Saturday, April 06, 2013

Mandatory sterilization for pit bulls? Page 1 of 2 |

Mandatory sterilization for pit bulls? Page 1 of 2 |
In the wake of recent brutal dog attacks, the Riverside County Department of Animal Services is proposing to mandate that owners of all pit bull purebreds and mixes in unincorporated communities sterilize the animals.
Good idea. Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Trayvon Martin wrongful death suit agains HOA settled

Trayvon Martin wrongful death claim more than $1 million -
It appears that the HOA's insurer decided not to further dispute the coverage issue. As I understand the situation, Zimmerman was a volunteer, but the HOA more or less advised people to take their security concerns to him. The policy had a $1 million limit, and the story says the HOA paid at least that. Unfortunately there is a confidentiality provision so ascertaining the exact amount is impossible at this point.  In any event, it will be interesting to see if HOA insurers take steps to distance themselves from this sort of liability.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

BIDs the solution for teen mobs?

Chicago, youth mobs, Gold Coast -
"Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, has a much better idea. He's introduced an ordinance that could put off-duty cops to work in commercial districts — in uniform and under the direction of the Police Department — paid for by local merchants through local chambers of commerce, business improvement districts or special taxing districts. That makes more sense than an earlier plan to expand police powers to private security guards.

Reilly says his proposal is a stopgap, not a solution. Chicago needs hundreds more full-time cops that it can't afford. In the meantime, his proposal would give businesses the option of hiring sworn officers to supplement the police presence in their neighborhoods. The plan isn't specific to downtown, he says. But that seems like an obvious place to start, and soon. Summer's coming."
So--protection in the business districts through hiring the cops as security guards?

Stockton's bankruptcy approved - SFGate

Stockton's bankruptcy approved - SFGate:
"A federal judge on Monday granted Stockton's reluctant, nearly year-old request to become the largest city in U.S. history to go bankrupt, but not before lambasting bond creditors for stonewalling negotiations despite what he called "good-faith" efforts by the city to find a solution for its financial problems...Buoyed by tax income from the housing boom of the early 2000s, Stockton approved "overly generous" employment packages and ambitious projects, including a waterfront baseball stadium, Klein said. Then, he said, "what we now call the Great Recession" and foreclosures hit the city like a bomb. By 2011, unemployment reached 22 percent, property values plunged by more than half, and the city was in a "painful" hole, the judge said."

The way I see it, many if not most state and local governments, special districts, and homeowner and condo associations are all facing major financial challenges. There are many reasons for this, but the most basic problem is simple: all of them have their hands in the pockets of the American middle class, and there is a finite and dwindling amount of money there.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Jim Hightower: Corporate Kangaroo Courts Supplant Our Seventh Amendment Rights

Corporate Kangaroo Courts Supplant Our Seventh Amendment Rights:

Jim Hightower on mandatory arbitration agreements inserted in consumer contracts:

"All you really need to know about today's process is that it's the product of years of conceptual monkey-wrenching by corporate lobbyists, Congress, the Supreme Court and hired-gun lobbying firms looking to milk the system for steady profits. First and foremost, these fixers have turned a voluntary process into the exact opposite: mandatory."
American judges are indoctrinated to believe in the sanctity of "contract" even when there was no negotiation and the party that had all the power wrote an unchangeable "take it or leave it" agreement that contained an arbitration clause, and imposed it on the consumer.  The Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to jury trial in civil matters. May as well not have it, given the way contracts are being used to strip it away.

Housing market: Buyers frustrated over shortage of inventory - South Florida

Housing market: Buyers frustrated over shortage of inventory - South Florida
"A few factors have contributed to the low inventory. New construction fell sharply during the housing bust, limiting the opportunities for resales now, said Walter Molony, a spokesman for the national Realtor group. When prices plunged, millions of homeowners lost equity, putting them "underwater" on their mortgages. Even though values are rebounding, many homeowners still can't sell without bringing thousands of dollars to the closing table. Meanwhile, a large contingent of homeowners who have equity are keeping their properties off the market, figuring they have weathered the downturn and now want to see prices keep rising before they consider selling."
This has been going on for so long that it feels like the new normal.  Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

One way to address the S.B. 1062 fee shifting issue

S.B. 1062, currently in the Maryland State Senate (see two posts on it below), deals with the problem of attorney fee shifting in covenant enforcement cases where the fees are grossly disproportionate to what is at stake in the case.  Here is one way it could be amended, using the California approach. This is from California Civil Code Section 1354 b, c, d, and e, in the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Developments Act:

  (f) In any action specified in subdivision (a) to enforce the
governing documents, the prevailing party shall be awarded reasonable
attorney's fees and costs.  Upon motion by any party for attorney's
fees and costs to be awarded to the prevailing party in these
actions, the court, in determining the amount of the award, may
consider a party's refusal to participate in alternative dispute
resolution prior to the filing of the action.

So the court can adjust the amount of fees downward if the losing party refused to participate in ADR prior to filing of the action. Why not do the same thing with the problem addressed by S.B. 1062?--fees that are excessive not because they fail the test of the "lodestar method," (i.e., can't be justified on time and effort and ability grounds), but because the fees are ridiculous in view of how little was at stake. 

Just specify in S.B. 1062 what kinds of cases it applies to, which would be covenant enforcement actions involving nonmonetary violations; define nonmonetary violations;  say that this section is in addition to the factors that already apply under existing law and court rules;  and then add "the court, in determining the amount of the award, may consider the degree to which the amount of the attorney's fees is reasonable in relation to the amount in controversy or the nature of the nonmonetary violation."  Perhaps the language could be changed to read "the nature and seriousness" of the nonmonetary violation.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Couple fighting HOA over removal of pit bull that chased suspect

Couple fighting HOA over removal of pit bull that chased suspect: WINTER GARDEN --�
A Winter Garden couple is fighting their homeowners association's efforts to have them get rid of their pit bull after it chased a suspect out of their home. Chris Barrella’s homeowners association says the dog is aggressive and a danger to other people in the neighborhood. Barrella says his dog was protecting his family from a suspected kidnapper in an incident that sparked the HOA’s accusation.
I'm not a pit bull fan. I think all of them should be sterilized tomorrow. But maybe this one deserves a little leniency? Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Foreclosed 'Zombie' Homes Exceed 300,000 Properties: Study

Foreclosed 'Zombie' Homes Exceed 300,000 Properties: Study
"ORLANDO, Fla., March 28 (Reuters) - A national survey found 301,874 "zombie" properties dotting the U.S. landscape in which homeowners in foreclosure have moved out, leaving vacant property susceptible to vandalism and degradation. Florida tops the list of zombie properties with 90,556 vacant homes in foreclosure, according to a foreclosure inventory released on Thursday by RealtyTrac, a real estate information company in Irvine, California. Illinois and California ranked a distant second and third with 31,668 and 28,821 zombie properties respectively on the list...According to the Reuters special report, municipalities are left to deal with the mess when people move out after receiving a notice of a planned foreclosure sale that the bank then cancels. Some spend public funds on securing, cleaning and stabilizing houses that generate no tax revenue. Others let the houses rot."
A lot of these homes are in associations, and in many cases the associations are zombies, too. But look who is left to clean up (or not) behind the wreckage created by the housing market:  municipalities. And they remain unprepared to do much of anything.