In a free and civilized society there is the expectation that the citizens have rights, including the right to be treated fairly. However fairness seems to be one of the first casualties in mandatory membership residential associations. Gone are all the safeguards put in place by the Constitution. Gone is the notion of checks and balances and the idea that in the event of a dispute there will be a fair and just outcome. Is this just an HOA problem or does it affect other institutions?
Caroline Douglas joins us On The Commons. Caroline has a law degree, and is passionate about the law. She is an author and a professor in Maryland and is always willing to share her knowledge, expertise and ideas with us. She is very well aware of the what can happen when the safety nets fail to ensure fairness. We’ll talk about the meaning and need for law. We also learn about a 30 year old case, how that was handled in court and what has happened in the Pam Smart case. How can we ensure fairness in this world?
“If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.” When confronted with anything that “sounds too good to be true”, don’t take it at face value, instead do a little digging to get the details. One of these golden gems in the land of residential associations is Alternate Dispute Resolution, or ADR. Proponents would have us believe arbitration and mediation are cheaper, quicker and better than going to court. It sounds too good to be true so I did a little digging, and several years ago wrote a paper on my findings which is on my web site. You can read it here. But there is so much more.
As time goes on and more and more people fall in the trap of giving up their right to go to court, some pretty unsavory details have come to light. Mediation is used pretty extensively in neighborhood association wars which usually include a confidentiality clause, in other words, a gag order. I have always opposed this.
Robin Lent joins us On The Commons. Robin, a Texas homeowner got tangled up in a battle with her association 10 years ago, went to a court ordered mediation and after an exhausting session, when she was ready to drop, signed an agreement that included a confidentiality clause. The terms of the settlement are sealed so we will NOT be discussing them BUT for the details of the mediation process, and the fall out of the gag order, you will have to tune in. It was a huge eye opener for me and I learned so much from this show. So, you think you want to go to arbitration? Please tune in.
I can’t even begin to tell you just how appalled, angry, disgusted and frustrated I am at the state of housing, American style. Most countries in the world have a healthier respect for private spaces, whether those spaces are owned by the residents or leased. But with the proliferation of mandatory, forced membership in residential corporations, Americans are subject to the whims and caprices of neighborhood self appointed “enforcers” and their hired ” professionals” aka, HOA attorneys. After all, they really are not smart enough or capable enough to live in their own homes without a lot of oversight.
John Cowherd and Bill Davis join us On The Commons in the first of a two part show analyzing how and why we got to having such disrespect and disdain for private property. The largest tools in these tyrants’ toolbox is the statutory right to fine and then to foreclose to collect these fines. No oversight is provided by the governmental bodies authorizing these remedies, no thought to protecting the rights of the owners. After all, they agreed, right?
Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Whether Einstein said it or not is debatable but what is certain is that the quote is common sense. Yet for some reason we insist on doing the same thing over and over and over again, convincing ourselves that this time it will work. THIS time the results will be different. And yet again, we are disappointed and frustrated. This is especially true when it comes to “fixing” all the problems with residential associations. We believe that one more law requiring or prohibiting something will drastically alter the failing HOA system. But all those statutes do little other than complicate and compound the problems. Maybe it is time to start thinking outside the box and looking at different “solutions” – different ways of protecting homeowner assets and rights.
Caroline Douglas joins us On The Commons. Caroline is passionate about the Law, a subject she loves and is always willing to talk about and share thoughts and ideas with us. This week we brainstorm ideas that would allow homeowners to get what it is they want most, the right to be left alone and to enjoy the peace and sanctity of their own homes. We explore the possibility of taking the fight to a different arena and using a different battle cry. We learn about potential rights and remedies. Tune in for an idea packed hour of ways to stop doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting different results.
If I could draw I think I would write the HOA book as a series of cartoons because that’s how my mind tends to work. Many of those cartoons would be funny, others not so funny. But over the years never has there been a sumo wrestler in any of my imagined doodles or cartoons – until this interview. That’s when I started putting sumo wrestlers in the picture . But a gratuitous, enormous hulking, naked man in what appears to be a diaper, in the middle of a manicured, sterile, characterless, controlled residential association wasn’t quite connecting. So, I decided to read up on sumo wrestling and sumo wrestlers. And all of a sudden it was a perfect fit, diaper and all. I discovered, among other things, that although some of these massive men appear to be invincible, they have been toppled by smaller opponents. A sumo historian is quoted as saying he believes the circular ring was chosen to assist smaller fighters slip away and that the sumo rules tends to root for the underdog.
If you find yourselves in the bullseye of an HOA battle, facing what may seem like a sumo wrestler, grin at the diaper and know that you can win.
Dr. Wes Rocki, MD, PhD joins us On The Commons. Retired from practicing conventional medicine, Wes now focusses on alternative medicine, including techniques on self help and self healing. He explains how we can empower ourselves to better handle any conflict. We talk about how we can step away, mentally and emotionally to get a better grasp of the situation. Wes gives us a lot of really good advice on how to not only survive being at the center of an HOA storm but how to survive emotionally, reframe the conflict, empower ourselves and win against that massive sumo wrestler in the ring with us. So many light bulbs went off during the course of this interview. Listen and be empowered.
We have become a very transient society. I was quite surprised when I first came to the US that one of the first questions we ask someone we meet is, “where are you from?” Our roots have become spread across the globe, leaving behind our friends, families, neighbors, traditions, language, culture and all the other things that are part of who we are. It hasn’t always been that way. There was a time when families lived in the same community and were there for all the milestones. Family lore and history were well known, pride of our ancestors and their accomplishments and legacies were all part of our every day lives. We had a stronger sense of who we were and where we came from.
Sylvia Hoehns Wright joins us On The Commons. Sylvia is one of a handful of people who knows who she is and where she came from. She is the 5th generation to live on a family owned tract of land. There are 9 houses in her neighborhood all owned and inhabited by family who all share the same roots and values. There is no mandatory membership homeowner association so no abuses, horror stories or attempted land grabs that we talk about here. Right? Well, not so fast. A couple of parcels of land were sold and the new owners who don’t share Sylvia’s history, values or traditions would love to be able to get her off her land. She has written a book called Lawfare, American Property Rights versus Muslim Supremacy Tune in to hear Sylvia’s story.
Our founding fathers felt strongly enough about protecting our right to express ourselves, share our thoughts and tell our stories that they included it in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, also known as The Bill of Rights. The importance and the benefits of this right can’t be overstated.
Dr. Gary Solomon joins us On The Commons. Dr Solomon, a professor of psychology has studied the effects of residential associations on the homeowners. I asked him specifically about “gag orders” and how they affected families and especially the harm that is done to the children. He had some interesting insights on how HOAs are “muting” their members. We dig beneath the horror stories and try to understand what goes on underneath it all. Dr Solomon has written extensively on this subject. To access all his work simply Google HOA Syndrome.
The benefit of making mistakes should be that we learn from them and – hopefully- avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. So how come we never seem to learn from the mistake of imposing a 4th layer of government on housing consumers? This extra layer of government has no oversight, no separation of powers, no constitutional restraints and total and complete disregard for individual and property rights. Could the answer be that it really is not a mistake?
Caroline Douglas is back by popular demand, On the Commons . Caroline has a Juris Doctor, she has written a law treatise called The Dark Side and is about to teach the material from her book in several college courses in Baltimore, Maryland. Never having been personally caught in the abuses of an HOA gone off the rails, and never having litigated property association cases, she forces us to look outside the box we have put ourselves in. Tune in for a slightly different show.
Storytelling has always been an important and effective way of getting a point across. HOAs are a very rich source for stories. How better to warn housing consumers of the abuses that could be lurking right around the corner from that perfect house that feels so very much like home if you can’t tell your story? But stories, for the sake of a story is not enough, it has to be believable and the story teller has to be credible and that entails a little work.
Ward Lucas joins us On The Commons. Ward, now retired, is an Emmy winning TV anchor, investigative reporter and story teller “par excellence”. He is also a published author. His first book, “Neighbors at War”, is, as you might guess, all about the abuses and sheer insanity that is so common in HOA controlled neighborhoods. He has just published his third book, “Sometimes ya Gotta Ride the Elephant” where he takes us through his journey as an investigative reporter and TV anchor and lets us into the secrets of how he managed to get the full story for his reports, without leaving any loose ends. It’s a fun read with several lessons for us budding story tellers. All three of his books are available on his website, Ward Lucas.com
Every year, for as long as I can remember, homeowners have gathered to talk about the problems and the issues they face in their HOA governed homes and developments. Invariably they debate potential legislation they believe would Provide for a fair and balanced playing field. And over the years more and more laws are added to the books in all the states. Sometimes they succeed – for a little while – but usually they are back the following legislative session, still trying to fix the never ending problems and abuses. I have long believed there has to be a better way and that Americans are entitled to live peacefully in their own homes. Maybe it is time to think outside the box and try something different.
David Kahne joins us On The Commons. David, an attorney in Houston, Texas, is one of a handful of attorneys nationwide who understands HOA laws and does represent owners against their HOAs. He has worked on a legislative agenda for Texas for as long as I have known him. This year is no exception. We talk to David about some of the items on his legislative agenda, some of the issues he believes need to be addressed to even out the balance of power and give the owner a fighting chance. We talk about fines and foreclosures and legal fees. We touch on many issues, including whether some of the legislative agenda could, or should, be tackled at the Federal level. And we barely scratched the surface of what should be done to return full ownership and sovereignty of our homes to their rightful owners.