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”.
Covid has changed the way we live and the way we think. Mandatory membership homeowner associations are increasing, it seems that everyone lives in one, so We should attend the meetings to keep up with what the association is doing. Associations usually have regular meetings, but Zoom and similar programs have come to the rescue.
Frank Short joins us this week On The Commons for his St Patrick’s Day show. It was slim pickings in the Virginia Legislature this year but Senate Bill 696 sponsored by Senator Chap Peterson did give us one bill to talk about. One thing worth noting is that even the bills need tweaking. So tune in to this St Patrick’s day show.
It seems that every year legislators nationwide introduce new legislation regulating our lives, including new homeowner association laws, new condo laws, and all other related laws. I suppose it is no wonder we don’t know what the law is on any given day. Well, this year is no exception; Virginia has a whole set of new laws, introduced by several legislators and signed into law by the Governor. David Bulova sponsored HB1816 detailing how homeowner associations will conduct meetings during the Covid 19 pandemic. I am amazed that we need so much detail for something that seems so simple, but my feelings and thoughts aside, we have a new law regulating how to conduct association meetings are conducted,
Frank Short, an attorney and old friend of On The Commons, joins us and walks us through all the details and intricacies of conducting homeowner association meetings during the pandemic. You will want to tune in and hear this.
I have always felt the HOA and condo models were flawed. Not that I thought there is something sinister built into them. I don’t. I met with Byron Hanke at his home about a year before he died and know, without a doubt, that his intentions were good when he introduced his model for what we know as condo and homeowner associations. But not all good ideas and plans work out as imagined. What is often overlooked and ignored in the planning stages is the human factor. Sadly, we got a wake-up call recently when the Surfside tower collapsed in the middle of the night in Florida, killing many people. We still don’t have a final count. As I write this, the recovery efforts continue. We still don’t know what caused the collapse; there is much speculation but nothing conclusive yet. We need to know the exact cause if we hope to prevent a repeat of this horror. Grasping at straws will not help.
Julio Robaina joins us On The Commons. Julio was a much-loved, tireless legislator in Florida before he was timed out. He spent tireless hours holding open meetings across the state, meeting with homeowners and talking to hundreds of them. Julio heard the stories straight from the Homeowners about the problems, the abuses, and concerns. He brought their thoughts and ideas to the legislature, where he crafted bills based on what was needed. Julio took what the homeowners told him very seriously and listened to how they wanted to be protected. After all, he reasoned, who would know better? Not all his bills passed. His colleagues argued with him, are they second-guessing their votes now?
The question is, could the tragedy at Surfside been averted had some of his warnings been heeded? So what happens now? Julio, who I nicknamed “The Energizer Bunny” many years ago, is still working tirelessly to get legislation enacted to protect condo owners and homeowners. Julio and I worked late in the night to record this show for you. Please tune in and listen to it. Let’s make sure this never happens again, anywhere in the world.
We are still on our quest to learn what new bills they are proposing across the country. None of the ones we have come across really help homeowners. Fortunately, some homeowners read the bills closely and take the time to comment on them, and then they show up to testify either for or against them. So this week, we get to meet a new Warrior in the fight.
Nancy Kozanecki joins us On The Commons. I heard a lot about Nancy and finally got to meet her on this edition of On The Commons. Nancy is the new director for HOA Reform Coalition of Texas and has been working with Beanie Adolph for awhile. She joins us to talk about legislation proposed by CAI in Texas. When I asked her to join us and tell us about the bills in question, she said, “Oh, they are gone.” She and David Kahn did a great job in Austin. No bad bills left loitering the halls of The Texas State Capitol.
She was gracious enough to come on to discuss the bills. Some were quite funny – only something an industry member would come up with. However, we do need to know them so we can watch out for them next year but rest assured, while they may be history in Texas, they might pop up in your state. After all, they can’t let a bad bill go to waste, can they?
Tune in, meet Nancy, enjoy the show, and you heard her, she said she would be back so stay tuned.
Here we go again, around and around trying to craft the perfect piece of legislation they tell us will fix all the problems that are part and parcel of a dysfunctional housing concept. These carefully chosen words and sentences will be swapped about and moved around like so many jigsaw pieces, eventually changing the original intent of the proposed law. At some point, it becomes apparent that our magnificent creation is, well, to put it mildly, totally incomprehensible and in desperate need of some serious help. They refer to this as “housekeeping” legislation. And that is the topic of this week’s show.
Joining us On The Commons this week, we have none other than our old friend, Jan Bergemann. Jan is the founder and President of the Florida-based Cyber Citizens for Justice. Having spent years following all the proposed legislative changes, he has become quite the expert. This year’s bills include a lot of what Jan calls “Housekeeping” bills. Having spent years running every proposed new law through the legislative sausage-making machine, who would have thought the time would come to do some heavy-duty house cleaning and, with luck, include some clarity to the mess. Tune in to hear Jan explain the proposed clarifications and how they will hopefully reduce the abuse.
Do you wonder how legislators pass bills into law and what they think when they vote for some of these bills? Maybe we will get a peek into how all this nonsense comes up.
Deborah Goonan joins us On The Commons this week. Deborah is the owner and author of the Independent American Communities Blog. She covers everything to do with Condos, homeowner associations, and any other form of association-governed dwelling.
At this time of year, when homeowners try the get laws passed that would protect their rights and their property, they find themselves competing with the industry lobbyists who are pushing for laws that would strip the owners of even more rights and property. And with coronavirus running rampant, they have a perfect excuse to propose absurd legislation. Debbie is going to go through a list of bills under discussion by legislators across the country.
A word to the wise, your voting rights are at risk. The assertion is that YOU, the homeowners, have the right to change your governing documents, the changes are binding, and you voted for the changes. But what was the actual outcome of the election? What if everyone you talk to voted against the proposed changes, and they all passed with flying colors, and NO HOMEOWNER is allowed to see the ballots? What if the homeowners are stuck with all sorts of additional fees and amendments they never wanted, and legislators blame the pandemic for it. Tune in for an eye-opening discussion on how your rights are disappearing right under your nose while the ballots are a secret. That is democracy up close and personal!
It amazes me that when legislators pass laws that are harmful and damaging to their constituents, and when you ask them what they are thinking—they have absolutely no idea. They do not understand what the law means or does. Not surprisingly, some people benefit from making sure these harmful laws are on the books. I don’t suppose you’d be shocked if we discovered that CAI is the mastermind behind this law. Nor would you be surprised that California homeowners once had a right to ensure that a homeowner election is accurate and ensure the process is ethical. Would you be shocked to learn that California homeowners once had a right to ensure there was no monkeying around with the votes?
But in California, homeowners are no longer allowed to watch the vote count. The people who benefit are the only ones allowed to count the ballots, make sure everything is on the up-and-up and announce the results. The allegedly unethical treasurer wins in a landslide. A special assessment is unanimously approved. An unpopular amendment to the Declaration flies through, and the homeowners are not allowed to check the votes. You understand how this works. Fortunately for Californians, the Center for California Homeowner Association Law is watching and reacting.
Marjorie Murray joins us On the Commons and explains what happens. While this show is of particular interest to California homeowners, it is equally important for all residential association owners because the same industry members will take the same laws and get them passed in every state in the country. And if you have the intestinal fortitude to explain to your legislators what they are doing, maybe we’ll get some of them to think before they vote. Good luck, but do try. Marjory Murray can be reached by email at email@example.com.
What is in it for me? That is a question we often hear and in the case of mandatory membership HOAs, the answer depends on who is asking the question. In the case of local municipalities, the answer is “free tax dollars” by shunting their responsibilities onto the private sector they don’t have to maintain the infrastructure. For developers, they won’t have to satisfy local municipal building codes since municipalities will not be assuming maintenance of the infrastructure so can cut corners. For the homeowners? Absolutely Nothing! Nothing at all. However, the ever-helpful attorneys, for a fee, of course, make sure that the board members and the managers and committee members and whoever else has a position of power has plenty of enabling legislation to back them up and allow them to do pretty much as they please. And then the homeowners try to wrestle back some of the rights they once had and so the annual shuffle continues. This year is no exception.
Jan Bergemann, founder and president of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice joins us On The Commons to discuss this year’s legislative agenda he is working on for Florida. It is always worth listening to what different states have done or are doing as the issues, problems and new bills magically seem to get duplicated around the country. (I wonder how that happens??) In a way this is the closest thing we have to a national homeowners’ organization. There have been some worthwhile ideas that have come out of Florida in the past and we look forward to following their lead in the future.
“I bet you have never heard this one, Shu. Let me tell you what my HOA is doing to me. ”
Welcome to housing American style because as shocked as they are when they reach out to me, their story is not as uncommon as they think.
Even though I thought I had heard it all, a few years ago one listener from Florida managed to educate me on just how bad things really are. She was a single mother of an infant who was being forced out of the condo she owned. Yes she would get paid less than market value for it and what she would get was nowhere near enough to help her find another home. In essence, she and her baby were on their way to being homeless. She introduced me to the practice of condo terminations and bulk buyers to explain how this was being done.
John Cowherd joins me On The Commons . John, a frequent guest On The Commons, is an attorney in Northern Virginia who represents the homeowners in litigation and disputes against their residential and commercial associations. He also maintains a blog called Words of Conveyance I am always grateful to John for keeping me in the loop of what is going on in the courts as well as the legislature in Virginia and for coming on to inform our listeners about it all. We talk to John about HB 1548, a Virginia bill introduced and sponsored by Delegate Marcus R. Simon. This bill appears to be flying through all the committees and chambers in Richmond, on its way to becoming law much too quickly. What this law would do is strip the owners of rights and protections they have as condo owners making it so much easier for developers and investors to profit financially, leaving them much poorer than they were before getting involved in a condo. So much for protecting property values. As my mother always said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”