new HOA book — Neighbors At War! by Ward Lucas

Amazon review By George K. Staropoli

This review is from: Neighbors At War! The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association (Paperback)

Neighbors at War! is a refreshing description of what living in an HOA (homeowners association, property owners association, common-interest community or condo association) that the average person can understand. It is not another legal treatise, or academic journal or book, but the writing of an experienced and award winning investigative reporter.

It is a long needed book for prospective buyers of HOA controlled homes or those already living in an HOA. All those state mandated documents do not tell it all, as state legislators are pro-HOA and accept the denials of homeowner rights contained in HOA adhesion contracts.

Ward Lucas ranges far and wide, from questions of constitutionality and denials of bill of rights protections to more down-to-earth issues of HOA procedures and operations. Foreclosure, no fair elections, and kangaroo hearings on violations are examples of the cases and issues that are discussed in easy to understand terms.

I’ve been repeatedly told by legislators that complaining homeowners are trying to get out of a contract, should have read the CC&Rs, and should have gotten a lawyer. And not a word about misrepresentation and fraud.

Do not fall into the trap of Buyer Beware! Read this excellent book and discover what you are not being told by the special interest national lobbying organization formed to protect, not your rights, but the HOA status quo. Neighbors at War! is a must read for informed homeowners and state legislators

HOA board mentality: ‘because we can’ and ‘because we don’t have to’

How many times has a board member come up to you and say, “Hey, see you’re building an addition?  You know, you need to submit a request for approval before you do anything.  Come on down and let’s talk about it?”  Or, “Our landscapers will be coming by on Thursday to reset the sprinkler timers.”

Why not?  Because it’s the board’s mentality: “Because we can” and “Because we don’t have to.”   This mentality develops, based on my long history in seeking justifications for many outrageous acts by HOAs, from long term indoctrination into hair-splitting the laws and covenants, a parsing of the laws, in the best interests of the HOA.  Of course, coming from the HOA attorneys.  And there are no other rational and legitimate reasons for doing so, or not doing so, especially when good faith conduct is required of officers and directors.

What ever happened to “HOAs create pleasant, harmonious, carefree living, and democracy at work?”  What ever happened to social graces?  Good neighbors?  And common friendship?  I think that the problem lies with recourse to the CC&Rs that must be enforced at all costs got in the way. 

HOAs create an unhealthy climate.  See, Why do people harm others in HOAs?The HOA apathy affliction: a political dynamic


Police ignore HOA complaints with tragic consequences

This news report addresses the repeated erratic behavior of homeowner in HOA that went ignored and a neighbor is forced to defend himself. Many times I’ve been told that the police would reject complaints of assault, harassment, charges of embezzlement and theft among other complaints. They have adopted this “hands-off” HOAs policy that denies citizens the equal protection of the law.  And, county/district attorneys often tell homeowners seeking to file a complaint to first file the complaint with the police.

Given the widespread reporting of oppressive, authoritarian HOAs acting irrationally, arbitrarily, and violating the laws, the failure of the government to provide practical protections for homeowners in HOAs is tantamount to playing Russian Roulette with the lives of people living in HOAs.


Clashes precede man’s killing

“Days before the incident, the homeowners association filed an injunction against Gallik, who had moved in the home in May 2007.

“According to the injunction: ‘He makes verbal threats to the association’s agents and members; walks around the community with a whiteboard chained around his neck stating ‘Death to Southshore Falls,’ has strung clothing lines along the front of the property; bathes in the front driveway and in the dwelling’s gutters to compensate for lack of running water, runs a generator from the front driveway to compensate for lack of working electricity, wanders in the common area allowing his dog to defecate in the middle of the road.’”

The injunction filed by the HOA against the problem homeowner included this statement, The police insist such assaults and threats of violence are an association matter.”



Good night and very good luck – the unspoken media HOA alliance

I hope that the paraphrased quote of, “Good Night and Good Luck,” the signoff by the renowned Edward R. Murrow, who was the only journalist to openly oppose the commie scare by Sen. McCarthy in the 50s, is recognized by the news media. The media of today, especially the local news media, the young and laughing personalities of the 5:00 PM news seem to be totally oblivious to important HOA bills before state legislatures. Bills that would affect some 20% of the people in across the country.

Why? It seems that they prefer to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil about HOAs. Or is it really corporate media making the call?

Murrow, upon leaving the CBS network in 1953 had this to say about the TV news media.

Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now . . . they will there find . . . evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time.

We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this.

Are the big corporations who pay the freight for radio and television programs wise to use that time exclusively for the sale of goods and services? Is it in their own interest and that of the stockholders so to do?

Since this statement was made, the news has become highly editorialized and selective, geared to entertain. It appears that providing important matters of civic concern affecting their private property and community to their viewers is a secondary concern, and only such information as the media moguls deem to be appropriate. (For a brief history of Arizona’s HOA news coverage, see Arizona HOA News History).

There have been no in-depth analyses or debates of the HOA legal concept even at the national level, as the spread of HOA-Land is nationwide. The Sunday news talk shows, or by 20-20 and Dateline, are silent. There have been no discussions on whether HOAs, as de facto governments, should by made a government entity. Or whether state legislatures should continue to allow equitable servitude law to supersede contract and constitutional law. Or the lack of debate on the absence of “truth in HOAs” disclosures, similar to truth in lending and truth in advertising.

Or what is the legitimate government interest to allow private governments to deny the equal application of the laws. Or to allow constructive notice – just take your deed — to bind unsuspecting home buyers to the CC&Rs sight unseen. Apparently there is no need to inform buyers at closing of the great leap that they are taking into the unknown.

Doesn’t the news media understand, haven’t they been taught in journalism 101, that silence carries an acceptance of conditions and events. With no opposing views, what do they think their viewers will accept and believe. Obviously, “No news is good news.” And this silence has helped generate the national groupthink that “HOAs are the next best thing to Mom’s apple pie.” This silence helps generate an inbreeding, a closed group without outside reality testing for verification. (See the seminal work by Irving Janis, Victims of Groupthink, 1972).

Here’s what the activist group, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), has to say about groupthink (my emphasis).

A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making. Groupthink occurs when groups are highly cohesive and when they are under considerable pressure . . . . When pressures for unanimity seem overwhelming, members are less motivated to realistically appraise the alternative courses of action available to them. These group pressures lead to carelessness and irrational thinking since groups experiencing groupthink fail to consider all alternatives and seek to maintain unanimity. Decisions shaped by groupthink have low probability of achieving successful outcomes.

And PsySR finds fault with the media for failing to inform its viewers about the alternative views of others.

Knowledge is power and we as citizens and as a nation are becoming less powerful. The American press, especially the television news media, has let down the American people and the American people have allowed this to happen. US television news is geared more toward providing entertainment than information.

We can now answer why this silence, why this unspoken alliance of no negatives about HOAs. The history of the media’s role with respect to substantive issues on HOA constitutionality, and other legalities, has gone through four stages: 1) repeat what the special interests have to say, 2) allow advocates to speak out in opposition, 3) report only favorable stories, and 4) withdrawal from the controversy. (See Arizona HOA News History).

The reason for this withdrawal by the media can be found in their realization that the HOA legal concept cannot be defended without renouncing the US Constitution and our system of democratic government. In short, any such attempt would be Defending the Indefensible. So, silence is the only option if one truly believes, in spite of the overwhelming evidence, that HOAs are better than Mom’s apple pie.

With that I say, “Good night and good luck.”   Those of you living in HOAs surely need lots of it.

Why do people harm others in HOAs?

The following is my conclusion in Why people do harm to others in the HOA subculture.

Looking Toward the Future

In the Milgram and Stanford Prison Experiments researchers explored what evil men can and will do to others 1) under repeated pressure from authority figures to follow the rules, and 2) in an environment where one is expected to act in accordance to the  roles of the community.  The researchers found that basically good people will indeed do harm, even do severe harm, to others.  The conditions and factors present in these experiments exist within the HOA community, and the harm being done to others in these HOAs is well documented in the media and in the courts.

 The authoritarian insistence on enforcing complete obedience to the CC&RS, as repeatedly impressed on HOA boards by their attorneys, is well documented. The compliance by the directors and officers with these pressures for enforcement is well documented.   The blind obedience, apathy, and passivity  to authority by HOA members – the “prisoners” — who sign and agree to provisions blatantly detrimental to their interests, is well documented.  The adoption of the roles demanded of them by the system  and by the situation —  state laws and the court opinions, the adhesion CC&Rs and governing documents, and the lack of effective recourse — is well documented.  

The numerous “educational” seminars taught  by the attorneys and managers, many of which are sponsored by state and local governments,  serve not to fully inform but to indoctrinate the members into roles of obedience  and passivity, is well documented.  Good people doing bad things or remaining silent in the midst of wrongful acts and actions by the HOA is well documented.

State governments, the legislatures,  cannot allow HOAs to continue to  run amuck and to  freely violate the laws and their contractual obligations without legitimate and necessary constraints holding them accountable for the harm that they do to others.  Stop the “free rides.”  

Do not be conned by the HOA special interests unsubstantiated fear mongering about the demise of HOAs, and their  “only 5% are bad”, so we don’t need any restrictions.  Property crimes over the past 5 years averaged 3.3% yet we have laws.  Murder and rape rates are so miniscule compared to 5% (roughly 5 in 100, 000, or .00005), yet we have laws against these crimes.   If HOAs are indeed the next best thing to Mom’s apple pie, then they will survive.  If not, then it was the factor that “we got a good thing going here,” in terms of anything goes, that was the driving force behind all the clamor.  Fear not, people will continue to buy homes that are truly their private property.

But, to let the people in HOAs  continue to do harm to others and do nothing as  a matter of public policy is shameful.

Read the full paper here.

Legal-academic aristocrat – advocate exchange on HOA bad faith conduct

I am responding to Mr. Berding’s undated blog entry, First Thing We Do, Let’s Ban All the Bloggers! , a no-name identification of the author of the blog, namely yours-truly. Why is Mr. Berding afraid of mentioning my name? After all, I’m not an attorney. He chose to copy my Commentary rather than to provide a link to my blog, with all those other commentaries.

Ok, it does appear that Mr. Berding is quite perturbed about my statements and quotes from a D & O insurance article that uses the phrases “bad faith,” “criminal intent,” and “fraudulent acts.” He’s upset that I emphasized these words in my Commentary (WordPress Blog). Yet, Berding misleads the readers of his own blog by referring to my Commentary as, “suppose this is a blog.”

Yes, the ugly truth does hurt, Mr. Berding, doesn’t it? And I suppose posting on those blogs, like yours, those CAI blogs, and the Adams Kessler blogs does make them right and important, but forget about those advocate written blogs. Spoken as a true legal-academic aristocrat making Philosopher-King (educated elite setting forth what is good government to the rulers) pronouncements.

Mr. Berding then invokes the legalistic argument of allegations and no proof, as if this were the time and place for legal confrontation. His attitude reminds me of the slogan commonly found on court buildings and other judicial buildings, “Equal Justice Under the Law.” This slogan contains a hidden premise, or assumption, that the law is just and fair. Suppose it isn’t, as advocates maintain? Then the slogan is reduced to a meaningless and empty statement. And those with power derived from these unjust laws just love to argue, “It’s the law! It’s the law! We have done nothing wrong!” And that’s were ethical and moral questions of good faith – honesty and integrity, or an honest intent to act without taking an unfair advantage over another person – come into play.

Our public policy permits the law to inflict financial damages, and the possible loss of all one’s equity in his home, for violating the CC&Rs, yet gives only a “ slap on the wrist” to violations by the HOA board. It permits “after an opportunity to be heard” to satisfy the due process requirement for hearings on violations, there being no explicit statement, as found in the public arena: “by an independent tribunal with the right to present evidence, demand proof and to confront witnesses.” It is absent from the CC&R contractual agreement. And where state legislatures maintain a hands-off posture, providing no oversight accountability or effective enforcement against board violations in a “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil” banana republic posture. And justifies this pro-HOA support with, “Well, that’s what the homeowner agreed to. Now he’s just trying to get out of a contract.” What kind of society do HOAs create?

I’m sure he would be shocked, as were the editors at KPHO, the Phoenix CBS-TV affiliate, when they conducted a poll on the PTSD HOA Syndrome (click on image), and found out that 68% of the respondents agreed it existed. Or that an overwhelming 91% respondents in a Truth in HOAs Disclosure Poll said NO to signing an agreement to accept, beforehand, the conditions as set forth in the poll — misrepresentation, fraud, no meeting of the minds, etc. No, after all, his philosophy accepts the belief that “the king can do no wrong.”

As to his CAI remark, all he had to do is to attend these seminars and discover for himself the lack of homeowner protection material presented at these seminars. For example, important info for homeowners can be found in my latest Commentary (HOA boards cannot escape wrongful acts by their managers), information regarding the relationship between the HOA and the management firm. It is is an agency relationship that carries with it immense protections for the homeowner against both the management firm and the HOA board. It’s not on the agenda.

As to misleading and out-of-context statements about the D & O article, Mr. Berding misses my point, which is that the board can be sued and here are the grounds for suing. Also not found in an educational CAI, town sponsored seminar. He discredits my work as “emotional,” “lacking objectivity,” and that I “don’t contribute much that is useful to their chosen subject.” So sayeth the Philosopher-King, or is it the “weavers” from The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Come down from the clouds Mr. Berding, and see what is happening around you. I challenge you to answer the following 4 questions that were posed in March 2006 to Mr. Durso, then Editor of CAI’s Common Ground,

I ask the legislators, the public interest organizations and policy makers to consider the following questions:

1. Is it proper for the state to create, permit, encourage, support or defend a form of local government of a community of people, whether that form of government is established as a municipal corporation or as a private organization that is not compatible with our American system of government?

2. Is it proper for the state to permit the existence of private quasi-governments with contractual “constitutions” that regulate and control the behavior of citizens without the same due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment; that do not conform to the state’s municipal charter or incorporation requirements; or do not provide for the same compliance with the state’s Constitution, statutes or administrative code as required by public local government entities?

3. When did “whatever the people privately contract” dominate the protections of the US Constitution? The New Jersey Appeals Court didn’t think so. Does “constructive notice”, the “nailing to the wall”, the medieval method of notice, measure up to the requisite level of notice and informed consent to permit the loss of Constitutional protections?

4. Please state what, if any, are the government’s interests in supporting HOAs that deny the people their constitutional rights?

I await your reply, or a reply from any of the legal-academic aristocrats.

AZ tenants have more AG protection than property owners in HOAs

The current AZ Attorney General, Tom  Horne, proudly displays and offers a 48 page handbook for tenants, basically covering the Landlord and Tenant Act, ARS 33-1301 et seq. It contains 2 full pages of where to get help, and sample forms. It can be found under Publications/Handbooks. What about a handbook for homeowners living in HOAs covering Condo and planned communities acts?

Both the L & T and HOA acts deal with private contracts, so that can’t be the distinguishing excuse not to provide a warning guide or advisory, which I’ve repeatedly urged be developed and quickly offered to homebuyers and those already under HOA regimes. It’s not like there are no issues of material fact, like misrepresentation, consent to be governed, loss of individual property rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities; and private governments not subject to the Constitution. Or that problems do not continually appear in the media. Homeowners who have written the AG’s office, and the Real Estate Commissioner receive a standard, No my job. Get the Legislature to write new laws.

Unfortunately, the problem you complained about is not within our jurisdiction. Our office enforces the Consumer Fraud Act, however, the Act does not allow our office to pursue private disputes. Our office represents the state of Arizona and cannot act as a private attorney for individual citizens.

The position of the Arizona Attorney General is unacceptable. The public policy position of the State of Arizona is unacceptable. It strongly reflects HOA protectionism even to the extent that the State permits the denial of constitutional protections for the people. And in a state that has loudly and firmly urged support for the Constitution and the need to uphold the laws of the land! I offer my Truth in HOAs disclosure poll — please vote your conscience, showing a solid rejection of these hidden facts, and the KPHO, HOA Syndrome survey: YES, it exists!,poll showing that HOA boards do inflict emotional stress on homeowners who disagree with the board.

I urge the Legislature to require ADRE and the Attorney General’s Office to provide a Truth in HOAs handbook containing the facts, the negative aspects, of living in an HOA. Such a handbook must address the issues contained in the Truth in HOAs Disclosure Agreement as set forth in the poll mentioned above.

Arizona Tenants’ Rights and Responsibilities Handbook