Open Letter On HOAs To All Policy Makers

guest blog by Deborah Goonan

Although HOA horror stories and reports of financial failures of common interest developments are reported daily in the media, industry proponents claim these are “isolated” incidents, that most people are happy under government by CC&Rs, and that buyers actually want more of the same.

When I or others attempt to discuss realities from the HOA resident’s perspective, we hear “HOAs aren’t for everyone,” “move if you don’t like it,” and “stop whining and complaining.”We are told our democratic proposals for reform are “fantasy” and “unrealistic.” Tell me, when did Democracy become taboo?

Today, in response to this arrogant drivel, I was inspired to write the following Open letter to CAI, State, and Federal Policy makers:

For more than a decade, HOA homeowner advocates have proposed many solutions to problems that vex HOAs: one vote per resident, ballot voting for elections, increased government oversight, better buyer disclosure, reforming laws that are skewed in FAVOR of the HOA corporate entity to eliminate the power imbalance it creates for owners. But we have faced consistent opposition every step of the way, not from fellow owners but from special interest groups: notably developers, real estate investors, Real Estate BARs, and management companies – including CAI. In all fairness, it is becoming increasingly apparent that even CAI members and attorneys disagree on policy matters, to include “eminent domain for condos.”

You may think that dismissing those of us that have the audacity to speak out against injustice and bad policy as “whiners” is an effective strategy to silence us. But all that does is prove the arrogant, dismissive attitude that prevails in the industry and our state Legislature that backs the special interests.

I recognize that Florida’s condo takeovers – a seven-year-old practice that is just beginning to get national attention – are a result of their financial failures. I do not object to their dissolution. What I object to is the injustice that results – kicking folks out of their homes, often forcing them to take huge financial losses, and with no effort to make these people whole. It was an injustice to sell those condos at artificially inflated prices in the first place, not to mention all the bad mortgages that resulted in many thousands of foreclosures and personal family tragedies. It was bad policy and greed that led to the failure of many condo and HOA communities.

And at the same time in Florida, millions of dollars are being invested in brand new high-end luxury condos. The folks in the middle and lower income ranges are merely collateral damage. And you can bet that the loans for all those displaced condo owners will become non-performing mortgages. No wonder the banks balk at financing for condos.

Other states also experience similarly owner-unfriendly issues, including local elected officials that seek to relax building codes, and reduce construction defect liability for Developers.

Furthermore, the financial and social model of common interest developments is unsustainable, which will ultimately lead to increased costs for local and state governments as these HOA communities mature. We are already seeing increased evidence of condemnations and HOAs that must appoint receivers because no one wants to serve on the Board of a failing community.

I am thoroughly disheartened by discussing HOA issues with people who refuse to acknowledge the truth and simply do not care about homeowners, tenants, or taxpaying citizens that do not toe the line and conform to the HOA corporate agenda.

I call upon reasonable, responsible, and compassionate State and Federal leaders to recognize that corporate communities are incompatible with American values of Democracy and Equality, and that HOAs exist primarily for the benefits of Real Estate interests. Americans must not be expected to relinquish their rights, freedoms, and financial stability for the sake of increasing the property tax base with high-density development.

Thank you.

 

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About

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.

3 thoughts on “Open Letter On HOAs To All Policy Makers

  1. Nila Ridings

    Well said, Deborah. I applaud you every time I read your heartfelt expressions.

    As rotten as I know the HOA industry is, I also believe that what goes around comes around.

    Here’s an example: When I bought in Quivira Falls the same guy had been president for twenty-five years. The very first board meeting I attended my “beware and watch this guy” antennas went up. All questions were avoided. No eye contact. Bad body language. After months of countless excuses why financial records were not available another homeowner and I let him know at a board meeting that we were going to be investigating for embezzlement. And if it was found, somebody was going to jail. Two lawsuits were filed to see the records. Another board member told us we should be “ashamed” because the president had dedicated his life to Quivira Falls. blah blah blah Investigations found the president was running for the board of an HOA in Carlsbad, CA. I found out he had just bought two places there and he owned three in Quivira Falls. I exposed that information to the homeowners. The attorney “turned up the heat” and suddenly and conveniently the president dropped dead on June 16, 2008. I didn’t see any autopsy report so I have no clue whether he died by his choice or God’s will, but he never lived to enjoy his Carlsbad properties because at 60 years old he was six feet underground. One year later, on the exact same day, the board member that said we should be “ashamed” took his last breath, too.

    I firmly believe there is a higher power that will take care of those that intentionally destroy the lives of others.

    Think of where these folks are today: OJ Simpson, Osama Bin Laden, Bernie Madoff, Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, Saddam Hussein, just to name a few.

    Reply
  2. Cynthia

    A phenomenal article, Deborah Goonan that I am happy to pass along to many legislators and other elected officials. The HOA atrocities and the ongoing abuses to innocent and unsuspecting homeowners in this country are really everyone’s issue, whether it be state, or federal!

    Thank you too, Nila Ridings for a comment that “fits like a glove.” A great comment!

    Reply
  3. Nila Ridings

    I did forget to mention a couple of minor details.

    The dead board president claimed some big title with the CAI. And at the time of his death there was $10,000,000 unaccounted for and still is to this day. After his death it was discovered there were $500,000 in unpaid bills that the HOA ended up paying off. The detective questioned all of the board members about the financial affairs of Quivira Falls and every single one of the remaining eight claimed no knowledge of anything. Telling the detective only the dead man knew what was going on.

    Reply

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