Saturday, August 28, 2004

Missoulian: Natelson wins UM dispute
I blogged on this a while back. Robert Natelson is a law professor who wrote, among other things, an important law review article on the origins of the condominium form of ownership. He wanted to teach Constitutional Law at the University of Montana, where he teaches Property and other things. They wouldn't let him. He argued that it was because of his political conservatism--in other words, it was viewpoint discrimination. Now, here is the resolution of his complaint:

Conservative activist Rob Natelson, who claimed he was the victim of political discrimination at the University of Montana, has triumphed in a campus battle to teach constitutional law.

University President George Dennison announced Natelson's new teaching assignment Thursday after accepting a hearing officer's report concluding Natelson, a UM law professor since 1987, had been treated unfairly at the Law School. Hearing officer Donald Robinson found Natelson had been unfairly denied the opportunity to teach constitutional law, but stopped short of addressing the professor's complaint of discrimination based on his personal politics. Dennison appointed Robinson, a Butte attorney, as hearing officer after Natelson sought to take his complaint to the state Board of Regents in July. The regents declined to intervene.

"I am very pleased," Natelson said. "I think it's time to put the acrimony behind us."

Natelson's faculty colleagues reacted coolly to the decision, but Law School Dean Edwin Eck vowed to move beyond the contentious issue for the sake of students.

For Natelson, the outcome settles a long struggle with his employer. His grievance, which covered two distinct themes - political discrimination and violation of department hiring procedures - was given an expedited hearing at Dennison's request.

Natelson, who has twice run as a Republican for governor and led ballot-issue campaigns to limit taxes, accused UM of discriminating against him once his conservative political views became public in 1993.

That discrimination, he said, made itself known every time he requested to teach constitutional law and denied that opportunity as well as other job benefits.

After reviewing the conclusions crafted by the hearing officer, Dennison agreed that UM's Law School gave preference in the past to a few faculty members seeking internal transfers, a practice which Robinson identified as "collegial preference."

AB 2598 Assembly Bill - Status
This bill is now back to the Assembly, where it originated, and where they now have to concur in the amendments made in the Senate.
AB 2598 Assembly Bill - Vote Information
The Steinberg bill, which passed in the Assembly 69-10 on May 27, has now passed the Senate, 33-1. See my post yesterday (8/27), where I linked to the latest analyis after amendments. This is a major reform bill that changes the rules for foreclosure quite significantly, and also addresses signage and record access for owners. Here's the lead of the analysis:

"This bill enacts numerous changes to the Davis-Stirling Act. Most significantly, this bill prohibits the use of judicial or nonjudicial foreclosure to collect unpaid assessments under $2,5000 and implements new procedures to be followed when judicial or nonjudicial foreclosure is used to collect unpaid homeowner association assessments $2,500 and over. It changes the minimum bid price for a separate interest being sold in nonjudicial foreclosure to 90 percent of the exterior-only appraised value minus senior liens, and creates a 90-day right of redemption for a separate interest sold in nonjudicial foreclosure.This bill also extends the areas on which a separate interest owner may display certain noncommercial signs, posters, flags or banners, expands the categories of association records the members are entitled to inspect and copy to include contracts to which the association is or has been a party, and expands the categories of association records the members are entitled to inspect and copy to include the records of community service organizations."

Friday, August 27, 2004 - Man lay dead in bed for two years:Condo fees and bills were still being paid

Now, here's an example of good condo citizenship. He was dead, but he kept paying his assessments. Unfortunately, his condo community wasn't quite as solicitous about him as he was about them. They didn't check into where the heck he was. Note the way the condo board president allegedly reacted when the deceased's long-term absence was called to her attention...

WINNIPEG—His telephone number was still listed in the telephone directory and his condominium fees and bills were automatically being withdrawn from his bank account.

No one knew Jim Sulkers had died in his bed almost two years ago.

Neighbour Sam Shuster said residents in the complex often wondered where the man they knew only as Jim had gone, but were told his condominium fees were still being paid. "How can that happen, for God's sake. Two years!" Shuster said yesterday of the man who had been a resident in the building since the mid-1980s.
"I used to ask the president of the board of directors where in the hell is he? She said all she knew was the bank gets the monthly money so we don't worry about it."

AB 2598 Assembly Bill - Bill Analysis
This bill has been amended again. Here's an analysis of the way it stands now. Note that the prohibition on foreclosure for fines and penalties has been removed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Tuesday, August 24, 2004 cost of insurance giving condo associations a real headache
As president of the Casa Del Rio Condominium Association in Boca Raton, David Trimble says that he and the other 260 condo owners are actively looking for a way to curb their skyrocketing association insurance rates.
“We haven’t filed a claim in about nine years. Our insurance rates have gone up about 40 percent over the past five years,” Trimble said.
The association currently pays about $105,000 per year to insure their property.
“It is supposed to have gone down by $4,000. As far as I’m concerned, it’s legal thievery,” he said.
Trimble said he is awaiting a decision that would allow the property to be re-classified as not being within a flood zone. He hopes it makes a difference in their insurance rates.
Trimble said their rates have gone up as much as $20,000 in previous years and last year were increased by about $9,000.
He blames the high insurance rates on a number of factors – including costs that are passed on to the customers.
“A hot water heater exploded in one of the units and the contractor cost $4,500 but were only here two and one half hours to clean it. They charged the insurance company for that,” he said.
Mostly, Trimble says there’s just not enough competition between insurance providers.
“I’ve been told they’ve signed a pact that they won’t take customers from each other and that puts a monopoly on things,” he said.

But...but...that would be (gasp)...WRONG!
Family seeks help with speeding vehicles
Here's one family that will probably buy into an HOA next time, after this experience with stereotypically slow response from local government:

The white plastic fence that used to line the front yard of Jon and Tracy Hall's home is long gone, the victim of one of the many cars that have barreled across their lawn after missing a curve near their house.

All that remains of the fence are broken stumps — what were once its main posts — sticking out of the ground.

Since September 2000, when the Halls moved to 1416 Peekskill Hollow Road, at least five northbound cars have failed to negotiate the left-hand curve on a slight hill just south of their house and careened across their front lawn. A stone ledge above one side of their driveway then serves as a launching pad, sending the vehicles flying into the woods.

The Halls have appealed to the town of Kent and Putnam County for help but said the problem persists.

Town Supervisor William Tulipane said he was in their corner and can't understand why the county won't install a guide rail in front of the home, as the Halls have requested.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

AB 1836 Assembly Bill - ENROLLED
AB 1836, Harman. Common interest developments: dispute
Existing law provides that a common interest development
association has standing to institute, defend, settle, or intervene
in litigation, arbitration, mediation, or administrative proceedings,
in various circumstances, including enforcement of the governing
documents. The Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act
requires, before a common interest development association or an
owner of a separate interest therein brings certain actions related
to the enforcement of the development's governing documents, that the
parties endeavor to submit their dispute to alternative dispute
resolution, as specified. Existing law defines and regulates
operating rules in connection with common interest development
associations and applies them to association procedures for
resolution of assessment disputes.
This bill would revise and recast the provisions described above
relating to dispute resolution. The bill would specify that a common
interest development association and an owner of a separate interest
may enforce governing documents other than the declaration. The
bill would create a new dispute resolution procedure for conflicts
between an association and a member, to be applied when the dispute
concerns specified subjects. The bill would require an association
to provide a fair, reasonable, and expeditious procedure for
resolving these disputes, as defined by certain minimum standards,
and would provide a procedure for associations that do not have a
procedure of their own that meets the minimum standards, among them
that the member not be charged a fee to participate in the process.
The bill would also require that the association provide notice of
its dispute resolution process, as specified.
This bill would revise the existing dispute resolution provisions,
described above, to clarify their application to other nonjudicial
processes and to broaden their applicability to include actions
enforcing the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act and the
Nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporation Law. Among other things, the
bill would also provide for the tolling of a statute of limitations
in certain circumstances, expand the permissible methods of service
of a request to submit a dispute to the resolution process, and
change the confidentiality protections applied to these procedures.
The bill would require that a common interest development association'
s procedures for the resolution of all disputes, not only those
related to assessments, satisfy requirements regarding association
operating rules. The bill would make additional technical and
conforming changes.
The bill would incorporate additional changes in Section 1357.120
of the Civil Code proposed by AB 2376 that would become operative
only if AB 2376 and this bill are both chaptered and become effective
on or before January 1, 2005, and this bill is chaptered last.

US wants to build network of friendly militias to combat terrorism
Is this a form of privatization? I'd say so:

The Pentagon has urged Congress to authorize 500 million dollars for building a network of friendly militias around the world to purge terrorists from "ungoverned areas" -- and warned Muslim clerics against providing "ideological sanctuary" to radicals.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a key architect of the Iraq war, told the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday the money would be used "for training and equipping local security forces -- not just armies -- to counter terrorism and insurgencies." - An unwelcome mat for free speech
Here's a good piece by Tony Mauro on the lack of freedom of speech in HOAs. There's a mention of yours truly down the page:

One of the bonuses of an election season is the lively debate that takes place on our front lawns. Political signs — some plain, some biting — mark the vitality of our door-to-door democracy.
Yet, for a growing number of Americans, that showcase of democracy is unthinkable. They are among the estimated 50 million people who live in communities governed by some form of homeowner association — gated, planned or retirement communities, cooperatives and condominiums. For the past several years, an estimated four out of five new housing units have fit this category. They are popular for good reason. They include access to shared services and shared property, such as pools and parks, and create a sort of instant community.

But there is a regrettable price to pay — a diminution of free-speech rights. In pursuit of noble-sounding goals such as avoiding visual clutter or keeping property values high, most such communities require residents to abide by rules against lawn signs, posters and banners of all sorts, including flags in many cases. When these communities were isolated enclaves, these private muzzles seemed less worrisome. But now that entire municipalities are beginning to be dominated by such community associations, and many more will soon be, it is time to be alarmed about what this trend is doing to our freedom to express ourselves.