Saturday, April 14, 2007

Homeowners association loses bid to keep $60,000 trucks under wraps
Fred Pilot sent this along. Man, would I love to have that truck in my driveway. How can a luxury vehicle hurt property values? And what a ridiculous rule, anyway.

PALM CITY — For two years, Mark Kirk and his 2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT lived the perfect suburban life. Kirk swung the luxury sport utility truck in and out of his driveway in his gated community with little more than compliments from neighbors and friends. But in 2005, on the heels of a leadership change in his community's homeowners association, Kirk and another Escalade owner received messages from community leaders. Because the cargo areas on their $60,000 trucks made them look like pickups, association leaders said, they would be able to keep their vehicles only if they stashed them as far out of public view as possible. Association leaders took their battle against the Escalade owners to court, asking a judge in September to grant an injunction forcing Kirk and another homeowner, Darrell Willson, either to shove their 19-foot trucks into their 20-foot garages or get rid of them. The dispute culminated in a weeklong trial before Circuit Judge Robert Makemson last year. An attorney for the Preserve at Hammock Creek homeowners association argued that the Escalade owners violated association rules against "boats, trailers ... motor homes, golf carts, motorcycles, pickup trucks or recreational or commercial vehicles" in any area visible to passersby outside the home. Stuart attorney Bill Ponsoldt, representing Kirk and Willson, brought in documents from General Motors and local dealers who classified the vehicles as either a sport utility vehicle or a sport utility truck. On Friday, Makemson issued ruling in chambers siding with Ponsoldt and the Escalade owners, saying that if the makers of the EXTs don't classify the cars as pickups, neither should the homeowners association.
Snow won't dampen global-warming rallies
Right. Neither will any other form of evidence. > News > Business -- March home sales down, but prices go up
San Diego got hit hard by the real estate slump. Here's some mixed news, which is better than all bad news. But take a look at the little snippet on HOA dues at a place called "Bridgeview." Does $180 a month seem low?

March home sales turned in their biggest year-over-year decline since 1995, but the region's median sale price rebounded to $490,000 in a possible sign that San Diego County's housing slump is easing...The overall median price of $490,000 was up $10,000 from February, but still 4.9 percent below the median a year earlier...The monthly homeowner association dues [at Bridgeview], relatively low at about $180, also are considered a plus.
Chicago Business News, Analysis & Articles | ComEd proposes condo association relief | Crain's
ComEd wants to help? Sounds like that old joke about the scariest words in the English language being "I'm from the federal government and I'm here to help you." Read closely and you can see the proposal is that ComEd will satisfy itself with a 24% increase in condo rates if the state legislature agrees not to pass a law to roll back the increase to last year's rates.

Commonwealth Edison Co. told state lawmakers Thursday that it wants to help condominium associations socked with higher-than-expected electric bills since the utility’s rate hike went into effect this year. At a hearing in Chicago before the Illinois House Electric Utility Oversight Committee, ComEd President J. Barry Mitchell laid out a $4.5-million plan that would bring increases for about 850 condo buildings, mainly in Chicago, in line with the 24% average hike being paid by most Chicago-area households. The proposal is part of a funding package being negotiated by Senate Democrats and ComEd, its parent Exelon Corp. and Downstate utility Ameren Corp. to aid those hardest-hit by this year’s electric rate hikes. The condo aid won’t be available if there’s no overarching deal with lawmakers, a ComEd spokeswoman says. A deal would be aimed at heading off legislation to roll rates back to last year’s levels and freeze them there for at least a year.
Benny L. Kass - A To-Do List to Keep the Condo's Books -
Benny Kass is one of the few community association law specialists who represents owners as well as associations. He has always seemed to me to be a level-headed and very knowledgeable attorney. Here is his latest Washington Post column with some advice on avoiding misuse of association funds.
Florida Attorneys David G. Muller and Yeline Goin Named Co-Directors of Community Association Leadership Lobby

This is the organization that was set up by the law firm of Becker and Poliakoff to counter the influence of CCFJ and other real HOA owner organizations, who regard CALL as "Astroturf Roots" as opposed to grass roots. Both these attorneys are with B&P.
E! News - Martha Stewart Living with Opposition - Martha Stewart
Mystery Reader put me onto this story. Interesting situation:

Martha Stewart's plan to trademark the name of her hometown of Katonah, New York, is not a good thing, at least as far as some of her neighbors are concerned. The Katonah Village Improvement Society voted Monday to allow its trademark committee to take the necessary steps to block the domestic diva from securing rights to the town's name. The vote authorized the committee to spend up to $200 in legal costs in order to file formal opposition to Stewart's trademark application. The town has until Apr. 11 to make its case before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The homemaking maven has been the subject of ongoing controversy in the posh Westchester County community since revealing in January that she wanted to license the town's name for use in her various business ventures.

George F. Will - Fuzzy Climate Math -
Tom Skiba referred me to this George Will column. It has been unseasonably cold, and on Wednesday here in Chicago we got hit with a major snow storm. I was giving a talk on HOAs at a conference on urban theory at UIC. I started it by speculating that Al Gore must be in town giving a talk on global warming. Remember "the Gore Effect"? As I sit here Saturday the snow is still melting off.

In a campaign without peacetime precedent, the media-entertainment-environmental complex is warning about global warming. Never, other than during the two world wars, has there been such a concerted effort by opinion-forming institutions to indoctrinate Americans, 83 percent of whom now call global warming a " serious problem." Indoctrination is supposed to be a predicate for action commensurate with professions of seriousness.

Realty Times - Canada: Consumer Complaints Drive Amendment to Condominium Law

Fred Pilot sent this. It was originally posted to the HOAs Yahoo group. Did you know that 40% of the new housing in Ontario is in condos?

Rosario Marchese, MPP for Toronto's Trinity–Spadina riding, has put forward Bill 185, An Act to amend Ontario's Condominium Act of 1998, which is currently working its way through the legislative process. On March 22, it passed second reading and was referred to the Standing Committee on General Government. This system relies on MPPs receiving consumer feedback to encourage their support or rejection of such a Bill. Those with personal condominium experiences to share, should contact their MPP. Marchese believes that the intensity of debate and attention focused on creating and passing the current 1998 Condominium Act did not produce a law which fully protects consumers who buy and own a condominium of any type. This Act replaced Ontario's first condominium law enacted in 1978... According to records from the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Marchese justified his Bill by saying:"In fact, 40 per cent of all new housing [in Ontario] is condominium-related, and so it isn't a surprise to me any longer to find that there are a whole lot of condominium owners who are concerned about their relationship to developers in particular ... . They think and they believe [that] they are not being heard, and they're right. This Bill is an attempt to address that problem and to address the growth and the lack of changes that have not kept up with that growth." | Flag-flier OK under law, official says
Fred Pilot found this one. After 9/11 HOAs across the nation were making people take down their American flags. Dont' ask me why, but they were. So Congress passed a law protecting flag display rights against HOAs. But we still get examples of HOAs trying to do it anyway. If I live to be a hundred I will never understand this anti-American flag nonsense from community associations. Even CAI tells them not to do this.

DRAPER — A Utah homeowners association will be breaking a federal law — or at least the spirit of the law — if it doesn't allow a Draper veteran to continue flying the American flag on the front of his home, a congressional spokeswoman said.
Lisa Wright, press secretary for Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., said the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 was written to ensure that Americans such as Draper's Kevin Capito are able to fly the flag at their homes.
The legislation was sponsored by Bartlett, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush on July 24, 2006.
Capito said he believes that law is being violated by the Village Townhomes homeowners' association, which, through a property-management company, has ordered him to remove the flag mounted at a 45-degree angle above his front door.
Community Management, which manages the townhomes, notified Capito that the external mounting is in violation of the HOA's covenants, conditions and restrictions because it was not an approved exterior improvement. | HOAs bilked; 60-year-old arrested
Another property manager scandal story, from Fred Pilot:
A 60-year-old Cathedral City woman has been charged with embezzlement for allegedly taking more than $361,000 in a homeowners association scam. San Bernardino sheriff's deputies arrested Mary Lambert Clark, also known as Mary Jacquelin Clark, at 57-459 Buena Suerte Road in Yucca Valley on Tuesday, according to San Bernardino County jail records. Riverside County investigators had issued a warrant for her arrest. Clark managed nine homeowners associations with at least two in Palm Springs, according to a felony complaint filed at the Riverside County Superior Court.

Daily Herald - Man claims law lets him display US flag in condo
From Nancy Levy:
DRAPER, Utah -- A man who spent four years serving in the Air Force says his homeowners association told him to remove his American flag from over the doorway of his home, despite a federal law that protects such displays. "Basically, they said they would put a lien on my house if it wasn't taken down," said Kevin Capito. "Personally, I don't feel it's unreasonable to want to fly the flag."

Sip some wine, mingle, maybe buy a house
Think of this the next time somebody tells you that people who buy into HOAs know exactly what they are getting into. Nice photo of prospective homebuyer chugging wine while looking at a picture of the house of his dreams. No copy of the CC&Rs in sight.

It's common enough for an art gallery to serve wine, or a wine shop to show art, but pairing wine with selling homes may be more unlikely. Yet in downtown Kirkland Thursday evening, visitors to Windermere Real Estate's new Living Room sipped shiraz beside paintings of flowers and pictures of local homes for sale. It's a low-key way for people to start a home search, office owner Aaron Shriner said. "This is their opportunity to come, get information, ask questions then tell us who it is they want to work with."
...Shriner pointed out, without being asked, that he's not going to get buyers drunk so he can sell them a home.

Subprime bailouts would get costly - Apr. 13, 2007
What the heck. We bailed out the S&L industry (well, liquidated it might be a better choice of words). Now the proposal is to bail out the homeowners who gambled and lost in the subprime mortgage market on homes that they couldn't afford. I wonder if there will come a time when somebody proposes a taxpayer bailout for HOAs that didn't set aside enough in reserves to maintain their common areas.

NEW YORK (Money) -- Want to pick up the check for every homeowner who got saddled with a risky mortgage? It's a big one - on the order of $120 billion. Lawmakers and consumer groups in recent weeks have been calling for assistance for those at risk of defaulting on their mortgage. On Wednesday, Congressional Democrats led by Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) advocated steering hundreds of millions of dollars into nonprofits to help the growing number of homeowners who are having trouble paying their mortgage. But economists and industry experts say the cost of a bailout would be significantly more than that. Christopher Cagan, director of research at First American CoreLogic, says rising mortgage payments on adjustable rate loans will force 1.1 million homeowners into foreclosure over the next 6 years. He estimates the cost of paying off the debt for those borrowers would be $120 billion.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Rising foreclosures reshaping communities -
Here is a Fred Pilot find from USA Today on the impact of the high and rising rate of mortgage foreclosures on neighborhoods, not just the folks who lose their homes. From what I have read, I'd say we aren't yet seeing the light at the end of the foreclosure tunnel. And of course many HOAs are trying to figure out how to handle non-payment issues.

And as thousands of homeowners across the nation are learning, it's not only home values that are being affected by the foreclosure crisis. When foreclosures rise, as they have in Water's Edge and other middle-class areas amid the meltdown of the subprime mortgage market, they can unravel the social fabric and reshape neighborhoods. The crime rate can rise while the quality of the schools goes down. Homeowner associations can see their treasuries drained. Nearby businesses close their doors, and local tax revenue suffers. These problems used to be concentrated in poor, urban and minority neighborhoods where mortgage defaults are more common. The real estate boom, turbo-charged by looser lending standards that began in 2000, changed that. Communities across the country, including some exclusive neighborhoods, have begun to feel the collateral damage of the pandemic use of adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, that required little or no down payments or proof of income.

Monday, April 09, 2007 | wildlife : Frozen bay turns otters into easy prey
More global warming. I think we all need to dismantle suburbia, scrap our cars and make the tires into sandals, and return to a hunting and gathering economy.

An extra-cold winter on the Alaska Peninsula has frozen sea otters out of the bay and pushed them onto the tundra near Port Heiden where they're easy prey for wolves, humans and hunger.