Trayvon and Zimmerman: Some Reporters “Get It”

Not many reporters understand how dangerous Homeowner Associations are. It took the death of Trayvon Martin, but Mary Shanklin of the Orlando Sentinel showed she “gets it.”

Her story of March 29, 2012 is about the Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida. That’s where Trayvon Martin died, allegedly at the hands of HOA crime-watch captain George Zimmerman.

Understand that this blogger has absolutely no opinion about who’s guilty or innocent in Trayvon’s death. But I do have some observations based on forty years of experience covering the courts.

Lawyers are schooling around this case like sharks on a whale carcass. Lawsuits are going to be filed by both Trayvon Martin’s family and by George Zimmerman. Whichever lawyer gets involved in the case will become a millionaire whether he wins or loses. And who are the ones who’ll have to come up with all those millions? The 200 townhome owners at The Retreat at Twin Lakes.

They all bought homes at The Retreat, thinking they were buying their way into a bit of financial safety. Many of them are elderly and they figured this Homeowner’s Association would protect their retirement savings forever. Well, welcome to the American System of Civil Justice.

Each and every one of these homeowners signed documents that essentially pooled all of their equity, all of their retirement savings into a common pot. They may even have bought insurance to indemnify their HOA against frivolous lawsuits. But all those insurance policies have limits, and this is one limit that’s going to be exceeded by millions of dollars.

It doesn’t matter who wins or loses the various lawsuits. The finances of these HOA members are going to be shredded. By joining an HOA, each of these homeowners created a “deep pocket,” and deep pockets are like rotting meat. They attract flies.

No homeowner can move out of this nightmare. These HOA members have handcuffed themselves together forever. It’ll take two or three years. But check back with me to see if my prediction comes true.

Ward Lucas
Author of
Neighbors At War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association

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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

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