All posts by terrybar

Caroline Douglas

You follow a case as it winds its way through the court system.  It seems so simple, so cut and dried that you wonder why so much time, money and hostility is invested in such a petty argument.  Why should it cost hundreds of thousands of hard earned dollars to figure out whether a homeowner in an association can have white roses instead of red ones?  Or whether or not a condo owner is allowed to have a small American flag on his or her front porch or if a family can have a swing set in the backyard for their children?  Why should these even be an issue?  And why would anyone in their right mind care?  And finally, after months of discovery, nasty letters, fines, bullying, isolation and abusive language, dividing up the neighborhood, name calling and other nastiness, the opinion from the judges is handed down deciding the case once and for all.  This is it, this is the end of this road. The wise men and women of the legal system have spoken and you are left with your mouth hanging open, wondering what on earth just happened.  

Caroline Douglas joins us On The Commons.  Caroline has a law degree although she is no longer a practicing attorney.  She has seen the dark side of the legal profession and decided to blow the whistle on what happens “behind the scenes”.  In an 800 page book called “The Dark Side: a law treatise on judging – with memoir”she explains it all and gives us clues to look for so we are not caught off guard.  In a fascinating interview she walks us through what goes on behind the scenes and how and why some of these off the wall decisions are reached.  Caroline has witnessed these irregularities both as a practicing attorney and a litigant caught in this legal “chamber of horrors”. You can reach Caroline at carolinegdouglas@gmail.com but you won’t want to miss this interview. 

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Tom DeWeese

It is said that “a chain is as strong as its weakest link”.  We all know what a chain looks like, therefore it is easy to visualize and understand.  Replace the chain with something that is abstract, like a right or ownership, you know what they are and can describe what they mean but you can’t visualize them.  Then apply the concept of a weak link and imagine how it would erode the rights you have.  Except now the link isn’t a single item but rather a whole host of things merrily chipping away at your rights and property.  

Tom Deweese joins us On The Commons.  Tom is the founder and president of the Virginia based American Policy Center, a speaker, a passionate advocate for property rights and an author.  Tom has written several books, his newest book, Sustainable: The War on Free Enterprise, Private Property and Individuals.  In a clear and easy to understand way, he explains how, we have lost rights and freedoms over the years. In order to put things in context I ask Tom why property rights matter   If you thought it is so you can paint your from door any color you choose, that’s the least of it.  Click on the link for a free, downloadable pamphlet, tune in to the show and hear Tom discuss some the issues, read the book and decide to do your bit to salvage what is left of your and your children’s rights. 

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Lincoln Cummings

Lincoln Cummings
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.  
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Barry Silver

The dictionary has many definitions for the word “home” but to me home is that safe place we all go to recharge our batteries, be with those we love or enjoy the solitude those 4 walls provide.  It is a place that is uniquely our own.  Houses, apartments, hotel rooms and units can all look alike, but much like fingerprints and snowflakes no two homes are ever exactly alike.  In a world that seems to fear individuality and promotes uniformity, a home has even more importance than ever.
In our brave new world of cookie cutter dwelling units, crammed into modern day  kommunities ,  more often than not the heart and soul of what we once called a community is gone.  In addition to all looking alike and living alike we now also are expected to be alike.  
 
Joining us On The Commons this week is Barry Silver.  Barry, an attorney who practices in Florida, has spent his career fighting for the rights of individuals, including homeowners in HOAs. Currently Barry is working with several homeowners in a particular association where the owners are being evicted from their own homes.  These owners are paid up, they do not owe any money so it is not a case of “mooching off their neighbors” as proponents of this dysfunctional housing scheme would use as an acceptable reason for this barbaric behavior.  They are, however, elderly so they are vulnerable. Their alleged “crimes”, and the reason they are being evicted are petty, absurd and ridiculous.  We’ll talk to Barry about these homeowners, what they are being targeted for and where they are now. 

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Nancy Kozanecki

We would do well to keep KISS in mind when it comes to our homes “Keep it Simple, Stupid.” But we can’t seem to do that, and the problems keep mounting. So when a plumber, an electrician, or a roofer can’t help, who do you call? So many Texans contact our guest, who deals with much messier and more complicated problems than plumbers or roofers. 

Nancy Kozanecki joins us On The Commons.  Nancy took over from Beanie Adolph as the director of the Texas Reform Coalition. By the sounds of things, she is very busy. I enjoyed talking to her and learning from her, and my guess is that you will too. So mark your calendars and be sure to tune in.

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Tyler Berding

Regular listeners to the show know that I have never bought into the notion that HOAs protect and even enhance property values.  When you look at all the moving parts in a house controlled by a homeowners association, in no way can I see how that could be the truth.  Professor Robertson, who was on the last show, did the research and found that HOAs not only do not protect and enhance values as claimed, but actually diminish the values.  Now that made a lot more sense to me.  But then I got an email from my friend Tyler Berding, an attorney in California, wanting clarification on what properties Professor Roberts based his study on. We are guessing they are single family homes, comparing similar sized homes with roughly the same square feet and amenities (number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and other amenities, construction and location, one in an HOA and the other Free as a bird and not in an HOA.  But then Tyler reminded me of one of the big pitfalls in this entire HOA discussion and that is language.  We don’t use terms that are common to everyone.  Some people and places refer to them as common interest developments, others call them property owners associations, and yet others refer to them as condominiums, cooperatives, attached and detached housing and the list goes on and on.  I am beginning to think we have a modern Tower of Babel.  

Tyler Berding joins us On The Commons Tyler is a founding partner in the California based law firm of Berding and Weil.  Tyler and his fellow attorneys specialize in Common Interest development  law.  We talk about language and the differences in the different forms and styles of these dwelling units and then dive into construction.  Like I said, there are so many moving parts to a house in a homeowner association.  We don’t often dig in deep enough when discussing the issues in HOA/common interest developments/ condominiums, etc, etc. I still can’t see how a house in an HOA can possibly protect and enhance the value, regardless of what you call it. in fact given all the parts it makes more sense that HOAs strip the owner of so much more.  But regardless, I always enjoy talking to Tyler and learn so much from him.  Tune in, I hope you enjoy the show as much as I did.

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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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Sam Pilli

That there are problems in HOAs is a given, ask anyone, even some of the most ardent of HOA proponents will agree, there really and truly are problems. OK, so what next? Maybe starting at the begging. What if you were to ask 100 people what the problems are, experience has shown that you will get 200 very different answers. The reason is that everyone sees it from their personal perspective and their personal problem. This is an incredibly complex problem with so many moving parts to it that ” fixing” it has to start with a list of exactly what needs to be fixed, and that in and of itself will be a long list. But you have to start somewhere and the best starting point is discussing the issues openly, freely, honestly and fearlessly. Without that you’ll never get out of the starting gate.

Samuel Pilli joins us On The Commons. Sam and his colleagues have developed a Google AP called Zonzon which allows homeowners in HOAs, condos, coops and other closed groups to communicate freely with each other. Sam believes this is the answer to all that ails HOAs. We will talk about his secure communication idea, discuss some of the other mitigating factors involved and find out how Zonzon might play a role in evening out the playing field.

Note the AP Zonzon is only available for Google phones (sorry iPhone users).

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Jonathan Friedrich

Jonathan Friedrich

First you scare them, then you promise to protect them and then you own them.  Once that is accomplished, perpetrating the biggest consumer scam is a piece of cake.  Buying a few state legislators’ assistance, creating a very lucrative stream of “free” income for the municipalities, paving the way for developers to increase their profit margins exponentially seals the deal.  And that is how simple it has been to force housing consumers into HOAs where they can be robbed of their homes, their wealth and health and their peace of mind.  The lies that have been repeated over the decades to scare prospective homeowners appear to have become universally accepted truths.  After all, if you keep hearing the same thing over and over again, if must be true, right?  However, the one thing that is true is that non HOA controlled housing is almost nonexistent in most of the country.  So being told that the house you are buying is in a mandatory membership homeowner association is no surprise. 

Jonathan Friedrich joins us On The Commons.  When he retired, Jonathan left New York in search of lower property taxes and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada where he bought a house that needed a lot of work.  He rolled up his sleeves and got to work.  When he bought the house he was given an HOA disclosure package which contained a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions commonly known as CC&Rs.  Jonathan’s concern was getting away from crippling property taxes and not so much HOAs.  His focus was fixing the house he had just bought and making it habitable. He also became involved in his new community.  And that’s when the imperfections of his association and association living in general started rising to the top. He dealt with all the usual insanity that seems to go along with HOAs which not so surprisingly led to the court house.  After 5 long years in court, Jonathan won his case.  But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details and to truly appreciate the win one has to hear the details of his story, in his own words.  The twists, the turns, the lies, the misrepresentations made along the way should alert consumers of what to look for and where to look when buying a house.  There may be more to come as Jonathan is not finished cleaning up the mess. Stay tuned.    

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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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