Saturday, August 18, 2012

Judge targets  ‘piece of s---’ lawyer with bullseye poster during trial - NY Daily News

Judge targets  ‘piece of s---’ lawyer with bullseye poster during trial - NY Daily News


A quirky Brooklyn judge lambasted a lawyer as a “piece of s---” and hung “Wanted” posters featuring the man’s photo — then drew a bull’s eye in red ink on the face, court papers allege.
Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack — who has been hailed nationwide as a hero for standing up for the little guy in foreclosure cases — is in the crosshairs of lawyers trying to boot him off their case.
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Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link.

County code backs up HOA's cat leash rule - Real Estate - ReviewJournal.com

County code backs up HOA's cat leash rule - Real Estate - ReviewJournal.com:
"Your HOA board members need to rethink their position of how to monitor the pool. At any time and in any community, associations have neighbors using their pools. It is a constant headache. With the economic conditions of Southern Nevada, not many associations can afford part-time summer security or a pool monitor. Some associations have people wear armbands to identify them as association members. The colors of the armbands often change each season."
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Fred Pilot sent the link to this Barbara Holland column in the Las Vegas Review Journal--one of those weekly "ask questions about your condo/HOA" columns.  This answer responds to a series of questions about some petty and annoying practices, in this case padlocking the pool gate. One alternative:  Armbands??? How about tattooed barcodes for all HOA residents, while you are at it?

Law firm may be double-dipping on homeowner association fees - latimes.com

Law firm may be double-dipping on homeowner association fees - latimes.com

"Question: My homeowners association has contracted with the same attorney firm on retainer for more than 25 years. The attorney also receives 40% of any money collected from dues and fines, and the association is demanding more in settlements to recoup its attorney expenses. In response to questions of this practice at a board meeting, the president said that "we have no choice in this economy due to the high number of delinquencies but to use the attorney's services, and all HOAs are doing this now." Many of my longtime neighbors are walking away from their homes because they can't meet these higher re-payment demands by the board. The association should be negotiating with owners, without the added expense of the attorney's fees. Is my association being ripped off, and are the attorneys double-dipping?"
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Donie Vanitzian responds to this question in her Los Angeles Times column. Donie points out some serious questions about what looks like an attorney taking a 40% contingency fee from amounts recovered from delinquent owners, but the amounts recovered would seem to already include attorney fees related to the recovery.  Add to that the fact that the attorney is already on retainer.  The question is whether the attorney is taking 40% of an amount recovered from the delinquent owner that actually includes attorney fees, presumably calculated on an hourly basis (and maybe even including his retainer). The question says, "My homeowners association has contracted with the same attorney firm on retainer for more than 25 years. The attorney also receives 40% of any money collected from dues and fines…"  But the retainer is probably for all the work the attorney does for them, not just collections. And the contract probably says something like, "the association pays the attorney $x per month, and in addition the attorney gets paid 40% of what he recovers from delinquent owners." But how does the attorney include his fees in the claim agains the owner, which he would certainly do, because those are recoverable under the statute?  First, how does he include a retainer fee?  Second, how does he include attorney fees related to the recovery, such as writing letters, etc.? Because only the recovery costs are chargeable to the owner.  And if he then takes 40% of the assessments, late fees, AND attorney fees, that certainly looks like double-dipping.  As Donie says, "Law firms engaged in a collections practice may take a percentage of the amount collected, forgoing any claim to attorney's fees, or they collect under situations allowing them to recover their fees. The latter generally pertains to associations collecting delinquent assessments."
Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Speed humps on community road lead to anger, vandalism � Marco Eagle

Speed humps on community road lead to anger, vandalism � Marco Eagle: Five complaints from residents reached Collier County Code Enforcement, which contacted board members and issued a notice of violation in June. Even private roads needed county approval for such changes, the county said.

Then a particularly contentious board meeting in July nearly ended in a brawl outside meeting chambers, Treasurer Terry Savage said.

"It was the biggest yelling match I've seen," said Savage, who has served on the board for more than a year. "I'm not sure my wife will want me to be on the board again."
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So called traffic calming devices such as speed bumps seem to have the opposite effect on the residents of this corner of Privatopia.

Ruling could change course of collection proceedings - chicagotribune.com

Ruling could change course of collection proceedings - chicagotribune.com

Delinquent condominium owners historically have been told to pay up, no matter how well the board took care of the property. But an Illinois appellate court this summer said just the opposite. The groundbreaking decision could change the course of collection proceedings nationwide.
The case, Spanish Court Two Condominium Association v. Lisa Carlson, began two years ago when the association sued the owner for nonpayment of assessments under the Forcible Entry and Detainer Act. This law allows associations to take temporary possession of a unit and rent it out until the delinquency has been paid. The owner countersued the association for failing to maintain, repair and replace the common elements as required by its governing documents. The trial court ruled in favor of the association.
But the Second District Appellate Court in late June disagreed. The three-judge panel ruled that associations are duty-bound to repair and maintain the common elements and that neglect can be a viable defense, at least in eviction cases like this one. Comparing the relationships between landlords and tenants to associations and owners, they wrote: "Just as the contract principle of mutually exchanged promises can justify a tenant's refusal to pay rent, so that principle can justify a condominium unit owner's refusal to pay assessments."
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Pamela McKuen of the Chicago Tribune reports on this major decision.   Link to opinion here.

Experts debate legality of plan to apply eminent domain to mortgages - Real Estate - The Sacramento Bee

Experts debate legality of plan to apply eminent domain to mortgages - Real Estate - The Sacramento Bee: A plan to use eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages has raised hopes of homeowner bailouts in cities stricken by the housing crisis, including Sacramento, Rancho Cordova and Elk Grove.

But would such a novel plan even be legal?

Experts say the proposal being shopped around by San Francisco's Mortgage Resolution Partners may well meet the U.S. Supreme Court's broad definition of a public use under eminent domain law. The investor group is encouraging cities and counties to condemn mortgages and cut the amount borrowers owe to prevent blight and boost local economies.

The sticking point, legal experts say, will be when it comes to paying the "just compensation" required under the U.S. and California constitutions.
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Problem is by the time the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the question -- where the issue will mostly likely end up -- years will have elapsed and the current market will have changed such that fewer homes will be underwater.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Nation's Lower Class At Least Grateful It Not Part Of Nation's Middle Class | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Nation's Lower Class At Least Grateful It Not Part Of Nation's Middle Class | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "The unrealistic expectations and false hope they experience must be unbearable," Camden, NJ hotel clerk Allison Jacobsen told researchers, noting that while her $22,000 annual salary barely covers her rent and groceries each month, at least she doesn't operate under the flawed assumption that her situation will ever improve. "A life spent constantly stressing out over a dead-end job or struggling to pay off a fixed 30-year mortgage on a continuously depreciating three-bedroom townhouse? It's horrific.

State's high court: Mortgage registry can't foreclose | Business & Technology | The Seattle Times

State's high court: Mortgage registry can't foreclose | Business & Technology | The Seattle Times:
"In a unanimous opinion, the Washington Supreme Court said that Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) can't begin a foreclosure itself because it doesn't hold the note the homeowner signed with the lender. The ruling means banks or other noteholders will have to initiate foreclosures themselves instead of relying on MERS."
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Here in Illinois there is an appellate court case saying that MERS does have standing to foreclose. I think this is nuts.  MERS is just a scam the banks cooked up to cheat counties out of the recording fees every time they re-sell a note and mortgage. Now they want to use this phony organization as a quick way to foreclose, instead of having to prove that there is a real bank that really own the original note. Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link.

Homeowners associations foreclose on banks | The Courier-Journal | courier-journal.com

Homeowners associations foreclose on banks | The Courier-Journal | courier-journal.com
I have posted articles about this practice before. It highlights the economic challenges facing many HOAs and condo associations. Banks are the 800 pound gorilla of this economy, it seems. They can break laws and instead of people going to jail, the taxpayers are forced to shovel money into their gaping maws.  It is obvious that this practice of stiffing associations out of assessments on bank-owned properties is a deliberate strategy to avoid their financial obligations. We are constantly hearing all this whining and condemnation of "strategic defaults," but what do you call this? Thanks to Mika, Fred Fischer, and the others who sent this link.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

When Serving Jail Time for Unpaid Debts Becomes a Debt Spiral - Credit Slips

When Serving Jail Time for Unpaid Debts Becomes a Debt Spiral - Credit Slips:
"Tell me.� Are we allowed to do anything we like to those with the least power and money in our society? Are there no limits? We know that in some states, private actors have been permitted to charge 500-1,000% for loans, but what about public actors? Can you think of any debtor-credit practices that rise to the level of human right violations? This is question Chrystin Ondersma (Rutgers Newark School of Law) and I have been asking ourselves in connection with a project on which we are working."
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This post on Credit Slips by law professor Nathalie Martin raises some troubling questions.  Local governments seem to be using their police powers to raise revenue.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Woman says HOA wants her to part ways with pet dog - WSMV Channel 4

Woman says HOA wants her to part ways with pet dog - WSMV Channel 4: All three pups live with Brown at the house she owns in the Park Place subdivision in Antioch. She said she was surprised to receive a letter from the HOA telling her she was breaking its bylaws by having three dogs.

"Not to exceed a total of two," Brown said, reading the letter.

The letter asks Brown to get rid of one dog or else the board would remove one and turn it over to "the appropriate agency for keeping or disposal."
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One of the dogs must go or end up on death row at the pound.  More bad press for Privatopia...film at 10.

Five Ways Privatization Degrades America | Common Dreams

Five Ways Privatization Degrades America | Common Dreams: "A grand delusion has been planted in the minds of Americans, that privately run systems are more efficient and less costly than those in the public sector. Most of the evidence points the other way. Private initiatives generally produce mediocre or substandard results while experiencing the usual travails of unregulated capitalism -- higher prices, limited services, and lower wages for all but a few 'entrepreneurs.'"
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And corruption of various types.  Chicago is a great example.  The "Hired Trucks Program," the parking meter lease, privatization of the parking garages, the Chicago Skyway deal--all the public got were higher prices and more corruption.

Of course, there are situations where privatization does produce savings on functions that don't need to be done by public employees.  The problem is that once the door is opened to privatization, all sorts of unsavory characters start thinking about ways they can cash in.

WIKILEAKS: Surveillance Cameras Around The Country Are Being Used In A Huge Spy Network - Business Insider

WIKILEAKS: Surveillance Cameras Around The Country Are Being Used In A Huge Spy Network - Business Insider: "Every few seconds, data picked up at surveillance points in major cities and landmarks across the United States are recorded digitally on the spot, then encrypted and instantaneously delivered to a fortified central database center at an undisclosed location to be aggregated with other intelligence. It’s part of a program called TrapWire and it's the brainchild of the Abraxas, a Northern Virginia company staffed with elite from America’s intelligence community."
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I feel safer already. Don't you? And I wonder if that "other intelligence" includes private security cameras around shopping malls and gated communities.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rising insurance costs threaten home sales in Fla. - Tampa Bay Times

Rising insurance costs threaten home sales in Fla. - Tampa Bay Times: Florida's housing market was one of the hardest hit during the mortgage crisis, and the state has some of the nation's highest property insurance costs. Florida also has a higher percentage of delinquent mortgages than any other state.

Many homeowners are feeling the pinch of rising insurance costs even as property values have slumped, wages are sinking and unemployment remains high.
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This is the fallout from a series of major hurricanes that pummeled Florida a decade ago.