The American Dream is often referred to as homeownership. Everyone wants a home of their own where they can be king of their castles, live peacefully, shut the world out, raise their family and be with their friends and loved ones. In the process, they build a haven for their old age. Unfortunately, our legislators have bowed to the special interests, enacted legislation allowing home and condo associations to fine homeowners for alleged infractions of the dumbest of rules and then empowered them to foreclose on their homes to collect those fines. That has to stop! No one should lose their home such idiotic rules as leaving a garage door open too long or having a pet that appears to weigh more than a certain weight for feeding baby ducks as is happening currently in Texas. Can you imagine a grieving mother losing her home because she fed baby ducks without a mother?
Bill Davis, a frequent guest, a Texas attorney who represents homeowners in controlled HOA and condo housing and I talk about this case but also about the need to ban fines in HOAs and Condos as well as banning foreclosing on homes especially evicting the elderly from the homes they have spent their entire lives building. I’d like to think it is UNAMERICAN to toss old people out in the cold. Getting these bans will require a concerted effort from all of us. We also need to enlist the support of organizations that purport to protect the interests of seniors. With the money they have, and the membership they have they need to ensure that their members are protected. I am not a member of any organization that sides with groups that are harmful to seniors and homeowners in controlled housing like condos and HOAs. I also will no longer donate to candidates who will not promise to introduce legislation to ban fines and foreclosures. Join me.
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.
As I said in my opening statement, Caroline is a lady who I wish lived closer. She has a way of connecting current events with history. Today’s show is no exception. I have been asking myself, whatever happened to Miss Manners? Would life in HOAs be more tolerable if people treated each other with respect? Where and when did we go off the rails? And who is responsible? Are children being taught manners at home by their parents? That’s who taught me how to behave and corrected me every time I strayed from the straight and narrow. I was fortunate; good manners were important to my parents, But what happens when the parents are rude and don’t know how to behave in polite company? I told a story about trying to reach a friend who was staying in a local hotel but was treated rudely by the person who interfaced with the public and potential guests and who hung up on me several times. No, I was NEVER rude to the staff. And Caroline and I also talk about current court decisions. Does everything tie together? How do we return to a kinder, gentler society? Do tune in to today’s show. I would love to hear what you think. Thanks.
The song, “Both sides now” has been on my mind a lot since talking to my guest. Reading the lyrics, I understand why. The lyrics pretty much sum up the gist of this interview. I always find it interesting that when it comes to housing, two people can look at the same problems and issues and come with a different point of view, sort of like the lyrics in the song that keeps playing over and over in my mind. Angel hair, ice cream castles and feather canyons are in the clouds but then the clouds only block the sun and rain and snow on everyone. Maybe it is time to look at condos and HOAs from “both sides now”.
Vicki MacHale joins us On The Commons. Vicki is the co-owner of Ark Management in California with 23 years experience under her belt. She has seen lots of clouds, especially when it comes to the way HOAs and condos are managed and has written about her thoughts and observations. In a recent article titled Emissaries of Change She has also written a letter to Governor Jerry Brown about her concerns for underfunded associations and the largely inadequate legislation that is mainly a knee jerk reaction to a headline grabbing incident. Vicki and I both agree on the problems and the issues but we do tend to look at “both sides” in this interview. I learned some things from my chat with Vicki and believe it is time for all concerned to come together and look at “both sides now”.
I always believed that the government’s job was to protect its citizens. But, just like HOAs protecting property values, that too appears to be a misconception. Maybe the government’s real goal always was self aggrandizement and self enrichment hidden under layers of feigned caring. Perhaps I am only now beginning to realize that or maybe the corruption and gross government misconduct has reached new heights that it is no longer possible to sweep their misdeeds under the rug and pretend they don’t exist. Or has their callousness reached new heights? Surely, when presented with evidence that their constituents are being physically harmed, they would at least listen and take steps to ensure their safety.
Michelle Germano joins us On The Commons. Michelle is the lead plaintiff in the Chinese drywall class action lawsuit. Michelle bought her dream home – a brand new townhouse in a brand new development where she planned to live and work. It wasn’t long after she moved in that things started going terribly wrong. Appliances stopped working, electrical wires disintegrated, her house had a horrible odor that she couldn’t get rid of, her dog got sick and she got sick. She found out that her neighbors were also getting sick. Following a lot of sleuthing, she discovered the source of her ailments – Chinese drywall. She tried to enlist the help of her representatives, both at the state and the Federal levels. No one was interested! After repeated attempts to get Virginia legislators involved she received a call advising her to give up because the “condo lobby” (read CAI) owned condo legislation. Nobody in DC even bothered to respond. In a no holds barred, frank, detailed and emotional interview, Michelle takes us on a roller coaster ride of her life with Chines drywall, her condo association and the legislators elected to represent us.
Elder abuse is alive and well in America, either Miss Manners didn’t do a good enough job teaching us the finer skills of manners and respect or we are ignoring them believing they are old-fashioned and therefore best forgotten. But I simply can’t forget or overlook today’s story. I was so infuriated and outraged when I got a call from a friend who lives in a retirement community. It is hard to find much that differs from a homeowners association that we typically deal with here except that they seem to be more expensive and more intrusive and as I discovered more abusive. I know, it is difficult to believe.
AS I listened to my friend, I had images of a college dorm room, not an apartment where one can enjoy the privacy of a personal home, which is what these places are supposed to be. Oh, did I mention they are NOT cheap? I got a call from my friend, very upset because she had been given about three weeks to find another home, she was being evicted. Why was she being evicted? It seems harsh to have an employee decide to strip you of your home with no oversight, no insuring that her Constitutional rights were protected, none of that. There was an incident where a member of the staff showed up and without my friend’s permission stuck a cell phone in her face and started taking pictures of her because her mask was not on her face according to the home’s standards. Considering she had a glass of water in her hand that she was drinking that is not surprising. When this woman with her cell phone appeared in her private space, taking photos and videos, my friend did what any one of us would do when someone invades our private space, we pushed them away. Not sure any reader would just stand there and smile for the camera and allow this to happen to them, at least I certainly hope not. An unintended consequence of all this was that the water in the glass gave our sneaky photographer a shower. Of course, the “bad guy” in all of this has to be my friend, and absolutely no mention is ever made of the employee who started this whole thing. I wonder why? What really, really infuriated me was when the ED told my friend to go to her room and stay there. She was not allowed to go in the common areas, or to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, she had to stay in her room until she left in 3 weeks’ time. Her meals would be sent to her. That is a total violation of her Constitutional rights and is elder abuse. And this woman is in charge of a retirement home?
Caroline Douglas joins us On The Commons. Caroline had the same gut reaction to this story as I did when I told her. Although Caroline is a non-practicing attorney she has a law degree, she remembers the Constitutional protections very well and reaffirms my beliefs and Gut reactions. Tune in and make sure your loved ones don’t fall into the same house of horrors.
Why do some HOA horror stories grab the headlines, go viral, get written up in news outlets around the world, discussed on radio shows and highlighted on local and national TV shows while others, equally horrible, get ignored? We never seem to learn as the stories repeat themselves, over and over and over again. Flag flaps, children play equipment in private backyards that seem to irk some of the less tolerant in the ‘hood, non conforming trashcans, unapproved garden hoses, bird feeders, discrimination, discrimination and more discrimination against anyone who does not conform to some secret acceptable standard. There are hundreds of these stories every single day yet we only ever hear about a tiny handful of them. Why?
Ward Lucas joins us On The Commons this week. Ward is an award winning print, TV and radio journalist who, over his career have covered stories of war while fighting a war to protect his property in a homeowners association. His experience and expertise were put to great use when he wrote Neighbors at War, the Creepy case Against your Homeowners Association. The term ” Neighbors at War” has caught on and is used often in HOA stories. Ward also maintains a blog by the same name. All his posts give an estimated reading time. We’ll find out why. We’ll also ask him how to capture the attention of the mainstream media and what we, as homeowners with all sorts of different backgrounds, can do to become more effective communicators. I always have fun talking to Ward so tune in and join in the fun. Oh, and as an added bonus, we’ll hear all about his latest book, due out soon.
We have all heard horror stories coming out of mandatory membership housing associations. Anything from citations for totally idiotic issues like having dust on the roof — what idiot would think of something like that? But believe it or not, that is an actual “violation.” Of course, the worst ones are when the association fines a member for insane alleged violations and eventually forecloses to take a member’s home away from them. Who will ever forget Wenonah Blevins? Wenonah, the 80-year old widow who, along with her cat, was evicted out of her mortgage-free house and left homeless. The stories are real–they shock and horrify us and grab headlines across the world. “Does that happen in America? I thought you were supposed to be a civilized nation?” Again, an actual conversation I had overseas. But there is a lot more to this. How does this affect us physically, and how about our health?.
Dr. Gary Solomon, a retired psychology professor, joins us On The Commons. Dr. Solomon has studied the effects HOAs have on the homeowners subjected to them and wrote some incredible books and articles about the emotional and physical impact HOA abuses and horrors can have. To better understand what is happening to us, read HOA Syndromeand HOA Crisis. In the meantime, please tune in and listen to him.
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.
One of the most oft cited benefits of living in the US has always been the right to own property. Having a roof over one’s head and being able to provide a safe and happy home for one’s family has been referred to as the American Dream. Imagine, a house in the middle of a yard, surrounded by a lush green lawn, fruit trees, flowers and room to play with the kids, grandkids and pets. It doesn’t get much better than that!
So when and how did the dream go so very wrong? When did it become such a nightmare? When did the homeowner stop being the architect of his property, the pilot of her own destiny, the author of his or her story? And when did she or he become the hunted and the target in this insane war in the neighborhood? What is happening in our residential developments is sounding the death knell for what some believe to have been a greatest experiment in freedom.
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, an attorney in Texas, defends homeowners caught in the middle of the insanity that seems to have become very much part and parcel of “living the American Dream”. He knows and understands the legal structure of deed restricted developments but more importantly he also knows their limits. Join us as we discuss some of the torture tactics used to bully a homeowner and the far reaching consequences of the actions of these abuses. We also hear the incredible facts in one case that highlights what can happen when neighborhood thugs are given unfettered power to browbeat and bully a neighbor.