Friday, August 14, 2009

Homeowners association cases fill court dockets - St. Petersburg Times

Homeowners association cases fill court dockets - St. Petersburg Times: "Prolonged — and some might argue trivial — homeowners association spats fill Florida court dockets. Unassuming homeowners, who pay assessments to maintain their communities and enforce deed restrictions, are left to foot legal bills that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

State Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, has tried for years to get both sides to consider swift and inexpensive resolutions rather than resorting to lawyers and costly court battles. His Home Court Advantage program would allow the HOA or the homeowner to file a dispute and settle the issue within 90 days through mediation. The cost: $300.

The measure passed the House and the Senate in 2008 before Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed it. It passed the House again this year, but the legislative session ended before the Senate could follow suit.

Ambler plans to reintroduce the bill during the next legislative session. He said he keeps pushing the issue because more than 80 percent of Floridians live under HOAs."

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80%? That's the highest percentage I have ever seen for any metro area, let alone an entire state. And if you read the first few graphs you will see how utterly out of control the situation is. Read the story of A. J. Vizzi, who just wanted to keep parking his pickup truck in the driveway, as he had for the preceding FOUR YEARS. And then the HOA went after him, and now, "Nearly eight years, two judges, five lawyers and more than $100,000 later, there's still no resolution."

These associations and their lawyers are wasting huge amounts of everybody's resources doing things like this. Who benefits? The association lawyers, I suppose. State legislators like Ambler want to push these disputes into mediation, which would make them less costly, but if it means the associations get to trample on owners less expensively, it is still not a good solution.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

The only beneficiaries are the HOA vendors - mostly HOA attorneys and HOA management companies.

Take away the power of an HOA to enforce restrictive covenants. Those who complain that HOAs are "necessary" have lost nothing. They are perfectly free to sue using their own resources.

The statutory regime has turned homeowners into fish in a barrel for the benefit of CAI. They can't file lawsuits fast enough to catch all the fish. Every fish means money.

Fred Pilot said...

ADR is a misguided solution because these are mostly trivial lawsuits prosecuted more on their potential to generate legal fees than the underlying merits.

The epidemic of frivolous, costly and wasteful litigation in HOAs is a vastly overlooked deleterious consequence of current public policy favoring the privatization of local government. It is this underlying policy that deserves attention, not the application of misguided and useless band aids such as proposing ADR and ombudspersons for HOAs.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. The scheme behind HOAs has also been overlooked as one of the primary forces behind the economic meltdown in the U.S. HOAs don't create value for the homeowners. They never have and they never will. Ask the subject of the article who can net again alleged gain against the ongoing out-of-pocket costs for attorney fees when or if he will ever be able to sell the property. Plus if the HOA ultimately prevails, they can take his home such that he also loses any and all equity that he might have built up in his home.

HOAs are a facade. Perception is not reality.
Google has been perhaps one of the best resources for homeowners to discover how prevalent the problems are as more and more web pages spring up to divulge what is going on in the subdivisions and the ubiquitous presence of CAI wherever there are problems. This is not a coincidence. I think many, many homeowners are recognizing CAI for what it truly is rather than for what it purports to be. As second class citizens, many HOA homeowners live in a dystopian environment with "private governance" that is more akin to the face of organized crime while the municipalities claim people actually chose this. Privatization is the root of the problem, not the solution to it.

K.G.Kruger said...

We are being held hostage by the HOA board and their HOA industry partners because if we do not pay whatever they demand, the HOA et al will lien and foreclose our home, adding thousands in legal fees and other charges to whatever the HOA claims we owe them. This is a fact of life in HOAland USA.

Shu Bartholomew said...

Evan,

According to folks in the county government, OVER 90% of all Fairfax County housing is in an HOA and that number is increasing because of the redevelopment craze. The county masterplan rezones older subdivisions (aka "The American Dream") into "increased density, pedestrian friendly, small town, every one is happy and feels good" contraptions of tiny little boxes stacked on top of each other. (aka "The American Nightmare")

That increases the tax base for the county (more people paying in) and reduces the services and amenities the county provides for those $$$ because now the HOA is responsible.

And we worry about affordable housing when Americans are having to pay twice for the infrastructure and basic services, they are getting smaller quarters, increased problems, less healthy environments to raise their families in, less space they own and control and in addition they pay someone to hold a big stick over them to ensure they are behaving themselves, parking their trucks properly, keeping their pets under the allowable weight limit, hosing off their mailboxes. And on occasion they find themselves having to pay hefty legal fees because this "community squabble" ended up "clogging the court system".

It is all beginning to sound like a very expensive kindergarten that we never manage to graduate from. A kindergarten in a nightmare that you never wake up from.

Will we ever get smart and accept the fact that this is no good for the individual owners or will we keep pounding this failed, flawed concept into our society till we all crash?

Fred Pilot said...

"That increases the tax base for the county (more people paying in) and reduces the services and amenities the county provides for those $$$ because now the HOA is responsible."

That's a de facto property tax increase and why the privatization of local government is a taxpayer issue.

"Will we ever get smart and accept the fact that this is no good for the individual owners or will we keep pounding this failed, flawed concept into our society till we all crash?"

That's a public policy question and should be addressed accordingly.

mitch said...

I would like to know how he came to the number being 80% HOA. One thing leads me to believe that this is maybe in error is that there are so many condos in Florida besides HOAs. Perhaps he means to say 80% of the population live in CIRAs (Common Interest Realty Associations) but that number is also suspect. This distinction is really important, because condos in Florida are regulated and HOAs are not. Now, can the press, politicians, and blogers cite the source for there numbers that they throw around with such ease? Please.

Anonymous said...

You can argue the legal protocol all day long. Let's face it, in the cases where innocent people were targeted, including vulnerable populations, single female households, what has taken place is frauds upon the courts, lying and stealing, in my experience and opinion. How many association attorneys actually tell a homeowner to do something, then turned around and filed a lawsuit against them for doing what the attorney told them to do? Who is the homeowner to trust, if not the person whose salary you are paying for legal "expertise." The board members, industry "professionals," and their legal associates, who have carried out these crimes, need to go to jail. The sooner, the better. In addition, the press needs to do a much better job keeping track of who these crooks are, before they end up onn the next board!

Anonymous said...

Well here's a recent article in the Houston Chronicle regarding the business practices of an HOA management company controlled and ultimately owned by Sen John Carona via his Associations, Inc. business aka Associa.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6566718.html

Sen Carona has been authoring and promoting anti-homeowner legislation for many years. Closed records, closed meetings, and closed elections ensure that graft and corruption can continue unabated. The primary beneficiaries are the management company and aligned HOA attorney. What's unusual about this story is not that it is going on but rather that law enforcement is actually looking into it. We'll have to see if the DA follows up on Carona's banking, insurance, and accounting practices in HOAs. Who wants to bet that at least one of the bank accounts was with CAI bank aka Community Associations Banc of Nevada and another one would be with Carona's own First Associations Bank?

There is one glaring article in the newspaper: the comment that Sen Carona's management companies represent homeowners. Of course that is due to the reporter's misunderstanding that the management company represents only itself under the pretext of representing the association. The management company never represents the involuntary members of the HOAs.

Fred Pilot said...

The Houston Chronicle article excerpt:

The issues at play in Sterling Green South focus attention on the practices of management companies that collect assessments for associations representing millions of American families.

* * *

My read of the term "representing" in the context of this paragraph is associations contain millions of American families.

Fred Fischer said...

State Rep. Kevin Ambler’s idea of using less expensive mediation (not arbitration) in lou of the courts is a good equalizer to even the playing field and provide affordable access to both defend and seek a resolution. Because one of the big pitfalls’s of using corporate contract governance to manage CID’s under HOA/POA control is that justice also becomes privatized as in the cases of arbitration and HOA Board control.

This situation starts when the HOA declaration is exclusively created by others without the participation of or inclusion of the public or their best interests.

Finally as California has documented, mistakes and misunderstandings are inevitable and may lead to serious, costly, and divisive problems. The principal remedy for a violation of common interest development law is private litigation. Litigation is not an ideal remedy where the disputants are neighbors who must maintain ongoing relationships. The adversarial nature of litigation can disrupt these relationships, creating animosity that degrades the quality of life within the community and makes future disputes more likely to arise. Litigation imposes costs on a common interest development community as a whole — costs that must be paid by all members through increased assessments. Many homeowners cannot afford to bring a lawsuit and are effectively denied the benefit of laws designed for their protection... California Law Revision Commission, Memorandum 2005-10, Exhibit 41, page 71.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen what Robert Metcalf has to say about his management company in Pennsylvania?

From The HOA Gravy Train:

"Here is an example of this phenomenon:
• My community is located in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
• The CAI has a local chapter with a website, http://www.cai-padelval.org .
• Up until the end of last year we were managed by Mid-Atlantic Management Company , http://www.mamc.com that is owned by Associa, http://www.associaonline.com who's CEO is John J. Carona http://www.associaonline.com/Corp/About/Leadership/jcarona.htm who just happened to have "served three terms as a member of the Texas House of Representatives and currently holds the office of Texas State Senator, to which he was elected in 1996. He has also served the community as a bank director and as the personal advisor for the real estate departments of several area financial institutions. In 1999, Mr. Carona was named "Legislator of the Year" by the Texas Chapters of the Community Associations Institute, and in both 1999 and 2001 he was named to the "Legislative Hall of Fame" by the Texas Association of Realtors."
Gee, do you think there might be a conflict of interest?"

The HOA Gravy Train
Bob Metcalf, Chadds Ford, PA
August 18th, 2007
Chadds Ford. Pennsylvania -

As a result of one of my recent comments the American Homeowners Resource Center has requested that I elaborate on the phrase " HOA Gravy Train" which, I use to describe the current state of affairs with regard to the business of "servicing" Homeowner Associations.

Dictionary.com defines "gravy train" thusly:

A position in which a person or group receives excessive and unjustified money or advantages with little or no effort:

As a resident and former treasurer of my HOA, located in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, I am intimately familiar with how this industry functions. In a word, it is appalling.

All Aboard ... Next Stop - Your Bank Account
Servicing HOAs represent a business opportunity that, for its practitioners, is almost unique in its capacity to fleece its "customers". Where else can you find

• An extremely large client base, approximately 60,000,000, that cannot say "no", as almost all HOAs are mandatory.
• Due to the incestuous relationship between the state legislators and the legal PACs that support them, it compels individuals to abide by laws written by the same people who benefit from them.
• Is guaranteed to go on forever because of deed restrictions that "run with the land in perpetuity".

Last year my HOA decided to change management companies. During the interview with the representative of the company we did finally hire, it became apparent that we would realize a reduction in annual operating expense of about $20, 000.00, which is significant for a community of our size. I was elated, as when it was included in the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, it would translate into an $11.00 per month reduction for the residents. Who wouldn't appreciate that? Well, the prospective manager's reaction was; "You never give it back ...". I was stunned. The president, an insufferable busybody with a messianic complex who judges the accomplishments of the Board by how "busy" he has been as opposed to any concrete achievement, was delighted. He now could retain funds for no apparent reason and justify it by claiming that it was recommended by a "professional". I felt my seat jerk, as we left the station...

Hey, Where Did My $50,000,000,000.00 Go?"

Remainder of article, including al the above:
http://pennsylvania.ahrc.com/engine.php/submission;page=input,action=display,id=1289
http://www.ahrc.se/new/index.php/src/news


Robert Metcalf On the Commons:

Jul 08, 2007 at 02:00 PM Robert Metcalf

http://onthecommons.us/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=154&Itemid=67

More Robert Metcalf:

Other ahrc.com
http://www.ahrc.se/new/index.php/src/tools/sub/yp/action/display/id/2434

Anonymous said...

Excerpted from HOA Nut House, “Your Purple House Press on the Net”

Homeowners association cases fill court dockets
Rodney Thrash, St Petersburg Times
Admin, Thu, 08/13/2009

“When A.J. Vizzi bought his home in Odessa’s Eagles community, he thought he could park his Ford F-350 pickup on the street. The homeowners association disagreed and eventually sued...
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Excessive litigation will
Anonymous44, Fri, 08/14/2009

Excessive litigation will harm property values far more than a truck parked in the driveway. There is something wrong with boards that believe these issues have any affect at all on property values. The only credible explanation is that these board members are drunk with their *power*.
________________________________________

"Excessive Litigation”
Anonymous248, Fri, 08/14/2009

"Excessive Litigation"

Terravita, a North Scottsdale (Arizona) upscale private golf and country club community of 1380 single-family homes, its boards of directors and lawyers seemingly have an affection for litigation as evidenced these 28 lawsuits.

During the twenty-four months from May 1, 2002 thru April 30, 2004, Terravita spent $474,876 of its members' dues and assessments prosecuting or defending one or more of its 28 lawsuits (from Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax).

P-Plaintiff D-Defendant

Note the "participation" of CAI's "finest," College of Community Association Lawyers

Ekmark & Ekmark, L.L.C.

CV1997-000435 TCA, Inc. (P) v. Adolph H. and Joy G. Wussow )D) [notorious American flag/flagpole case]

CV1998-002987 TCA, Inc. (P) v. Margaret Rowland (D)

CV2006-051448 William M. Brown (P) v. TCA, Inc. (D)

CC2006-184083 Brain W. Blacklock (P) v. TCA, Inc. and CCMC (D)

CV2007-007364 TCA, Inc. (P) v. Rosemarie Burke and Renaissance Flooring, Inc. (D)

LC2007-000588 TCA, Inc. (P) v. William M. Brown (D)

CV2008-013449 Piserchia, et al., (P) v. TCA, Inc. (TGC, Inc.) (D)


Carpenter Hazlewood, PLC

CV2001-021928 Christopher Meleshko (P) v. TCC, Inc. (D)

CV2002-002925 Maureen/Ralph Hess (P) v. TG&CC (D)

CV2002-004639 TCC, Inc. (P) v. Charles/Helen Joy Karlin and Hoe Fagelson (D)

CV2003-018588 TCC, Inc. (P) v. Gary L. and Deborah G. Askamit (D)

CV2003-021851 Margaret Thayer (P) v. TCC, Inc. and TGC, Inc. et al. (D)

CV2004-002882 TCC, Inc. (P) v. Timothy R. and Shirley E. Omalley (D)

CV2004-004867 TCC, Inc. (P) v. NLP Systems Limited (D)

CV2004-008824 TCC, Inc. (P) v. Charles/Helen Joy Karlin and City of Scottsdale (D)

CV2006-015717 TCC, Inc. (P) v. NLP Systems Limited (D)

TX2002-000128 TCC, Inc. (P) v. Maricopa County (D)

TX2002-000431 TCC, Inc. (P) v. Maricopa County (D)

TX2003-000149 TCC, Inc. (P) v. Maricopa County (D)

TX2004-000889 TCC, Inc. (P) v. Maricopa County and AZ State Dept. of Revenue (D)

TX2007-000315 TCC, Inc. (P) v. Maricopa County, County Attorney, AZ State Dept. of Revenue, County Assessor and Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (D)

TX2007-000446 TCC, Inc. (P) v. Maricopa County (D)

TJ2007-007317 Arrow Financial Services, LLC (P) v. TCC, Inc. D


Moyes Sellers & Sims (successor to Santin, Poli, Ball & Sims, PLC)

CV2003-021851 Margaret Thayer (P) v. TCC, Inc. and TGC, Inc. et al. (D)

CV2004-007779 Charles W. Mason, et al. (P) v. TGC, Inc. (D)

CV2004-007845 Alegis Group LP (P) v. Ronald R./Denise A. Leblanc, Black Mountain Golf Club, Inc. (D)

CC2007-165446 James Walter Farmer (P) v. TGC, Inc. (D)

CV2008-013449 Piserchia, et al., (P) v. TGC, Inc. (TCA, Inc.) (D)

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, here in Illinois, folks like me are STILL defending lawsuits that were filed against us by our HOA way back in May 1998 -- (for simply attempting to review/request HOA corporate records --including OUR membership list.

CAI affiliated "legal experts" have PUBLICLY called this case "malpractice" -- but, it persists nontheless -- filed by one of its own large scale members --- the Oak Run POA Inc. (by one of its own attorney members, John W. Robertson).

Even after the filing of four criminal complaints, by our State's Attorney, and written requests by Wayne Hyatt, and Evan McKenzie, ON MY BEHALF, we still have not been able to obtain the list of members -- as the law in Illinois clearly REQUIRES.

On a side note, Oak Run POA Inc.'s insurer, (Illinois National) was also sued (by Oak Run) for failing to reimburse the POA for "in excess of $508,000 in legal fees" -- including fees in the above case against me that is still pending.

The lawsuit against the insurer recently settled -- and the CAI trained manager, Michael Davison, claims the settlement terms are "confidential" and has refused to return calls to provide this information to the members -- (ie. the membership WAS the Plaintiff!

Go figure? Should it REALLY take MORE litigation to teach these managers and Boards what they should already know? The Association Attorney does NOT represent the Board. (See CAI Gap Report #13!)

Let the buyer beware... This Illinois scenario PROVES that EVERY association truly is just one Board/election away from HOA-Hell.

Our current Board has decided that it NOW wants to raise almost $11,000,000 for reserves (which have not been funded for the past 38 years of Oak Run's history due to various reasons).

The Oak Run Board NOW plans to use a combination of fees and assessments that were declared illegal, null, and void (in November 2000) to raise this $11,000,000. (See front page article of CAI Law Reporter February 2001 written by Attorney Wayne Hyatt -- who believe it or not,represented the Plaintiff in this case!!!)

Now can everyone understand why the Oak Board does not want the membership to receive the information that they have a right to -- ie. that assessments made after 1987 pursuant to the illegal amendments may be recoverable by each owner.

Some Illinois legislators are suggesting that since this case involves over 3,600 families -- in over 30 states -- and use of the U.S Mail to collect assessments under false pretenses -- that the Department of Justice should handle it from here...

Stay tuned. "RICO" is a term now being used in some troubled communities -- after all of these years -- and it is long overdue.

Not so anonymously,
Monica J. Sadler
H.A.R.E.S.
Moline, Illinois

P.S. By the way, I have complained repeatedly to CAI's Tom Skiba and Frank Rathbun -- (about the above referenced fraud and incompetence by particular members of CAI) -- and have received no responses.

Anonymous said...

Of course you won't hear from CAI. It's the sales department for private local government and there's no customer service department.

Anonymous said...

"Many homeowners cannot afford to bring a lawsuit and are effectively denied the benefit of laws designed for their protection... California Law "evision Commission, Memorandum 2005-10, Exhibit 41, page 71."
In addition, and in my opinion innocent homeowners who are singled out for this forced homelessness, cannot afford to defend themselves from fiction based lawsuits, whether it be because of discrimination, retaliation, vulnerability, coverig up actions of an abusive board, or one of the creative conflicts, some of these groups will dream up! Enough, is enough.
Once homeowners figure out what they have bought into, after their initial denial, they are not happy. Feel stupid? At this point in time, maybe they should! The abusiveness and forced homelessness, of some of these abusive boards, has not a;lways been the norm. I believe the hate and discrimination practices exhibited by some of these abusive boards and their associates, has manifested over time, been allowed to continue, in some areas and if the press does not reveal the TRUTH, and our elected officials do NOTHING, to rectify the VICTIMS, THOSE HOMELESS, and implement programs to stop theses rhefts, who is the wiser?

Anonymous said...

To Monica from Moline and other interested parties: County appraisal district records (property tax assessments) are publicly available info. In my county I can type in the main address of our Condo property(on the appraisal district web site) and the names and mailing addresses of all owners -whether they reside on property or elsewhere -are immediately available. Thus ownership and owner contact info is easily available -in my county -at the click of a mouse. I realize some counties may not have this info online, but I would think your county property tax appraisal office would either give you that info, let you dig through it on site for yourself or would be required to provide it under the Freedom of Information Act. My HOA is very small so appraisal/ownership records are a de facto listing of our membership and you can go door-to-door if you are brave or bold (and physically able). It sounds like your association is very large so I don't know how much help this suggestion will be for you, but hopefully it helps some.