Tag Archives: Texas

The Hydra Begins to Emerge

In Greek mythology, the Hydra was a terrifying sea monster that had many heads and used them to devour innocent seafarers. Our hero, Heracles, forced the Hydra into the open and began chopping off its heads. But each time a head was severed two new ones grew back. It seemed like a hopeless task but Heracles was undaunted. He finally figured out that if he used a torch to cauterize each severed limb they failed to regrow.

The news this week that the nation’s two largest HOA management monsters were getting cozier with each other was beyond astonishing. Top officials for Associa are being given all sorts of awards by the CAI and vice versa. Could a merger between the two organizations be in the future? Former Texas state senator John Carona and his ethically-challenged Associa would be perfect in a merger with the similarly ethics-challenged Community Associations Institute. Such a new organization would control tens of billions of dollars worth of income-producing properties. It’s a monster. Each person in this country who thinks he owns his own home should start facing the facts. You are John Carona’s income-producer. Carona, as one of the most influential power-brokers in Texas government, built his vast wealth by sponsoring and passing state laws that directly increased his personal bank balance. Now he’s buying infrastructure around his thousands of HOAs so that homeowners have no other option but to bank in his banks and buy insurance from his insurance companies.

Associa and the CAI? Together?  And this massive (anti-trust?) organization which perpetuates the lie that it represents homeowners, when it actually only represents its own income stream from dues-paying lawyers and management companies, is becoming a regrowth of the legendary Hydra.

The symbol of The Torch is often used to represent light, the shedding of light on a dark subject. Maybe, just maybe, we can take a lesson from Heracles, the slayer of monsters. We just need to find a way to cauterize these various heads to keep them from growing back.

(link to ethics problems in Carona-ville)

(link to CAI awards for Associa)



Can Dinosaurs Wreck Property Values?

Oh, Lordy, I love this job! It never gets old.

Good neighborhoods are quirky. That’s because people are quirky, and their quirks keep us all smiling and make the world go ’round. The problem with Homeowners Associations is that they’re bland, bleached, with a sameness that brings everyone to the same level. Standing out from the crowd is a well-known guaranty of getting yourself sued.

The New Territory Residential Community Association in Sugar Land, Texas is having a conniption fit over some ‘yard art’ in front of one family’s home. Other families have decorative lions in their front yards. But the Hentschel family has put up some beautifully made statuary that’s unique: metal sculptures of a velociraptor and a T-Rex.

Of course, they’ll get liened, fined and probably sued. And that’s a shame. I would give my eye teeth to be able to live next door to the Hentschel family!

(link to USA Today story on HOA dinosaurs)


1st Amendment Win for Orthodox Jewish Congregation

guest blog by Deborah Goonan

Just this week, a Colin County, Texas judge threw out an HOA’s case against owners of a home used as an Orthodox Jewish synagogue. The legal battle began in 2013, when an owner by the name of David R. Schneider independently sued the Congregation Toras Chaim and the owners of the dwelling, Mark and Judith Gothelf, for allegedly violating restrictive covenants specifying “single family” use. The HOA intervened in the case in 2014, shortly after Mr. Schneider was elected to the Board of Highlands of McKamy IV & V HOA.

The Liberty Institute assisted the Gothelfs and the Congregation free of charge. Haynes and Boone LLP also represented the Congregation.

Of course, the media and Liberty Institute are reporting the victory for the small Jewish congregation. They are now permitted to continue using the Gothelf’s home as a synagogue for their small congregation. The Judge dismissed the case primarily based upon two applicable Texas laws: The Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). Both statutes invalidate restrictive covenants against use of real property as a religious institution, upholding First Amendment rights.

Reading the lengthy Motion for Summary Judgment filed by attorneys for the defense, available from the Liberty Institute news release, it was obvious that Mr. Schneider, representing himself, and the HOA, represented by their attorney, had no chance of prevailing. In addition to the obvious violations of religious freedom rights, there were hundreds of pages of case law to back up at least a half dozen affirmative defenses, and transcripts of depositions of Rabbi Rich, Mark Gothelf, Mr. Schneider and two other HOA Board members.

So what exactly happened in Highlands of McKamy IV & V HOA?

Well, it was another typical story of HOA conflict. From 2011 – August 2013, before the Orthodox Jewish Congregation moved the location of their gatherings from one home in Highlands of McKamy to another one across the street from David Schneider, there had been no complaints from neighbors or the HOA.

It often takes just one person, in this case Mr. Schneider, to instigate conflict in an HOA. And that conflict is almost always about some alleged or trumped up violation of a restrictive covenant or Board enacted rule. And quite often – as was the case this time – the restriction itself is unconstitutional at the state or federal level, or both.

Based upon testimony supplied by the Rabbi, Mr. Gothelf, Schneider and two other Board members, the reader recognizes the typical hallmarks of HOA conflict:

·      A ringleader (Schneider) that organizes an allegedly questionable “election” based upon proxies that are not adequately handled in an unmonitored election process

·      A Board President that pushes his own personal agenda as soon as he’s elected

·      A Board member with a history of being difficult to get along with, that has a history of suing people

·      Fellow Board members that follow the Board President’s lead

·      Questionable record-keeping and official document storage and handling practices

·      Board members that are unfamiliar with HOA law and/or their own governing documents

·      A Board that fails to heed their HOA attorney’s advice, yet that attorney is complicit in filing a case he knows has a high probability of failing

·      The tendency of a Board to keep the cost of this legal challenge a secret

·      A divided membership, resulting in angry homeowners and a Board recall attempt that is successful in removing Mr. Schneider in July 2014, but not the remaining Board members

·      Negative attention for the HOA in the local media, and by word of mouth

·      Over a year of stress and unnecessary legal expense for the Gothelfs and the Congregation

Hopefully, this will end the campaign against the Congregation, many of them neighbors in the HOA.  I certainly hope there will not be an appeal. The good Rabbi Rich is wise when he states, “We don’t view this as a victory. The victory would be when the whole neighborhood comes together.”



Carona Bites The Big One!!!

Not in a million years would I have predicted this one. But perhaps the most ethically challenged senator in Texas state history has lost his bid for re-election. 

For 24 years, John Carona has reigned supreme. From his position as Texas State Senator he has built a multi billion dollar company managing 8000 homeowners associations across the country. Around his HOAs he has built banks, insurance companies, landscaping firms. Homeowners who had the misfortune of living in those neighborhoods learned more than anyone else what the phrase ‘lawn Nazi’ means.

Carona lost by just a few hundred votes. Obviously, recounts are being demanded. But at this point it looks like this is one election Carona couldn’t buy. He will still be able to retire as one of the richest men in Texas and he will still reign over those hundreds of thousands of hapless homeowners. And among many of them Carona won’t be ‘former senator,’ he’ll be ‘ex-senator.’

Our political system is slow. But unlike many others, it is eventually self-correcting.


Funniest HOA Video Yet!

Homeowners Associations can, indeed, wreck your life. So there isn’t much humor in the anti-HOA movement. Still, it’s great to see a homeowners rights advocate in Texas making such a good video and sharing it with the rest of the world.

Turn up the volume, click on the video, sit back and enjoy!