For those of you who have asked about the On The Commons St Patrick’s day show, you will be happy to know we are back. I have wanted to do this show for a long time so I am particularly excited to bring it to you.
Frank Short is my guest so I know you will love it.. The reason I want to do this show is that we have heard from so many of you who have had unbelievable problems with your HOAs. I have spent hours listening to the abuses that people have suffered and just how it has affected them. Elderly people living on their own afraid of answering the phone or the door in case it was the HOA calling.
Some people are even afraid of checking the. Mail in case there was yet another nasty gram from the HOA. People shouldn’t have to live like this but HOAs have become too powerful and the governments that keep empowering them will not take steps to protect the homeowners.
About 30 years ago, when Frank and I first met we intended to have fun and not allow ourselves to be intimidated, scared, or abused. We said from day one that we were going to have FUN and we did. In this show we tell you what we did, how we reacted, and what we did.
We had fun then and we were still laughing as we sat here working on the show and remembering the stories we tell you. I must admit this would probably not work as well if you tried to do this alone so we suggest you find a partner. It helps if you both have the same sense of humor, plan on having fun, and don’t let yourselves be intimidated. We had fun but we also wanted all our neighbors to have fun and enjoy themselves. It gave us a big kick to watch our neighbors giggle when they read some of the things we tell you about. Good luck and please let us know what you do.
I have some heartbreaking stories about homeowners hounded and abused by the thugs in their HOAs. Don’t let that happen to you or your friends and neighbors. Have FUN! And share your stories with us please. Let us put a stop to all the abuse and take control of our neighborhoods. By the way, we have more stories so stay tuned. I’d love your feedback.
As I write this Louis Armstrong’s, “What a Wonderful World” is playing in the background. I listen to the words and in my mind’s eye I see the green trees, the red roses and imagine them blooming for me and you. I see the colors of the rainbow and the friends shaking hands, saying I love you and watching babies grow, oh, “what a wonderful world”. Then I have to wonder, why we can’t keep it that way? Why do we allow a few bad apples to ruin an otherwise wonderful world? Is there anything we can do to prevent that? But what can one person do?
Martha Boneta joins us On The Commons. Martha’s dream of becoming a farmer was realized when she and her family became the proud owners of Liberty Farm in her native Virginia. However, it wasn’t long before her dream was threatened by the overreaches of the environmental commission and her time was devoted to fending off their abuses, dictates and demands. Not one to roll over, Martha fought back – and she won. Along the way she got two bills named after her, she is also the subject of a documentary film, “Farming in Fear”, she has received numerous awards and has been named Most Amazing Woman by Country Woman’s Magazine. We talk to Martha about fighting back and learn what we, as individuals and as a group of homeowner advocates and activists, can do to fight back, protect our rights and our homes. With all the tools available to us we don’t have to roll over, we can fight back and then look at the skies of blue and the clouds of white and think to ourselves, “what a wonderful world”.
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.
If people knew what they were getting into, would they still buy in an HOA? I was convinced that they wouldn’t, but I was wrong. Thirty years ago when I first became aware of HOAs and started to understand what we were dealing with, HOA mandates were already in place in Fairfax County and probably across the country as well. However, there were still pockets of older neighborhoods so some choices still existed. Now, even most of those older neighborhoods have been razed to the ground only to be replaced by some new faddish fantasy that will no doubt sound positively utopian but in practice be unworkable.
Shelly Marshall and Michael Marshall, PhD join me On The Commons. Shelly is an HOA Warrior. She is a prolific writer of self help books including a book on HOAs, what to look for and how to understand what you are getting into. Dr. Marshall, Shelly’s brother, is a Psychology Professor and practitioner. This dynamic duo have combined forces to answer the question; “Why can’t people hear us?”. Shelly warned Mike about the risks involved in buying a condo and told him to keep looking but that didn’t stop him. For awhile everything went well until one day when his utopian dream came crashing down. So why didn’t he listen? Why don’t people learn from other people’s stories? Mike and Shelly, along with Deborah Goonan, are working on a case study, doing some research with the intent of publishing a paper answering this question. In an easy to understand and simple way, Mike explains the psychology behind human nature. He and Shelly fill in with facts, stories and typical situations that take place every single day. This is a very exciting piece of research and a fascinating interview. For all those people who believe that “HOAs are here to stay,” are you listening?
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.
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.
Is it all about power or is money really at the root of all evil? Or is it a combination of both? I am of course taking about this notion of a fourth layer of government or, as they are more commonly referred to, mandatory membership homeowner associations. Whatever the reason for their proliferation, consumer choice is not one of them and consumer acceptance is a myth. Municipal mandates ensure a steady stream of tax free dollars flowing into the public coffers while power hungry board members are always on hand to enforce alleged rules and regulations. Let’s not forget the special interests behind the scenes orchestrating everything. For them it is definitely power, money and greed. So what is a homeowner to do once the honeymoon with their new house is over? They usually hit the internet and start searching for a friendly voice out there and the they do, they are like to find my guest.
Ward Lucas joins us On The Commons. Ward is an award winning TV anchor from Denver, Colorado who has the wonderful ability to see the humor in so many things including his own battles with his HOA. Now retired as an anchor, the heart of a journalist still beats hard in him. He first wrote a book called “Neighbors at War; The creepy case against your homeowners association. That was followed by a blog by the same name where he talks about some of the daily disasters in associations to grab the headlines. His second book is more of a personal story that allows the reader to glimpse the family life that has to be the reason for his wonderful sense of humor. Even the title is fun, “Get this Mother Published. The wacky world of a recovering army brat family”. And for all his fans, stay tuned because book 3 is in the works. We’ll talk about the books, his web site, some of the stories from his Neighbors at War book but mostly about what is happening in HOA land across the country. Tune in as we wander around the whacky world of controlled living, American Style.
Increasingly in America homeowners are treated like incompetent idiots who are incapable of managing their own lives and their homes. Members of the HOA industry have gone as far as to equate the owners as “children who do not know what is good for them”. Naturally they are more than happy to make all our important decisions for us- and leave us with the bill! To add insult to injury, the false advertising and misinformation that, under most other circumstances, would be punishable by law, is swept under the rug and ignored. Unit owners in homeowner and condo associations are often ridiculed, harassed and penalized for demanding transparency or even questioning the actions of the association. Their duty is to not ask why but to pay up and shut up.
Well, times they are a changing. Slowly but surely more and more talented people have had enough and are starting to move mountains, one stone at a time!
John Sellers joins us On The Commons this week. John has worked in the banking industry for years and knows just where to look for any irregularities. So when things just didn’t smell quite right, he put his talents to work and started digging. What he discovered is quite incredible. Not only are the people who are supposed to be protecting your rights turning a blind eye to all the shenanigans going on behind closed doors, but they are also using YOUR tax dollars to cover up some missing funds in HOA banks. John continued digging and was told to “get a hobby”. Fortunately for us, he took that advice to heart, expanded his search criteria and started a blog called ArizonaHOA where he intends to not only share information but to also gather information from other homeowners. He estimates there have been 3,000 court cases involving HOAs in Arizona. Chances are those did not happen because associations were doing such a wonderful job, as proponents of HOAs would have you believe. Tune in, it is an eye opening interview.
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.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Caveat Emptor, buyer beware, was once the watch word for housing consumers. In other words, do your homework and understand what you are doing because if you buy it you “own it”, all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly. Notwithstanding all the laws, allegedly protecting real estate buyers, “caveat emptor” is probably more applicable now than ever before. Real estate deals are no longer simply between the buyer and the seller, today there are many other interests involved in every transaction. The ever present HOA always rears its ugly head and inserts itself in the middle of the sales contract.
Jonathan Friedrich joins us On The Commons. Jonathan’s story should remind us to do our homework so that we know what we are buying. It should also warn us not rely on what we are told. Because Jonathan relied on the information provided by title company, it cost him thousands of dollars for HOA assessments he did not owe because, surprise, his house was NOT part of the HOA. Nice surprise but it cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars extricating himself from the HOA he never belonged to. He recently won a major legal battle and is rightly very proud of himself. But that is not the end of the story, he is now going to try to recoup some of the money he has spent to get this far. What he will never regain is the years of “fighting”to protect what is rightfully his. Tune in and listen to Jonathan’s story, in his own words. F ind out how he discovered the clue that led him on this journey.