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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.

Biggest HOA Scandal In Colorado!

One of the biggest HOA scandals in Colorado is that voters wanted an HOA ombudsman’s office created. The Legislature did so. But this office in DORA (Department of Regulatory Agencies) is worse than worthless. When my book, Neighbors At War, first came out I attended a seminar put on by the newly created Colorado HOA office. I was encouraged that such an office had been proposed. But halfway through the talk by the head of the State office the Southeast Denver Marriot Hotel,  I found myself standing up and confronting the head of this state office with his total ignorance of HOA controversies. He’s a state board member, and dumber than a box of rocks.

With all the taxpayer money being poured into this ombudsman’s office, he pontificated about all the hard work he does on behalf of homeowners. He tabulates the number of telephone complaints. He tracks whether the callers are male or female. He tabulates their average age. He tabulates the size of the HOAs involved. He tabulates where the complaints come from. He tabulates the length of the telephone conversation. With a little bit of work he might have been to to tabulate how many of us were circumcised or uncircumcised.

And for all the millions of dollars being poured into this wasteful office all he thinks his job is, is reporting those stupid numbers to the Colorado State Legislature. Colorado has a colorful history of lynching bad, bad people for crimes they committed. This appointed bloodsucker should be lynched. He’s a leech on Colorado taxpayers. He does not have the guts to report to the Legislature the vast number of financial crimes and criminal conspiracies perpetrated against innocent Colorado homeowners. He doesn’t have the guts to admit that he mediates NO controversies, he doesn’t even listen to the factual evidence homeowners try to present.`

I personally have had to testify several times in front of the Colorado Legislature, mostly on issues related to journalism. and I’m familiar with the decorum and respect that’s required of a witness.  And I admit that several state lawmen physically threw me out of this meeting for asking the wrong kinds of questions.

But as it’s constructed now, this office is nothing more than a con game, another  wool blanket pulled over the eyes of a worried segment of our communities who are begging for relief against wildly out-of-control HOA BOARDS, while this phony state executive slips a few hundred thousand bucks into his pocket.

Shame on you. Shame on your fundamental dishonestly. Shame on you for not having the guts to tell Colorado homeowners that they do have Constitutional Rights, and that those rights are often superior to the rights of illegally or improperly constructed HOA BOARDS which they attempt to assert.

Shame, shame on you!!!

Vanitzian On Pro-Bono

guest blog, permission by Donie Vanitzian (LA Times Columnist)

QUESTION:  For more than two years, I’ve experienced nothing but problems with my homeowner association board and management. They are uncooperative and obstructive. After eliminating all my administrative remedies, I now believe the only way to fix these serious problems is to sue them.

I’ve interviewed three attorneys, but each is requiring a retainer of at least $20,000. Realizing I don’t have enough money to sue the board and the association, I asked each attorney to take the case on a contingency basis. No attorney would agree to that.

I then asked if they would represent me “pro bono” and was told I don’t fall under that category. Why won’t an attorney take my case pro bono or on contingency?

ANSWER: Pro bono help on behalf of individuals is typically for disadvantaged groups, those who are poor, disabled or elderly. The cases also tend to involve problems that have common patterns of fact that lawyers with adequate resources can handle efficiently.

Because owning real property generally implies one is not poor, homeowner association cases typically don’t fit such a blueprint. And association-related problems tend to have unique issues and facts that require more time and money than pro bono organizations are prepared to invest.

Contingency cases are a familiar phrase to the public because of personal-injury cases stemming from a car accident. Such cases are often referred to as “pure contingencies” because the lawyer pays everything, in exchange for getting up to 45% of any settlement or judgment proceeds.

Lawyers decide to take personal injury cases provided liability is reasonably clear and the opposition is an insurer or other solvent party who can pay. Because there is an extensive body of data known to lawyers and insurers regarding the range of compensation afforded most kinds of injuries, these factors simplify the handling of personal injury cases and make them more attractive.

As you can see, several levels of case evaluation are undertaken before a lawyer takes a case on contingency because there must be a reasonable likelihood of success in order to justify risking months or years of work without compensation.

When an owner sues in homeowner association-related cases, the advantages inherent in many personal-injury cases are rarely present. Homeowner versus association cases — like business contract breaches, divorce and failed partnerships — are usually very complex.

Predictably, these cases involve substantial paper documents, computer records and multiple people acting over a significant period of time. Moreover, the law defining fault and providing damages may be uncertain or evolving.

The lawyer’s evaluation of time and expense has to account for taking multiple depositions, potential discovery battles to get records and documents, possibly poor record-keeping by the client, changes in the law and unpredictable judges and juries. Then there are boards that litigate and defend to the extreme even if it makes no economic sense — just to prove a point with a particular case and send a message to other owners thinking about suing.

Whether a homeowner is suing the association or the board itself, both are indemnified so an owner is effectively suing the association’s insurance company. Though that would seem attractive to an attorney seeking ample resources to pay a judgment, it also can unduly protract the litigation.

Finally, a client could render all the lawyer’s efforts for naught by failing to cooperate, or by abandoning the case because it’s too much work or stress. Many prospective plaintiffs fail to consider how much of their own time will go into a case, even with an attorney.

The lawyer must consider all these variables and make a cost-benefit analysis in deciding whether to risk taking a contingency case. Ultimately, the decision comes down to the likelihood of success in obtaining — and collecting — on a favorable settlement or court award versus the hours likely to be expended.

Ultimately, even the best cases have at most a 70% to 80% chance of success. And even if a case is successful, the potential award must be great enough for a lawyer to make it worthwhile, something very difficult to determine. Unsurprisingly, few lawyers take on business or homeowner cases contingently.

Occasionally some cases are handled as partial contingencies, which allows attorneys to reduce legal fees. Still, clients must pay some expenses and a substantial retainer because final costs typically total in the thousands of dollars.

In the end, what might at first seem like a “good case” to a lay person, when carefully scrutinized, rarely is. The law may not provide enough leverage to adequately right the wrong at issue, at least not monetarily.

The unhappy reality of modern life is that legal machinery doesn’t exist to compensate people for every unkind, improper or evil deed done to them in life, let alone in a homeowners association.

Michael Krieger, a Los Angeles lawyer practicing business contract, technology and intellectual property law, co-wrote this column. Vanitzian is an arbitrator and mediator. Send questions to Donie Vanitzian, JD, P.O. Box 10490, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or

Airbnb HOA Nightmare

Millions of people around the world have opened their homes to Airbnb, the service that for a small price can find homeowners willing to share their homes for a brief time to travelers. It sounds like a wonderful idea. When a close relative of mine died in Oregon and I couldn’t find a nearby motel I turned to Airbnb for what changed from a few days to a month-long ordeal. In a neighborhood of hundreds of homes I added just one extra car to the daily traffic.

But Homeowners Associations are fascist regimes, all about complete control of the private lives of homeowners. And knowing that you can make a few bucks by a short term lease in your extra bedroom drives board members crazy.

Mind you, they probably couldn’t stop you if you had a relative come stay with you. But breathe the Airbnb brand and these lawn Nazis go bonkers.

So warn your Airbnb guests that they’ve got to swear under oath that they’re long-lost distant cousins and you’ might be able able to slip by without getting sued.


HOAs Getting Into The Credit Reporting Business

This is such a bad idea. Homeowners Associations are linking arms with the credit reporting industry to hammer the credit scores of homeowners late on their HOA dues. Horrible direction for this crooked, crime-filled HOA movement to take.

Look at news stories around the country. Go back and read the past four years of stories on this blog. Look at the horrors uncovered in the Kansas City Star. Now get out your calculator and start adding up the vast numbers of lawsuits that are going to be filed by homeowners whose credit scores were wrongly lowered. When lawsuits are filed against a Homeowners Association, who pays? And don’t say “the insurance company.” Ultimately, homeowners across the country will be forking over millions, hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for legal costs and judgments. Can you say, “Special Assessment?”

(link to excellent column about HOAs and credit reporting)


Get Rid Of The Elderly!

Believe it or not, those are the marching orders in many Homeowners Associations. Communities with young people are very popular among prospective home buyers. It’s rare that a young family will seek out neighborhoods with a lot of elderly people. Thus, HOA boards will use every trick in the book to get rid of members of the Old F-rts Club. Instead of trying to work with an older homeowner to get dues collected, many just fine, lien and foreclose.

The commentary linked below is a tragic one. But we hear it time and time again. Welcome to HOA Amerika.