Saturday, May 14, 2005

Residents riled over new rules
Thanks to Fred Pilot for informing us about the one guy who hasn't (yet) been cited for a CC&R violation...

Bill Thompson admitted being one of the lucky homeowners at the Summit View subdivision in Severance. Thompson, 61, hadn't received any violation notices so far from Vintage Corp., a Greeley homeowners association management company, but he is keeping his fingers crossed. "I may have one today. I haven't been to the mailbox yet," joked Thompson.

Friday, May 13, 2005 Taking back the neighborhood

From Fred Pilot by way of Patrick's HOA News, comes this story of a group of neighbors struggling to find a legal way to combat a property management company that is driving them nuts:

FALCON - Woodmen Hills homeowners are tired of being scolded for letting their children camp in the backyard, failing to scrub away oil spots in their driveways and parking cars on the streets. They’re also weary of fighting to rid their neighborhood of what they think is an overzealous property management company... - NBC 6 Special Projects - Locked Out
I think Patrick's HOA News is the finder of this story, sent to me by Fred Pilot. Tell me again why gated communities are safe?

MIAMI -- In an emergency, seconds count for rescue teams. But what NBC 6's Willard Shepard saw when he rode with fire rescue crews was amazing. Many of the emergency teams were locked out of gated South Florida housing developments, condos and apartment complexes.
Vultures smell drop in hot Florida condo market - Yahoo! News
A handful of real estate entrepreneurs are forming "vulture capital" funds to pounce on what they call an inevitable downturn in an exploding south Florida real estate market fueled by foreign buyers searching for safe havens and aging baby boomers looking to downsize and move closer to the coast.

Fred Pilot sent this. Condos get hit first when the economy hits the skids, or in this case when/if the real estate market goes sour. Are all those stories I've linked to over the last year or so about $350,000 condos being much in demand in California and Florida the precursor to the collapse of an overpriced market?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

KESQ NewsChannel 3 Palm Springs, CA: Father, condo association at odd over yellow ribbons
Fred Pilot sends this, the latest attempt of a condo association to generate bad press for itself and cast the entire institution of private residential government into total disrepute. Way to go, gang!

SANTA ROSA, Calif. The father of a U-S airman serving in Iraq is at odds over with his condominium association about the yellow ribbons he has placed on his condo.
Chicago Bans Hand-Held Phones for Drivers
So be careful when you cross the line dividing the People's Republic of Chicago from the United States of America :-}
Neighbors Get Letters From HOA With Names Of Sex Offenders Living Nearby - Yahoo! News
Fred Pilot finds a new wrinkle on neighborhood (association) watch:

People living near Arno Park in southwest Kansas City have received letters from their homeowners association with names of sex offenders living nearby.

Attorney general backs some limits on flag flying - Wednesday, 05/11/05
Fred Pilot sent me this link to a story that is just hard to believe. How could a state attorney general come up with an opinion like this? The article has a link to the proposed bill and the AG opinion. I haven't had time to read it. But the article text is remarkable:

People in Tennessee don't have the right to hang an American flag in their yard or from their balcony if doing so runs afoul of neighborhood rules, the state attorney general said in an opinion yesterday.

The ruling came in response to a bill in the legislature that would have made flying the American flag always legal, even in neighborhoods or buildings with restrictive covenants. The bill had been prompted by a flag controversy in Williamson County.

Attorney General Paul Summers says the bill is probably unconstitutional on three fronts.

• First, he said, it tampers with existing contracts between homeowners and neighborhood associations.

• Second, it probably violates the right to free speech by choosing the American flag over other flags or messages people might want to display.

• Also, Summers said, it may be construed as a move by the state to interfere with private property rights without compensation.

I don't know if the article summarizes his position accurately (in fact, I'm hoping it doesn't), but all of these grounds stated in the article are wrong. First, there is no contract clause violation here; second, the argument that protecting the American flag violates free speech rights because it prefers the US flag over the White Hand of Sauron is ridiculous; third, the suggestion that this is a takings clause violation is so ludicrous that I have a hard time believing anybody with a law license, much less a state attorney general, could say it. Numerous states have laws protecting the display of the flag in HOAs. The issue is not whether flag protection laws violate the constitution. The issue is whether HOA covenants restricting flag displays violate the constitution.

I have now read the brief opinion from this AG. As I suspected, there is no authority cited that could remotely support these bizarre conclusions. This person simply has no familiarity whatsoever with the law on this particular subject. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. The opinion is based on uninformed speculation about the application of general constitutional provisions, without any understanding of the existing body of law on how those provisions have been applied to date. Any legislator could get better informed on these issues with one hour spent using LEXIS.
Irn Bru in Stock- Irn-Bru USA,
In case you want to try it... - News - Pink Flamingo Yard Ornaments Returned
Thank goodness. I was getting worried.

CENTRALIA, Wash. -- Five pink flamingo yard ornaments have returned to Tom Singer's home in Centralia as mysteriously as they disappeared.Singer says he found the ornaments on his porch last week with no note or explanation. When they were taken a week earlier, the bird-napper left a message demanding a ransom of candy bars be left in a mailbox or, it warned, pink heads would roll. Singer didn't pay. Instead he left a note saying to read the police blotter in the newspaper.
Moxie, that distinctively flavored soda that dates back to patent medicine days, is a step closer to becoming Maine's state drink.
I was born in Maine, and I have actually tasted Moxie. I think that entitles me to ask why government officials would do a thing like this. The phrase "distinctively flavored" doesn't quite capture it. "Horrible tasting" would be closer to the mark. If you want a "distinctively flavored soda" that actually tastes good, try the Scottish Irn-Bru, which is hard to find unless you are strolling around Glasgow, or the Texas-made drink that is the closest to it, Big Red, according to my 14 year old son, Hunter. - Slave cabin in Maryland to be restored - Will be surrounded by affluent African-American community

This developer had a project underway in PG County, and ran into a little piece of local history:

A tumbledown shack believed to be the only slave cabin left in Prince George's County will be restored in the field where it was found. And surrounding it will be a neighborhood of million-dollar homes, most of which will probably be owned by African-Americans...About 18 months ago developer Haverford Homes came up with plans to build "estate homes" on a 116-acre portion of the tract, each on lots of five acres or more, over the next few years. But while the land was being surveyed, a couple who lived in the former planter's house told the company about the cabin.

Homeowners liable for stormwater?
Thanks to Fred Pilot for forwarding this link. More municipal mandates requiring developers to create HOAs, because municipalities want the HOAs to do what would otherwise be their responsibility. Nothing like forcing these "volunteers" to work for nothing, is there? And if it leads to creating another level of government that operates without constitutional limits and is loaded with people who have no idea what they're doing, well, that's the way the cookie crumbles, I guess...

The Fayette County Commission may soon make homeowners’ associations mandatory for all new subdivisions in the county. That’s one of the options the county’s leaders are considering to comply with tough new storm-water management requirements established by the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District. Phil Mallon, who works in the county’s engineering department, briefed the board on the preferred option. He suggested that all inspection and maintenance of any storm-water collection areas, such as detention ponds, be placed with the subdivision’s homeowners’ association. The county would monitor the group’s compliance with the ordinance and if the group failed to maintain standards, each homeowner would be assessed for the county’s work on their next tax bill.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Assembly OKs notice requirements for delinquent assessments - Yahoo! News
Fred Pilot sends news on the foreclosure reform front from the land of the Governator, who vetoed something similar last year from Senator Ducheny but invited a new foreclosure bill for this year. The Assembly bill is AB 619, and it is linked to Senator Ducheny's new bill, SB 137, and you can locate them at the California Assembly legislative information website
SACRAMENTO (AP) -- Homeowners' associations would have to give adequate notice before beginning foreclosure proceedings against a homeowner under a bill approved Monday by the state Assembly. The measure by Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, would require the association to send notifications regarding delinquent assessments and foreclosure proceedings to both the homeowner's primary address as well as any secondary address. It would also require the association to offer the homeowner a plan to pay off the assessments. Any decision to begin foreclosure proceedings would have to be made at a meeting of the association's board of directors.
Quote of the week:
The provenance of this quote is: from Fred Pilot, forwarding a post from Beanie Adolph to the HOAs newsgroup on Yahoo, who in turn cited the Houston Chronicle:

From The Houston Chronicle
City and State Section
Page B-3
May 10, 2005

Quote of the Day
"Nowhere else in this country are we seeing homeowners' associations with this kind of power taking people's homes. And if this is going on in another country, we call them Communist, we call them evil for taking people's homes."
-Rep. Kevin Bailey, D-Houston, arguing in favor of HB 2215, which protects homeowners through increased notification and judicial procedures before a home can be foreclosed.

Here's what they celebrate in Esperantina, Brazil...

Sent in by Fred Pilot--a PG-13 link, so beware.
...and here's what we celebrate in Lindenhurst, IL
Maybe I'll drop a note in the suggestion box.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Condo ombudsman criticizes state agency: South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Fred Pilot sent along this piece by way of Patrick's HOA News. Seems Virgil Rizzo is getting angry, and you wouldn't like him whent he's angry...

The state agency charged with regulating condominiums, already the subject of a scathing report by the Legislature, came under attack on Friday by Florida's new condominium ombudsman. In his report, Ombudsman Virgil Rizzo of Fort Lauderdale said procedures used by the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums & Mobile Homes "are not only confusing, obsolete and impractical, but also ineffective, inefficient, antiquated and in serious need of complete revision."
Making room for everyone
Immigrants squeezed between need for housing, occupancy codes

Mystery Reader sent this link to a story about what is probably going to be a common situation:

...on July 8, 2003, when the family of four had barely settled into the two-bedroom townhouse in west suburban Villa Park, a letter arrived from the homeowners association saying local codes would allow only three people to live in the townhouse. According to the DuPage County codes that cover the unincorporated neighborhood the Moras had moved into, the townhouse's small second bedroom could accommodate just one person, not the couple's two sons. When the Moras unwittingly ran afoul of the local occupancy code, they got caught in a bind that housing experts say is increasingly common for immigrants in the Chicago area. Struggling to afford housing, they may put more people in one home than codes designed to protect health and safety will allow. And when municipal code-enforcement officers point that out, something's got to give.
Study Shows Traffic Keeps Getting Worse - Yahoo! News
Fred Pilot passed this along. Makes you wonder how people will get to work from all those nice new HOA-run homes.

WASHINGTON - If getting stuck in traffic makes you want to roll down your car window and scream, look no further than another of those studies to find the bad news: Gridlock is getting worse. Congestion delayed travelers 79 million more hours and wasted 69 million more gallons of fuel in 2003 than in 2002, the Texas Transportation Institute's 2005 Urban Mobility Report found.

The Brunswick News: City peeks at what could be

Nancy Levy sent this link to a piece on city leaders trying to figure out how to make their communities "bounce back." Now, take a look at this language from the item:

"Taking its cue from federal efforts to increase first-time home buyers through homeowners associations, the city launched a Rent-to-Own program designed to provide quality, low-cost housing for qualifying low- to moderate-income families and individuals."

I'm wondering (but I don't know) if this is a reference to the HOPE VI program, that was used to rebuild public housing projects a mixed-use developments with market rate housing, subsidized housing, and apartments, but run by HOAs. This was done to Cabrini Green, Robert Taylor Homes, etc., in Chicago.
Racism, in deed ( Online)
Thanks to Nancy Levy for spotting this story on the continued existence of race restrictive covenants that includes some comments from me:

PORTSMOUTH – When Cephas and Jessie Wright found their dream home in 1962, they knew they were not welcome in Prentis Park. “In order to look at the house, we had to come at night,” Cephas said. “You didn’t have to tell us why. We knew what it was. That was the times back then.” The homeowners admitted to the Wrights they had promised their neighbors they would not sell to a black family. But it wasn’t until 25 years later that the couple learned that racial discrimination in Prentis Park was based on more than a handshake. The deed arrived by mail after the Wrights made their final mortgage payment. Cephas leafed through the document and stared in amazement at one page that read: “no part of the property hereby conveyed shall be sold, leased or otherwise disposed of, to any Negro or persons of African descent.”...Though they’re void, those restrictions still can be found on deeds for many homes built in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Fair-housing advocates say the offensive language should be removed. They plan to ask the Virginia legislature to pass a law next year that would automatically strike discriminatory clauses from deeds whenever property is sold...Evan McKenzie, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, believes all racist restrictions should be removed from deeds and homeowners association bylaws, but he said no state has been that ambitious. “These covenants are insulting and stigmatizing,” said McKenzie, who has written about the use of covenants by homeowners associations. “I can’t prove it but there’s a tremendous amount of racial discrimination going on in the sale and renting of houses. If you drive through the neighborhoods, particularly, suburban neighborhoods, you will see a lot of segregation even though it’s illegal.” McKenzie said racial covenants first appeared after the Civil War but became more common after World War I, when black families moved to cities in search of industrial jobs. Most covenants were written into deeds by developers of suburban housing projects, he said. In other cases, real estate agents or homeowners themselves organized associations in existing neighborhoods to block integration. Even where those associations have disbanded, covenants remain on the deeds.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Here's an assessment of the legislative session bottom line, by Jan Bergemann of Cyber Citizens for Justice:
An Opinion By Jan Bergemann

Published May 7, 2005

The Florida Legislative Session 2005 ended and all bills filed relating to community associations died without ever getting a full vote of House and Senate.