Frank Short and Jan Bergmann

As the number of mandatory membership associations grow so do the problems and issues facing them.  Homeowners increasingly are calling upon their elected officials seeking help.  After all these years, the question isn’t IF something should be done about HOAs but rather WHAT should be done about them.  Every year state representatives across the country find themselves facing various and sundry supposed “fixes”, in the form of proposed bills.  And every year the problems just seem to get worse.  So where do we go from here?  What is the answer to this perennial problem?  Is there an answer? 
 
On The Commons with Shu this week are Jan Bergemann, President of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justices www.ccfj.net.  Jan will talk briefly about the conference he and his group are sponsoring for homeowners to be held in Ft Lauderdale in February.  It is the homeowners who will be talking about the issues and the legislators who will be discussing their bills and the programs they are considering.  And in the Studio with me is Frank Short.  Frank, an attorney and well known homeowner and individual rights advocate will be talking about proposed legislation currently being considered by the Virginia General Assembly.  Please join us On The Commons.  We’ll talk about the intent behind at least one bill and whether, if enacted, it will protect the homeowners.

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Elaine Musser and Dr. Rene Alvir

It is well documented that stress can wreak havoc with our physical and mental well being.  Stress destroys our body’s immune system, making us more susceptible to a whole host of problems, from headaches to ulcers, to eating disorders to more life threatening problems including cardiovascular diseases, cancer and ultimately death.  While stress can not be completely eliminated from our lives, what can we do to avoid unnecessary stress?  Is it possible for the stress caused by HOA living lead to chronic health problems and even death? 
 
On The Commons with Shu this week are Elaine Roberts Musser, an attorney with Building Bridges, a California based organization dedicated to preventing elder abuse. And in the studio Shu is joined by Dr Rene Alvir.  Dr Alvir is a retired physician in Northern Virginia who is well versed on how stress affects our health. Please join us On The Commons.  We’ll follow the story of one senior condo owner who had been battling her association for a couple of years and we’ll get a medical opinion on how the chronic and relentless stress she was under could have contributed to her poor health and ultimate death.   Copyright OTC Multimedia 2008.

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Alexander Lee

If there is any truth at all to the notion that homeowner associations are beneficial to the  members, then does it necessarily follow that they are good for the community at large?  Is there any evidence that all the rules and restrictions purported to protect property values  actually do protect values and if so, at what cost? 
 
On The Commons with us this week is Alexander Lee.  Alex is the founder and Executive Director of Project Laundry List and maintains a web site at www.laundrylist.org based in Concord, New Hampshire.   The organization is proposing simple steps and solutions that would contribute in a big way towards reducing our reliance and use of electricity.  One of the easiest steps would be to reduce our reliance on clothes dryers by returning to the simple clothesline.  Unfortunately, most, if not all, of the 60 million Americans live in associations that ban the use of clotheslines.  Please join us On The Commons.  We’ll talk about how HOAs tend to hinder what might be better for the people at large. 

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Bill Davis

When the HOA factory first opened its doors four decades ago, the recorded Declarations were short and fairly simple.  The restrictions against the free use of private property were few and relatively innocuous.  Today however, the recorded CC&Rs tend to be infinitely more cumbersome and complex, taking away choices and freedoms homeowners once took for granted.  If Americans across the country could lose so much in such a short time, what does the future hold for tomorrow’s homeowners?  Is there a way to watch the trends as they develop?
 
On The Commons with us this week is Bill Davis.  Bill is a Texas attorney who bought a house on a large lot and found himself learning all about mandatory membership associations.  In the process he became a little more knowledgeable about HOA laws than he ever intended to be.  Please join us On The Commons.  We’ll talk about the current trends in associations and what they really mean.  You’ll want to tune in because you might just be able to connect the dots of some of the things that have been happening in your association.  And if nothing sounds familiar now, wait, because it wont be long before they make an appearance in an HOA near you. 
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Mark Benson

Like it or not, the number of association housing is increasing.  With the trend towards higher density development and municipal mandates a substantial percentage of the new housing stock is in an HOA of some form or other.  Along with the increase in association housing the number of reported incidents of theft, embezzlement and other fraudulent activity have also grown.  Can something be done to protect the interests of the owners?  What safeguards can be taken to make stealing from the association funds a lot harder?
 
On The Commons with us this week is  Mark Benson.  Mark is a former owner of his own management company, Benson’s Inc. which he sold last year. He has earned just about every credential offered to managers, including a  CMCA, AMD, PCAM and is currently a Florida Supreme Court Certified County Court Mediator.  In addition to several other appointments he is a member of the Florida CAM Council  http://www.myflorida.com/dbpr/pro/cam/index.html   .  He is working on a bill that would make managers more accountable for their actions and the advice they give association board members,  You can read his proposed bill http://www.ccfjedu.net/CAMBILL2008.htm.  And to reach Mark send him an email at mark@markbenson.com  Please join us On The Commons this Saturday, November 17, 2007.  We’ll talk about the all sorts of things HOA related.
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Vellie Hall and Gary Baise

In the past, property ownership was simple.  By virtue of ownership, the owner enjoyed sovereignty over his or her own property.  But those days are long gone.  Today more people and more agencies have more to say about what you can and can’t do and how you can use your home, than you, the property owner have.  Many of those changes and restrictions start at the local level.  So wouldn’t it make sense that the people who have the power to either complicate or simplify things are the people who are willing to listen to and work with their constituents? 
 
On The Commons with us this week are Gary Baise, candidate for Chairman of the Board of Fairfax County, Virginia and Vellie Dietrich Hall, candidate for Supervisor of Mason District.  Both candidates believe it is time for a change and both candidates are committed to being responsive to the citizens and tax payers of Fairfax County.  Gary is an attorney and was at the forefront of the environmental movement, working on reducing air pollution, ensuring the safety of our drinking water and protecting the environment.  Gary has a web site www.votebaise.com .  Vellie owns her own financial management company that has contracts with the Department of Defense where she has built a reputation for finding cost cutting measures and saving the tax payers millions of dollars.  Vellie’s web page is www.votevellie.org .  Please join us On The Commons.  We’ll talk about the vision they have for the future of the county and we’ll find out how they plan on making some of the much nee

ded changes.

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Evan McKenzie

Most people believe that ownership is absolute.  You work hard, earn the money to buy something and once you have bought, and paid for it, you own it.  That includes property.  And in the old days, that is exactly how things worked but over the years, the notion of absolute ownership has been watered down.  In the case of property ownership, first through local restrictions and eventually through mandatory memberships in deed restricted developments. 
 
Are these restrictions limited to just property ownership or are there other forces at work to strip Americans of rights and liberties? 
 
On The Commons with us this week is Professor Evan McKenzie.  Evan is the author of Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Private Residential Government, Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois Chicago, Law professor at the John Marshall School of Law, a practicing attorney and he still finds time to maintain a blog at http://privatopia.blogspot.com/.  He is a well respected authority, and frequent commentator, on the issues related to homeowner associations.   Please join us On The Commons this Saturday, October 13, 2007.  We’ll talk about the big picture, property ownership and the general loss of our civil rights.  We’ll talk a little about what is being done and discuss what can be done to protect what’s left of our rights.  As always, you’ll want to hear what Professor McKenzie has to say. 
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Gary Baise

Most people would probably tell you that their notion of the American Dream is a house sitting in the middle of a lush green lawn that is surrounded by a white picket fence.  But acquiring that little piece of paradise, and keeping it, is fraught with obstacles.  The growing number of mandatory membership association nationwide is not the only challenge property owners face.  One of the least talked about obstacles to the free use of private property is the Federal and state environmental restrictions.   
 
On The Commons with us this week is Gary Baise.  Gary is a practicing attorney in Washington DC and a candidate for Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.  Gary was on the forefront of the environmental movement and has seen many changes implemented over the years.  His practice today includes protecting the rights of property owners.  Please join us On The Commons.  We’ll talk about the advances made over the decades to clean our air and make our communities healthier.  We’ll talk about property rights vis a vis some of the current restrictions and we’ll find out what made a successful farmer and attorney decide to throw his hat in the ring and run for public office.  You wont want to miss this one.

 

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Julio Robaina

“Associations protect property values”, the headline grabbing horror stories are “isolated incidents”, “Zogby polls indicate that 96% of all homeowners in associations are happy”, homeowners voluntarily choose to live in associations, and if you are not happy with your board of directors, “toss the bums out” or “move”.  Embezzlement?  Fraud?  Take it to court, “it’s a civil matter” and the real government can’t get involved.  After all “you agreed,” you see.  You’ve heard it all.  But how much of it has any merit at all?  Or are these just sound bites that have been repeated often enough to have become part of the vernacular? 
 
On The Commons with us this week is Representative Julio Robaina.  Having traveled the length and breadth of the state, listening to horror stories and asking for ideas of how to resolve the many problems faced by his constituents, Rep Robaina has sponsored legislation that is starting to help tip the scales a little in favor of the homeowner.  In its infancy, his pilot program on using law enforcement to investigate allegations of fraud in associations is yielding dramatic results.  With several arrests already made, and more to come, the rest of the country is starting to take notice.  Please join us On The Commons. We’ll get the details of his program, find out whether they are in fact “isolated incidents” and we’ll ask just how, given all the fraud and mismanagement, associations protect property values. 
 
For detailed information about the pilot program go to http://www.ccfjedu.net/SCAM/SCAMindex.htm.
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Elaine Musser

When the concept of common ownership developments first went into mass production, the intent was to relieve cash strapped local municipal governments from some of their obligations without having to resort to raising taxes.  The idea was that by privatizing some of the traditionally municipal functions, local governments could use tax revenues to help them keep pace with the rapid growth.  But like many seemingly good ideas, there are unforeseen and unintended consequences lurking in the shadows.  And now, some forty years into this experiment, we are beginning to see the really ugly side of this particular housing scheme.

 
On The Commons with us this week is Elaine Roberts Musser.  Elaine is the Executive Director of Building Bridges (Elder Abuse Prevention), she is Chair of the Triad Task Force, Yolo County Commission on Aging and Adult Services and a volunteer attorney with the Yolo County Legal Clinic’s Senior Legal Hotline.   She is also representing a 78 year old widow in her fight to keep her HOA controlled home.  In the process she is seeing, for herself just how out of control HOA management and boards really are.  Please join us On The Commons this Saturday, August 18, 2007. We’ll talk about Building Bridges, the Yolo County Commission on aging and how they may come to the assistance of the elderly.  And of course, we’ll learn the details of her case and to what extent the board president will go to control the members of the association.  On the Commons is broadcast live from WEBR Fairfax, Virginia., Copyright OTC Multimedia Productions 2007.

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News and Views About Homeowner Associations