Bill Davis joins us On The Commons.  Bill, a Texas attorney represents HOA homeowners and has more insight from a real life point.  I get the most comments about Bill.  People want me to clone him, another Anonymous writer complains about Bills audio quality but then says, “once you get Bill’s audio problems fixed; more episodes with Bill and John Cowherd together.”  Bill and I talk about some of the issues raised by the writer and explain the problem with his audio.  You will be happy to know that we had no problems with the audio on this show. Tune in to find out what Bill did to “fix” it.

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Jonathan Friedrich

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Caveat Emptor, buyer beware, was once the watch word for housing consumers.  In other words, do your homework and understand what you are doing because if you buy it you “own it”, all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Notwithstanding all the laws, allegedly protecting real estate buyers, “caveat emptor” is probably more applicable now than ever before.  Real estate deals are no longer simply between the buyer and the seller, today there are many other interests involved in every  transaction.  The ever present HOA always  rears its  ugly head and inserts itself in the middle of the sales contract.  

Jonathan Friedrich joins us On The Commons.  Jonathan’s story should remind us to do our homework so that we know what we are buying.  It should also warn us not rely on what we are told.  Because Jonathan relied on the information provided by title company, it cost him thousands of dollars for HOA assessments he did not owe because, surprise, his house was NOT part of the HOA.  Nice surprise but it cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars extricating himself from the HOA he never belonged to.  He recently won a major legal battle and is rightly very proud of himself.  But that is not the end of the story, he is now going to try to recoup some of the money he has spent to get this far.  What he will never regain is the years of “fighting”to protect what is rightfully his.  Tune in and listen to Jonathan’s story,  in his own words.  F ind out how he discovered the clue that led him on this journey.  

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Bonner Cohen

Gone are the days when being a property owner meant having dominion over your property.  With the imposition of mandatory membership residential associations and the restrictive covenants that are attached to the deed, homeowners have lost some of the most basic and fundamental rights of the use and enjoyment of their homes. Those restrictions range from something as basic and mundane as a choice of plants, to the approved shade of white for the interior window blinds to something a little more serious like having a fence to keep children and pets safe and even to having children and pets at all.  

Are restrictive covenants and neighborhood Nazis the only threat to a property owner’s right to ownership?

Dr. Bonner Cohen joins us On The Commons this week.  Dr. Cohen is a Senior Fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a position he has had since 2002.  He is also a Senior Policy Analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow;  and the author of The Green Wave.  Dr. Cohen takes us on a trip down memory lane and reminds us of the advantages and opportunities we enjoyed in the past and compares them to the way we live today. He explains how and why, slowly, very slowly, rights,  education, health, wealth and the way we live have been adversely affected.  He very clearly helps us follow the laws, regulations and policies that have stripped us of things we once enjoyed and took for granted.  The changes were gradual, the results were by design and we never noticed them until they were here.  Is it too late or can we wrest control of our world back from the special interests?  Listen to Bonner Cohen

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Jonathan Dessaules

An often cited benefit for residential associations used to be that they allowed the members greater control over their immediate surroundings. The other bonus they were promised was that collectively  they would gain political clout.  At least that was the sales pitch, along with the ever present promise of enhanced property values.  It all sounded wonderful and in a perverse sense sounded sort of logical. But as we have learned over the years not everything works the way it is supposed to.  In fact in the case of residential associations, the opposite is true.  Not only don’t the members have control over their immediate surroundings but have lost sovereignty over their own private spaces.  The existence of an HOA or Condo association is infinitely more intrusive and tyrannical than a neighborhood where the residents are on their own and allegedly have no control.  

Jonathan Dessaules joins us On The Commons. Jon is an attorney in Phoenix, Arizona.   As part of his practice   he represents homeowners against their associations.  He is one of a handful of attorneys nationwide who will only represent the owners and not straddle the fence hopping over to the HOA side when they feel like it.  Currently his is in a class of his own in Arizona.  He also has a  blog where he discusses HOA issues and gives general guidance.  It’s a great page to check out for quick guidance on some of the more common issues facing homeowners.  We talk to Jon about all the usual HOA issues common to all American homeowners but we also talk about a long and protracted case that he recently won.  His clients own a unit in an upscale condominium where the fees are in excess of $1,000/month. The condo shut the key card down, impeding access to the private unit and banned the use of the amenities until the owners forfeited  a  right they had.  So much for having greater control of your immediate surroundings in a residential association.  

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News and Views About Homeowner Associations