Holy Smoke! Where’s The Fire?

In my forty years doing investigative reporting for all three major networks, I don’t think I remember even hearing of a Homeowners Association problem more than once a decade. All of a sudden that’s just about all anyone’s talking about.

There are newly proposed bills in Colorado, Texas, Nevada, Florida, North Carolina, California and a half dozen other states I can’t immediately bring to mind. Most of these proposed laws are aimed at curbing the rampant abuse by Homeowners Associations against individual homeowners.

Did you get that? HOA boards abusing homeowners? Individual citizens who theoretically should have certain God-given rights under the Declaration of Independence and the entirety of the U.S. Constitution?

At what point in our history did we lose those rights? Why are we having to go state-by-state, facing down a self-admitted 44 billion dollar HOA management industry in an effort to claw back what was already ours? And how did this 44 billion dollar HOA management industry arise? Why didn’t we see it coming?

Oh there were a few folks hoisting the storm warning flags, Evan McKenzie, George Staropoli, Jan Bergemann, Johnnie and Beanie Adolph and a few others who were just as important. But where the hell were we, just lollygagging in the surf as the hurricanes approached?

I have to admit I was dumber than dirt just a few short years ago. But suddenly I’m finding myself blown away by this evil wind we call supervised living. It was supposed to be so Utopian, so good for our souls to be living in complete peace and harmony with our neighbors, as we occasionally bowed, and scraped and paid homage to the few people who volunteered their time to become leaders of our oh-so-nicely laid out communities.

All of a sudden we saw the nastygrams jammed in our doorways, “Your grass is too long, your dog is too big, you have one too many friends parking his car on the street.” And we suddenly started getting fines if a dog (presumed to be mine) was photographed squatting in the Open Space, or an unsupervised child was playing on the front lawn. The fines led to debt collectors and excessive attorney’s fees and sometimes even the confiscation of a home before the ink had even dried on the original mortgage.

What in Sam Hill happened? Harkening back to another Samuel whose wit and wisdom was far greater than mine, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe when the Legislature’s in session.” (Sam Clemens)

Instead of all these individual state efforts, how about a single U.S. Supreme Court decision that rules that private non-profit corporations cannot dominate over private homes, or dictate personal behavior?

Our home is our castle. Isn’t it?


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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.

1 thought on “Holy Smoke! Where’s The Fire?

  1. Nila

    Truthfully, Ward I don’t think we are even seeing the “tip of the iceberg” on the number of HOA nightmares that exist. I’ve heard many stories that have not been in the media. I’ve found it is very difficult to get television stations and newspapers to give the homeowners a voice. It seems to be too much of a “hot potato” for anybody in the media to touch. In the past five years I can recall seeing three stories on my local news.

    From my own experience when homeowners speak up they are verbally attacked by their neighbors who strongly support the board even though they are completely ignorant to the facts. The property manager confronts homeowners with threats from his attorney. And the board spends the dues to mail out letters stating those not in support of the board are to be ignored. If that doesn’t work they send minions door-to-door to tell lies about those who speak out against the HOA’s lack of accountability, record keeping, spending habits, and if the opponents are running for the board they scare homeowners into not voting for them. The very people that should be on the board are kept from serving so the “Nazi” style of “leadership” can keep control.

    After nearly six years of exposing the truth in my HOA, there are finally some people coming forward and saying…”You know what, you were/are right.” Too late now, the community is over one million dollars in debt, we have over 20% rentals, unknown number of foreclosures, half a dozen lawsuits pending, and what I call a “snake oil salesman” for a property manager that is paid over $400,000.00 per year for his worthless employees! I should add he’s a member of the C.A.I. according to his website.

    This is just one example of an HOA nightmare that hasn’t been fully-exposed in the media…yet.

    I firmly believe until the masses of HOA members start contacting their legislators with letters and visits, this HOA nightmare will continue in America.

    I’m glad to hear there are bills pending in various states but there should be action towards federal legislation before sunrise in the morning!

    Personally, I have never known of anything as abusive and destructive as HOAs with such a massive amount of money behind them from the C.A.I. being able to stay off the radar screens of those with the power to bring them down. How in the world has this been allowed to happen?


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