Why is it that the single largest asset you own comes with more restrictions and controls placed on it than any other item you have? Own a car? You can choose the size, make, model, color, you can add seat covers, additional side mirrors to enhance your vision of your surroundings, add bumper stickers about your child’s scholastic achievements, your favorite teams, your pets, places you have visited or any other message that is near and dear to your heart. No approval needed from anyone for the color of your vehicle or permission to add more side mirrors. Permission for a bumper sticker announcing your pride in your children’ scholastic and athletic achievements? After all, isn’t it all part of your right to free speech? You own it, you control it. So why is it that your home, arguably the largest expenditure you have, the one item that reflects who you are and what you like more than anything else, is so burdened with rules, regulations, threats, fines and yes, foreclosure because you violated someone else’s aesthetic sensibilities. Whatever happened to being king and queen of your own castle?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney whose legal practice includes representing homeowners in HOAs has a unique insight into HOA problems. He has seen the bad and the ugly from all sides. We talk to Bill about what makes living in an HOA such an awful experience for so many homeowners and how the association and their legal council seem to have unfettered power over the owners. We also talk about the “carrot” or the BIG LIE that convinces housing consumers that there might be some benefit to giving up so much control over their lives and homes by subjecting themselves to an HOA. We talk about THE BIG LIE, the assertion that HOAs protect and enhance property values. What exactly are property values? How do HOAs protect these values when so many homeowners are losing their homes and their fortunes to the HOA boards, managers and their attorneys? And just what is the value of homeownership in modern day America?
Will candidates for public office be able to come and talk to you?
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.
Wikipedia describes The Tragedy of the Commons as “a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action.” But isn’t that just human nature? Don’t we normally make choices and decisions based on our immediate needs and what benefits us? And isn’t that especially true for people who are generally struggling to make ends meet? Can the current model of HOAs and condos function properly for all?
Tyler Berding joins us On The Commons. Tyler is the principle attorney and founder of Berding-Weil, a California law firm. Tyler represents residential associations and has long been concerned about the lack of adequate reserve funding, construction defects, condo conversions and the flawed HOA and condo model. He is particularly concerned about the buildings as they near the end of their useful lifespans. What happens to the buildings that need to be refurbished? What happens to the owners and their assets? Who pays to make the units habitable if the reserves are inadequate to fund it all? Can retirees on fixed incomes and low income owners afford massive special assessments to cover the shortfall? What Tyler is talking about is the classic “tragedy of the commons”. Tyler shares with us his presentation for a summit next month. Tyler also has a blog called Condo Issues with lots of thought provoking blogs covering all things condo.
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.
Early on, in what has become a national nightmare of epic proportions for American homeowners, the HOA horror stories really horrified the public. People who had been victimized by their neighborhood association were too embarrassed to admit they were being abused. All that has changed. The abuses and the horror stories seem to have become so much a part of every day life that we simply shrug them off and continue on our way until we find ourselves in the center of this web. Those fighting a seemingly unwindable battle are rightly consumed with saving their homes, their lives, their health and their sanity. In an effort to prevent more horrors and more abuses they have tried desperately, and failed miserably, to “fix” all that is wrong with the concept.
Professor Gary Solomon joins us On The Commons. Dr. Solomon has studied the HOA and condo blight on America and has written extensively on the effects residential associations have on the physical, mental, emotional health and welfare of Americans. Professor Gary Solomon has a website where you can read his papers. Dr. Solomon says it is time to stop focussing on the stories and to start working on the solutions. He identifies one of the biggest issues that is at the heart of the abuses and shares some of his ideas on how to stop the bleeding.
There is a very delicate balance in the world that, when left alone, tends to function and work as it was meant to, in complete harmony. Sadly we seem to be incapable of leaving things alone and have yet to learn that man cannot always improve what nature, time and custom have already perfected. And when that meddling is the result of personal aesthetics, well it can almost be seen as criminal. Today’s show is about protecting individual and property rights, defending the monarch butterflies, standing up to the bullies and winning.
Mike Pugh joins us On The Commons. Mike and his wife bought a house with a two acre meadow that is part of their property. It backs up to a line of trees and the meadow is only visible from the Pugh’s property. The meadow, with its abundance of milkweed plants, has been there for decades and is an important part of the monarch butterflies migratory path. And yes, there is a homeowners association involved. Isn’t there always when homeowners have to fight to protect their rights and their homes? The HOA decided that the meadow had to go and that’s how this fight started. After years of courtroom drama, the Pughs WON in a court of law. We’ll talk to Mike, learn more about the fascinating monarchs and the Pughs battles with the HOA. And as is typical, the HOA bullies can’t accept defeat gracefully, they still want the meadow mowed. So the battle continues. You can see Mike’s meadow here.
How do you define “civilization”? I understand it to describe people who are educated, cultured, have manners and are socially and morally advanced. The dictionary defines it as “an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture,science, industry, and government has been reached.” Some words that are used to define the opposite of civilization are decline, destruction, ignorance, rudeness, barbarism, primitiveness. What do you think best describes life in a residential association? And how, in a country that presents itself as the most civilized, the richest, the best and the freest can we force people to live in controlled housing developments where, in many cases, those in power are rude, barbaric, abusive, dictatorial and completely wild? And finally, how do homeowners deal with some of these atrocities?
John Paskert joins us On The Commons. John is a retired military psychological Operations officer. The tactics he learned while an active duty officer helped him even out the playing field somewhat in his homeowners association. Rather than allowing the ruder and more ignorant denizens in his neighborhood to frustrate and demoralize him, he remained civilized, did his homework, and fought back in very clever and subtle ways. He shares some of the lessons he learned operating in this new arena and also tells us some of his stories. I think the big lesson here is that there is more than one way to fight back. However, trying to become a truly civilized society, where respect and cooperation are the norm, should be our ultimate goal.
I have often wondered, and worried, about children growing up in HOAs who watch their parents suffer at the hands of the HOA bullies. What is the message we are giving them? Will they be willing and able to fight to protect their homes and families when they are raising their children in these irrational and often abusive residential associations? Or will they simply roll over and hope the horrors end, believing this is normal? “This is just the way it is” or “They are all like this”, never realizing they can fight back and they can make life better for all concerned?
Jessica Suico joins us On The Commons. Jessica is a second year student at Contra Costa College in San Pablo, California. She is majoring in journalism and works on The Advocate, the college newsletter. The paper normally reports on all things college related, new classes, upcoming events on campus and other news items or topics of interest that would affect student life. Jessica’s article is a little out of the norm for her paper but, I believe, so very important. She witnessed the harassment and subsequent eviction of her mother and aunt from their home. She also saw the frustration as her mother and aunt exhausted all venues seeking non existing help for people in similar situations. They may have been able to get some help had they known where to look. That has to be part of the education. However, in the end, a couple of elderly ladies who have had health problems were evicted, ended up in the hospital and rendered homeless. Using the college newspaper was an excellent way of, not only getting the story out, but also of education other young college students who will be facing similar problems unless we stop the bleeding in private residential America SOON.
I seem to zip through life at breakneck speeds, taking most things for granted and never really thinking about the reason we do things any particular way. Oh, once in a while I ask myself, “What were they ever thinking?” when I run into something a little strange. However, when things are working well the farthest thought is to wonder why it works. It is so much easier to start looking at things that don’t make sense and figure out how to improve it.
And for a show whose sole focus is property rights, that was a little short sighted. How can we protect ownership and rights without knowing how to properly define the property in question? That is one those things most of us have always taken for granted.
Kenneth Ditkowsky joins us On The Commons. Ken is an attorney in Chicago who, when he was fresh out of law school, full of self confidence and a can-do attitude found himself on the ground floor of redefining property boundaries and ultimately changing skylines in cities across the country. Maybe even the world? We’ll talk to Ken about the Prudential Building, the first high rise in Chicago and the hundreds of pages of legal speak explaining the ownership structure. Ken and his partner accepted the challenge and simplified it, reducing the document down to a more manageable size. n the process they paved the way for high-rise residential buildings to be built and ultimately changing the face of the Chicago. We’ll talk about all the things most of us take for granted and never give a second thought to. We’ll learn about different ways to determine the legal boundaries of a piece of property and find out what happens when mother nature decides to ” shift” the things we take for granted. I was spellbound as I listened to Ken. Tune in for a fascinating show.
When the forces of evil succeed in kicking individual and property rights under the rug, then start playing word games trying to explain how you never really had those rights in the first place, it is time to take the kid gloves off.
Everything about HOAs makes my blood boil but nothing has enraged me quite as much as the way a homeowner was treated by the very industry that sucks the life out of our homes, our families, our communities and destroys our peace of mind. This has to stop! While the catalyst for today’s story may have been a small flag, this is not about a flag but about our rights as homeowners and our right to live in peace in our homes.
Larry Murphree joins us On the Commons. Larry, an Air Force veteran, updates us on his battle with his condominium board and the industry attorneys who advise them on how to mistreat and abuse the homeowners. The battle has been raging for over 7 years and still goes on. We’ll talk to Larry and get the details of how his decision to move into a condo has adversely affected his life and his bank account. Of all the horrors, abuses and invasion of one’s privacy, none even come close to the offensive treatment at the hand of a board and it’s attorney hell bent on destroying an owner and robbing him of all he has spent a lifetime working for. All this is being done legally. Legislators, are you listening?