It’s time to reflect back on the almost 22 years of On The Commons. It is Thanksgiving night, the festivities are over with, the kitchen is clean and all is quiet, a perfect time to let my mind wander back to the over 900 shows we have done. Yes, I say WE, because I didn’t do them on my own- I am so thankful and grateful for the over 900 guests who have joined me, told their stories, explained the laws, talked about the legislation they were proposing, the books they had written, the projects they were working on and the many other issues affecting the place we call home. Some of their stories have made us extremely angry, others have left us wondering if we heard correctly, some have made us cry and others made us laugh, we have cheered and rejoiced when the homeowner won and we always wished them our very best. But this show will leave you with so much hope. You will be energized, excited and anxious to get started. I know that’s how I felt.
Martha Boneta joins us On The Commons. Martha owns a small family farm in Northern Virginia. It has always been her dream to grow food and feed others. But when she finally got her farm, her dream came with some really nasty surprises. Not one to roll over and let the bad guys get the best of her, Martha stood her ground and fought back to protect her farm and her rights. Now she is working on setting up a national grassroots network and invites everyone to join the fight for freedom. And at the heart of freedom is property rights. How can freedom exist without the right to own property, whether it is a farm, a mansion or a small condo? As Martha said, “Now, more than ever, across our nation we need to rise up and answer the call to defend the American Dream.” You will be excited at her ideas and will agree with much of what she has to say. You can reach her via her website or by phone, 571-839-1143. Stay tuned for the official launch of this grassroots movement, scheduled for sometime in January. And when it launches, Martha will be back with details – she promised.
And this Thanksgiving I am thankful for all of you, all the people who will fight back for justice and freedom and I am really proud to call Martha a friend. Now you have to tune in, don’t you?
Rumor has it that people who buy property in a homeowners association know exactly what they are getting. We are told by the industry that we all agreed to it. That sounds good. So why are there so many problems and so many lawsuits if we are all on the same page? Could the problem be that we don’t all speak the same language? Or is that too simple an explanation?
Bill Davis. a Texas attorney has made representing homeowners in HOAs a focus of his legal practice. That is very fortunate for all of us because he is always willing to educate us and explain some of the twists and turns we encounter in every day life. Bill joins us On The Commons. He helps us to untangle the wording in a California case where a homeowner bought a condominium with a right to rent out her unit. Pretty simple and straight forward. Well, maybe not, she ended up with words like restrictions and prohibitions to contend with. So, what did she agree to? And who decided to muddle things up by using all these words to change the meaning of the rights she bought and OWNS. Tune in and see if you are clear on the rights you own.
Words have meanings and the word community generally imparts a sense of belonging. People in a community tend to have something in common. They come from similar backgrounds, are generally in the same socioeconomic group, perhaps share “hobbies and interests.” They have something that binds them together. In the good old days, before “communities” were designed and force-fed on Americans, the sense of community evolved naturally. Neighbors were friends who helped and looked out for each other. They took in a child who might have inadvertently been locked out, picked up packages for neighbors or retrieved a trash can that was blown down the street by the wind. In this brave new world of controlled living, the sense of community is no longer communal but rather a gathering of people who delight is spying on their neighbors. Now a child who is locked out might get rescued by the police, mail is left out and the association is called to report a stray trash can.
Ileana Johnson joins us On The Commons. Ileana is an American by choice and a Romanian by birth. She is a freelance journalist, an author, a speaker and a radio commentator. She also maintains a blog Ileana and her husband currently live in a Homeowner Association in Virginia where inspections are conducted regularly to ensure that no blade of grass exceeds the allowable length and that all things visible on the property conform to some rather vague standard. Creativity and individuality are highly frowned upon. Ileana tells us about life in her 300 square foot apartment in Communist Romania and draws some parallels between Communist Romania and HOAs, American Style. Sometimes it is hard to find much difference.
I seem to zip through life at breakneck speeds, taking most things for granted and never really thinking about the reason we do things any particular way. Oh, once in a while I ask myself, “What were they ever thinking?” when I run into something a little strange. However, when things are working well the farthest thought is to wonder why it works. It is so much easier to start looking at things that don’t make sense and figure out how to improve it.
And for a show whose sole focus is property rights, that was a little short sighted. How can we protect ownership and rights without knowing how to properly define the property in question? That is one those things most of us have always taken for granted.
Kenneth Ditkowsky joins us On The Commons. Ken is an attorney in Chicago who, when he was fresh out of law school, full of self confidence and a can-do attitude found himself on the ground floor of redefining property boundaries and ultimately changing skylines in cities across the country. Maybe even the world? We’ll talk to Ken about the Prudential Building, the first high rise in Chicago and the hundreds of pages of legal speak explaining the ownership structure. Ken and his partner accepted the challenge and simplified it, reducing the document down to a more manageable size. n the process they paved the way for high-rise residential buildings to be built and ultimately changing the face of the Chicago. We’ll talk about all the things most of us take for granted and never give a second thought to. We’ll learn about different ways to determine the legal boundaries of a piece of property and find out what happens when mother nature decides to ” shift” the things we take for granted. I was spellbound as I listened to Ken. Tune in for a fascinating show.
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.
Anyone who has ever spent any time studying the condition of housing, American style, has to wonder how We the People, took a fairly simple and straightforward concept of homeownership and turned it into such a disaster. Oh, we have been fed a lot of platitudes, lied to and with smoke and mirrors watched as individual private rights were turned into duties and obligations, making the owner a serf. No matter how one looks at it, the condition of homeownership in the US today is plain wrong. I will be offered explanations such as, “You agreed”, HOAs protect property values”, “It is the way of the future” “Get used to it, it isn’t going away.” It is all nonsense. Not everyone is going to just roll over and accept the status quo. Remember, heroes are not made of doormats.
Jan Bergemann joins us On The Commons. Jan is the founder and president of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice a grass roots organization protecting the rights of individual property owners A hard working and very active advocate in all the areas affecting Floridians, Jan has studied the stories, the laws, the cases and the trends for a number of years, and he has some rather unique insights into what is happening. While his observations are mostly focused on his state, the issues are definitely more national in scope. We talk to Jan about the confusion of what an HOA really is. Proponents and attorneys will tell us it is a “contract” and that we “agreed” to the provisions of the Declaration. While we can argue that ” we agreed” till the cows come home, the fact is HOAs are contractual in nature. It should, therefore, be relatively simple to understand, shouldn’t it? Why isn’t it? And just what are HOAs, really? Tune in, we’ll tell you – well, we’ll tell you what they are not. So, what are they?
I have never bought into the notion that Home Owner Associations are a necessity for any dwelling especially if it is free standing. And I am not sure you can convince me that there is any value added even in a high rise situation. Oh, I can hear the gasps out there! Take a deep breath! There certainly is no reason at all in a development where all the lots are measured in acres instead of inches, as they seem to be these days. All right, I exaggerate, maybe not inches but certainly feet. Probably the worst aspect of the current residential association model is the governance. It creates two classes of “neighbors” where some neighbors have authority over others. This in turn ensures that there will always be some form of conflict that provides lots of opportunities to enrich the legal profession.
Michael Pugh joins us On The Commons. Many years ago, Mike and his wife bought a large house on almost 6 acres of land in Virginia. And yes, there is a mandatory membership HOA. I suspect that is due to municipal mandates because there really is no rhyme or reason for imposing yet another layer of government on the residents. In fact there is every reason in the world not to have one. On the back 2 acres of the Pugh property that butts on to Tranquility Road, the developer put in a meadow. A little bit of nature before man interfered with it. For the last 27 years those 2 acres have been maintained as a meadow where the wildflowers grow and provide a refuge for the animals and insects and where the monarch butterflies are protected. It is indeed a tranquil haven, and had been until the HOA reared its ugly head and demanded that the meadow, that is only visible from the Pugh’s property, be mowed down. This battle, sadly, is headed to court. The Pughs are determined to protect their property rights, their meadow and the beautiful monarch butterflies that return to their meadow every year. And in case you are wondering, no, there is nothing in the governing documents prohibiting the meadow. It has always been there. And with a little luck and some common sense, it always will be.
The local paper did a story on the Pughs and their meadow called Meadow Must Go Says HOA. Doesn’t that say it all? There is also a video of the meadow in all its glory that you will want to watch.
Homeownership is not a new idea, it has been around a long time. For ages people have saved their money/got a mortgage bought a house and lived happily ever after. When did this sensible concept get replaced and why did we have to make such a complicated mess out of an otherwise simple and easy to understand part of life? Who benefits? Certainly not the housing consumers. And what exactly are we paying for when we fall in love with that perfect house and put our lifesavings on the table to buy the house? How much is that dream home REALLY costing us? Are we given a full break down of the costs, now and in the future? If not, should we be told before we turn our pockets inside out to get the keys to the house?
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, a Texas attorney and one of only a handful of attorneys nationwide, who represents homeowners and consumers at odds with their HOAs. A frequent guest, Bill has an uncanny ability to get to the bottom of the problem and shed a slightly different light on issues that most of us have never thought about. We talk to Bill about how our understanding of property values, that carrot that is dangled in front of every homeowner to get them to give up rights, has changed the way we see property, property rights and property values. Concepts once easily understood but now ” subject to interpretation”. We also talk about true costs of buying a home and identify some of the hidden costs and how they affect our ongoing financial outlay. We have a lot of questions, a few answers and a piece of advice: “take off those rose colored glasses and get to the bottom of this housing mess”.
Dangling a carrot in front of homeowners to force them to give up their rights.
Individual freedom, along with personal and private property rights have been eroding gradually over the last few decades. This is especially true for homeowners in mandatory membership residential associations. What is particularly galling about all this is that homeowners are told they knowingly and willingly gave up these rights – they ” agreed” and some go so far as to add “so stop your wining!” This is a total misrepresentation of the facts. No sane person in the world would agree to subject themselves to double taxation and the unfettered abuses of an industry gone wild. The harm that can be done to families, the health and welfare of the citizens and especially the children living in HOAs can easily be demonstrated by this story.
Bobbie Goolsby joins us On The Commons. Bobbie, a loving grandmother bought her granddaughter, Emma, now 6 years old, a pink playhouse. This playhouse is Emma’s safe space, it is her world. It is where she goes to feel safe, to get her therapy, to relax, to unwind and to mend and try to get better. It is what every home should be. This is something Emma understands. It is a concept that the neighborhood HOA does not appear to understand. Calling it a “metal shed” they demand it be removed immediately or face a court battle. This, despite the fact that the homeowners were assured, BEFORE buying their home, that the playhouse would not be a problem.
In a candid and heartfelt interview Bobbie tells us about Emma and how they almost lost her. What she means to the family and the joy this precious, friendly and outgoing child brings them.
We’ve all heard how an alleged debt of a mere handful of dollars can balloon into a king’s ransom at the hands of an HOA and their attorneys. And no, I am not talking about investments for the homeowners. And certainly not about the empty (read bogus) promises of protected and enhanced property values. Sometimes these debts are due to a legitimate assessment that was missed for some reason. And all too often the “debt” is due to a fine imposed by the association for violating a recorded covenant, a silly rule that was conjured up on the spur of the moment or, increasingly, because the transgression in question violated someones esthetic sensibilities. In other words there is no rhyme or reason for the ensuing war among the neighbors. Notwithstanding all the accompanying sanctimony that attempts to validate these outrageous fees, penalties, charges and surcharges, they are solely for the benefit of the industry that feeds at the trough of the owners. For years the homeowners’ pleas for statutory relief and protection from these abuses have fallen on deaf ears. State legislators have failed to enact legislation to end these practices.
David Kahne joins us On the Commons. David is an attorney in Houston, Texas. His practice includes representing homeowners who find themselves on the receiving end of the malice that is increasingly common in residential associations. In addition to working with individual homeowners, David is an advocate for the rights of property owners. He has worked with legislators and advocacy groups in Texas and around the country. He testifies at the Texas State legislature for increased protections for the owners. We talk to David about this year’s legislative activities and the need for the proposed legislation. We also talk about a swimming pool case in Spring, Texas. A young couple put in a pool in their backyard and to protect their toddlers and the neighborhood children, they erected a fence around the pool. And the objection was? Well, tune in, David will explain it.