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.
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.
Who is responsible for ensuring our safety on the local roads? Who plans how many stop signs are used on the roads and makes sure pedestrians are safe? Who decides the speed limits and fines and collects the fines when a driver exceeds the speed limit? What happens to that money? If you have never really thought about this and, like me, just presumed everything was being handled responsibly, I believe it is time to rethink that trusting attitude. Maybe it is time for some adult supervision, or we may face a tragic situation.
We recently had an unfortunate and tragic situation in my homeowners’ association, which could and should have been avoided. My neighborhood is divided by a four-lane road with half of the homes on one side and the other half on the other side. The high school that all the kids go to is on the other side of that road, as are all the amenities like the pools and tennis courts. Several years ago, that road was widened from two to four lanes. Someone from the county board of supervisors visited one of our homeowner meetings to inform us that because the situation was too dangerous for a crossing guard, they had to take the crossing guard away, and the kids will have to cross themselves! Every suggestion to ensure the safety of the children was met with an equally stupid reason why that wouldn’t work. They all had to do with their own similarly stupid rules. Thank God we were incident-free for many years, but our lucky streak didn’t last forever. Recently a resident in his 50s was hit while he was crossing in the crosswalk and killed. The driver, a woman in her 30’s, I believe, apparently was not speeding, texting, or driving drunk, but she nonetheless hit and killed the pedestrian, and that is something she will have to live with for the rest of her life.
Caroline Douglas joins us On The Commons to talk about this incident. As always, Caroline comes up with so many angles and possibilities that I hadn’t thought of or considered. I’m always grateful to her for being a willing guest and providing her knowledge and expertise to us all. Always a pleasure to have you on Caroline.
In a Kinder, gentler age neighbors knew and cared for each other. They formed what was known as a “community”. People could always count on their neighbors to lend a hand when needed.
And then along came homeowner associations and the focus shifted from being friends and neighbors to really strange and bizarre notions of protecting property values. Neighbors were taken out of neighborhoods leaving only the hoodlums roaming around looking for some reason to punish the “guy next door.” “Protecting property values” was the only justification they had. The hysteria about what would devalue property grew every year to the point that some legislators agreed to sponsor bills that would strip homeowners of the few property and personal rights they still had.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Frank Short. Frank, an attorney and staunch advocate for individual property rights tracks three of the worst of the terrible bills Virginia legislators agreed to carry for the special interests. The third bill, HB 791 (LeMunyon – Sickles) is currently being discussed in a specially appointed committee. The House appointees are the co-sponsors of the bill and one Del. who voted against it. The Senate appointees are equally lop sided with two pro and only Senator Chap Petersen who opposes the bill. Fairness doesn’t seem to be part of the equation. Let’s hope good prevails.
For the past several decades, states have required that housing consumers, buying into a mandatory membership housing association, be provided what is commonly called a “disclosure package.” Some states provide a list of what the package must contain. Much of the information is accurate but confusing and makes little sense. Even some attorneys have a hard time trying to decipher some sections. Realtors and some settlement attorneys shrug off any questions as “you agree to pay so much a month to get trash and snow removed,” where applicable. No bells go off. “HOAs protect property values” has become such a common notion that buyers do not dig any further and accept it on face value. Intuitively that statement makes no sense whatsoever but, absent proof to the contrary, people still believe it.
Leon Robertson joins us On the Commons this week. Professor Robertson, a retired Yale University professor, discovered HOAs like the rest of us, by buying into one and finding out that it was nothing like he expected. Being a professor and very thorough, he started researching HOAs, land records, tracked sales, and wrote a paper titled Correlation of Homeowner Associations and Inferior Property Value Appreciation. After he crunched the numbers and analyzed the research projects, the result was that far from increasing and enhancing property values, HOAs diminished property values. Perhaps, in fairness and honesty, housing consumers should be given a copy of Professor Robertson’s paper before signing on the dotted line.
Based on his experience, Professor Robertson wrote a book called The HOA Murders – A Novel of Suspense. I have it on my kindle and can’t wait to dive into it. Don’t miss the show with Professor Robertson,
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.
Storytelling has always been an important and effective way of getting a point across. HOAs are a very rich source for stories. How better to warn housing consumers of the abuses that could be lurking right around the corner from that perfect house that feels so very much like home if you can’t tell your story? But stories, for the sake of a story is not enough, it has to be believable and the story teller has to be credible and that entails a little work.
Ward Lucas joins us On The Commons. Ward, now retired, is an Emmy winning TV anchor, investigative reporter and story teller “par excellence”. He is also a published author. His first book, “Neighbors at War”, is, as you might guess, all about the abuses and sheer insanity that is so common in HOA controlled neighborhoods. He has just published his third book, “Sometimes ya Gotta Ride the Elephant” where he takes us through his journey as an investigative reporter and TV anchor and lets us into the secrets of how he managed to get the full story for his reports, without leaving any loose ends. It’s a fun read with several lessons for us budding story tellers. All three of his books are available on his website, Ward Lucas.com
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.