Monday, December 19, 2016

North Carolina: Wake DA says Investigating HOA embezzlement case took time :: WRAL.com

Wake DA: Investigating HOA embezzlement case took time :: WRAL.com
"Authorities said Kelly is suspected of stealing as much as $800,000 from the HOAs. She was released from the Wake County jail Tuesday night after posting a $500,000 bond."
------------

Central Florida family fights HOA over Christmas lights

Central Florida family fights HOA over Christmas lights
Happens every year. I saw a huge house in Tinley Park, IL, last night that had so many lights I don't see how there was any electricity left for the neighbors.

New year and new HOA laws ahead - The Orange County Register

New year and new HOA laws ahead - The Orange County Register

Are HOA Dues Making Real Estate Unaffordable? | Mortgage Rates, Mortgage News and Strategy : The Mortgage Reports

Are HOA Dues Making Real Estate Unaffordable? | Mortgage Rates, Mortgage News and Strategy : The Mortgage Reports

Philippines: Antipolo homeowners' president gunned down in Christmas party | ABS-CBN News

Antipolo homeowners'association president gunned down in Christmas party | ABS-CBN News
"Investigators are eyeing land dispute and politics as the possible motive behind the killing."
----------

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Unsigned Postcards Ask Homeowners To Take Down Campaign Signs « CBS Pittsburgh

Unsigned Postcards Ask Homeowners To Take Down Campaign Signs « CBS Pittsburgh: "PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Some homeowners in the quiet Murdoch Farms section of Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood are angry after getting postcards in the mail asking them to take down campaign signs in their yards.

The cards say in part, “If you feel strongly about your candidates, then talk to your neighbors, use other channels, like the Internet, and consider taking down the signs that are distracting from our beautiful neighborhood.”"

-------------

While I understand the importance of political expression, I do understand why people get frustrated when they are everywhere. I have a neighbor who is a political activist. His yard is festooned with signs for every candidate for his party from president to dogcatcher. He goes door-to-door and pesters people to put up signs, too. This happens in every election cycle. The neighborhood is normally beautiful in the fall, with all the leaves changing, but instead we have garish signs everywhere.

But polite requests are just about the only way to address this issue. The Supreme Court ruled in the Ledou v. Gilleo case that political yard signs are protected by the First Amendment and cannot be banned by local ordinance, although they can be regulated. Many HOAs and condo associations have strict rules that go beyond what a municipality could do, which I guess responds to concerns like those voiced in this article.

HOA Horrors: Few checks and balances puts residents at whim of boards, covenants | 11alive.com

HOA Horrors: Few checks and balances puts residents at whim of boards, covenants | 11alive.com: "For years, 11Alive received a steady stream of tips from viewers, frustrated by the action of their HOA board. When our 11Alive Investigator Rebecca Lindstrom started digging, she found cases of favoritism, bullying, embezzlement – and very few checks and balances to make sure decisions came coupled with common sense.

More than two million people live in a neighborhood with an HOA and the numbers, with every new construction project around metro Atlanta, are growing. "

--------------

I must have read about 500 of these breathless "crack investigative reporter discovers problems with HOAs" stories. You'd think they just found Bigfoot.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Videos show events before B.C. RCMP arrest of elderly couple | CTV News

Videos show events before B.C. RCMP arrest of elderly couple | CTV News: "The RCMP officers called to the scene of a raucous condo meeting in Coquitlam, B.C. are under investigation for their actions in the arrest of an elderly couple. The contents of a jarring cellphone video showing the elderly man dragged down a flight of stairs prompted not only an internal RCMP investigation, but also external investigations by an outside police force and a civilian review board. But new footage has emerged showing pieces of the scene leading up to the arrest.
The annual general meeting was held on Oct. 27, held at a Best Western in the Vancouver suburb, heated up over, what appears to be, the results an election."




HOA management company owner: Don’t confuse compliance with punishment - VEGAS INC

HOA management company owner: Don’t confuse compliance with punishment - VEGAS INC:



Ah, I see. Thanks for clarifying that distinction. But isn't a fine a punishment that is used to get compliance?

Grand Island Homeowners Association to file lawsuit against Lee Commission | Local News | albanyherald.com

Grand Island Homeowners Association to file lawsuit against Lee Commission | Local News | albanyherald.com: "LEESBURG — Plans to move forward with the proposed construction of a new 50-bed private hospital at the Grand Island Golf Course property in southern Lee County could take a hit this week once the Grand Island Subdivision Homeowners Association files a planned lawsuit against the Lee County Board of Commissioners.

Homeowners Association president and local obstetrician Dr. John G. Ricketson confirmed Monday that the property-owner group is planning to file a lawsuit some time this week alleging that the construction of the $50 million hospital would violate an easement set up by Grand Island developer John Gay in 1995.

According to Ricketson, a perpetual easement was granted by the developer to the property owners stating that “no natural or artificial barriers blocking the view or sight from the adjacent properties shall be constructed or created on the golf course property without the written permission of all the property owners.

“(The easement) says perpetuity, which means forever; it will provide for the preservation and enhancement of the adjacent properties,” said Ricketson. “We feel that’s any obstacle and that includes a three-story hospital.”"

---------------

It would be quite a task, but I would love to know what percentage of HOA litigation is NIMBY lawsuits like this.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

‘Failed experiment:’ Veterans’ homes bills raise privatization concerns | Fox17

‘Failed experiment:’ Veterans’ homes bills raise privatization concerns | Fox17: "GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A proposal meant to improve care for veterans in Michigan could prove to be a sweeping overhaul of how health care for veterans is managed statewide.

But critics worry this latest effort by lawmakers to fix the state's veterans health care system  will only continue to push state workers out in favor of more privatized care."




Privatization ‘Disproportionately Hurts Poor Individuals and Families’ | The Nation

Privatization ‘Disproportionately Hurts Poor Individuals and Families’ | The Nation: "In a compendium of privatization disasters, the watchdog group In the Public Interest (ITPI) concludes that “government privatization disproportionately hurts poor individuals and families.” By shifting social costs onto the public, the market logic of “personal responsibility” serves as a pretext for a self-perpetuating spiral of social disinvestment.

One way privatization fleeces the poor is by making basic public services cost more. "

------

Privatization is not all good or all bad. Selling off government-owned enterprises, like car companies, airlines, and steel mills, may have worked pretty well in Europe, but privatization in Russia was a massive disaster that created the oligarchs and destroyed the Russian economy. It went from being a major industrial powerhouse to a third world exporter of petroleum products. The big question is how you measure success. Advocates of privatization always talk about economic efficiency, but this is often just rhetoric. In reality, many times all they do is fire government employees and replace them with lower-paid private employees who don't get decent benefits. Then they pocket the savings instead of passing them along to the taxpayers/consumers. And you have to consider accountability--how do you make sure the function is performed properly. So I realize that this report from ITPI is rhetorical as well--the organization is funded by public employee unions, but we do need to look hard at these fast-tracked, take-it-or-leave-it, privatization deals that so many people think are the solution to all problems.




Contractor accused of swindling homeowners out of more than $1 million | Public Safety | swnewsmedia.com

Contractor accused of swindling homeowners out of more than $1 million | Public Safety | swnewsmedia.com:



'via Blog this'

Friday, October 21, 2016

Whistle blower: Management firm misused HOA funds | Aspen Daily News Online

Whistle blower: Management firm misused HOA funds | Aspen Daily News Online

"A complaint filed with the state of Colorado’s real estate regulatory agency alleges that a local property management firm has, since 2012, misused funds intended for homeowners’ association payments in the upscale residential neighborhoods at the base of Aspen Highlands.


The funds in question could total $500,000 or more, said a witness to the complaint filed recently with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies’ Division of Real Estate, alleging misrepresentations by Diamond Kip’s Inc., which does business as Aspen Valley Services."

Department Seeks to Expand Infrastructure Privatization > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > Article

Department Seeks to Expand Infrastructure Privatization > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > Article

Military family housing privatization has been under way since 1996. The defense acquisitions website reports that at the beginning of the program, the department had an inventory of approximately 257,000 family housing units. Current plans are to privatize about 75 percent of existing family housing units worldwide.
“Why did it take us so long to implement housing privatization?” Potochney asked. “I don’t think there’s anybody who doesn’t think it’s a great thing, and it’s worked well, and it’s saved us money, and it’s gotten soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines better housing than they had before.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Feds Looking at Easing Up Financing Rules for Condo Developers - CoStar Group

Feds Looking at Easing Up Financing Rules for Condo Developers - CoStar Group: "FHA currently requires that approved condominium developments have a minimum of 50% of the units occupied by owners. While having too few owner-occupants can detract from the viability of a project, requiring too many can harm its marketability, the agency said.

Through this proposed rule change, FHA is proposing to establish an allowable range between 25% and 75%. The range allows FHA to choose a specific percentage that is responsive to future market changes.

FHA is also looking at expanding the range for allowable nonresidential use.

FHA currently requires that the commercial/nonresidential space within an approved condominium development not exceed 50% of the project’s total floor area, and anticipates maintaining this as a requirement in the near term.

However, as the agency gains experience with this program, it may wish to modify this limitation and is therefore proposing to establish a range between 25% and 60%, it said.

FHA also has proposed reinstating spot approvals in unapproved condominium developments and to require condo projects to recertify their approval status every three years rather than the current two-year requirement.
"



'via Blog this'

New FHA Condo Rules Expand Access to Reverse Mortgages

New FHA Condo Rules Expand Access to Reverse Mortgages: "In response to changing conditions in the condominium market, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) today proposed new rules that would allow individual condo units to become eligible for FHA financing, including Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs), an agency spokesman confirmed to RMD.

FHA is currently seeking public comments on the 43-page proposed rule that seeks to reinstate a process similar to “spot approvals” in unapproved condo developments, as well as create a range of thresholds required for FHA approval, including the minimum owner-occupants in approved condo projects and limits on commercial/non-residential space, the agency stated in a release.


The proposal, which “certainly includes HECMs,” according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spokesman, will differ from the agency’s former “spot approvals” process, though no further details were able to be provided."



'via Blog this'

Will you become a citizen of Asgardia, the first nation state in space? | Science | The Guardian

Will you become a citizen of Asgardia, the first nation state in space? | Science | The Guardian: "Proposals for the “first nation state in space” have been unveiled by a team of scientists and legal experts, who say the move will foster peace, open up access to space technologies and offer protection for citizens of planet Earth.

Dubbed “Asgardia” after one of the mythical worlds inhabited by the Norse gods, the team say the “new nation” will eventually become a member of the United Nations, with its own flag and anthem devised by members of the public through a series of competitions."



'via Blog this'

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Trotwood HOA responds to liens, worn facilities | Dayton News | www.whio.com

Trotwood HOA responds to liens, worn facilities | Dayton News | www.whio.com



And here is the HOA's response to media coverage of owners withholding assessment payments because they don't think they are getting their money's worth, and then getting hit with liens:

"Not long after last week’s report, the HOA sent out an email in response. “The recent WHIO-TV broadcast orchestrated by a delinquent homeowner…will fail in its attempt to stop the collection of delinquent assessments. If you thought you could move here and change our neighborhood to be like the ghetto you came from…think again.”


Homeowners pay thousands to illegal HOA | Fox 59

Homeowners pay thousands to illegal HOA | Fox 59

"CUMBERLAND, Ind. – For more than a decade, homeowners in a Cumberland neighborhood have been paying dues to an illegal HOA. According to state records, the Harvest Glen HOA was dissolved in 2002 because required paperwork to reinstate the organization was never completed.  A few days ago, the neighborhood treasurer sent each homeowner a letter and a stack of approximately 100 pages of detailed expense reports showing how HOA dues were spent. Every year, every Harvest Glen homeowner pays $50 for HOA dues, which is mainly for lawn care upkeep in the common areas. For the past 14 years, state records show the neighborhood hasn’t had an operating HOA."

-------------

OK, so maybe we didn't dot every "i" and cross every "t" for the last fourteen years, but basically we more or less kinda sorta did HOA-type stuff. What's your prob?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Woman accused of stealing from Kennesaw HOA | WAGA

Woman accused of stealing from Kennesaw HOA | WAGA: "KENNESAW, Ga. - A former Kennesaw property manager faces criminal charges.

Wendy Teresa Robinson is accused of stealing more than $8,000 from a home owners’ association fund. Police said Robinson worked as the property manager for the Legacy Park HOA at the time of the theft."


---------------------

The need for outside financial oversight of condos and HOAs becomes more obvious every day.

Dissecting the CAI white paper manifesto on Association  Governance (part 1) – Independent American Communities

Dissecting the CAI white paper manifesto on Association  Governance (part 1) – Independent American Communities:



Deborah Goonan's take on CAI's Community Next: 2020 and Beyond: The Association Governance Model--Panel Report

Monday, May 16, 2016

Despite Their Higher Education, Millennials Still Aren't Buying Homes - CityLab

Despite Their Higher Education, Millennials Still Aren't Buying Homes - CityLab:

  "A bachelor’s degree is not a requirement for homeownership, but it is starting to look like one. As household incomes are increasingly linked to educational attainment, so is homeownership status. At the same time, higher education can be a temporary barrier to homeownership. This paradox might be the driving factor of the U.S. housing market today, which is still slow to grow even despite a strong recovery"

------------------

I've seen several studies on this. The growing income gap between college graduates and people without degrees means that graduates are more likely to be able to buy a home. But, because it takes four years to get the degree, the college graduates get married and/or enter the housing market later. The often-repeated claim that college graduates can't afford homes because of student loans doesn't stand up to empirical analysis. But part of this is on the supply side.   The real estate development industry is not building many starter homes at present, in large part because of the higher lending standards that still prevail.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Squatters See a New Frontier in the Empty Homes of Las Vegas - The New York Times

Squatters See a New Frontier in the Empty Homes of Las Vegas - The New York Times

"In Las Vegas, the crackdown against squatters coincides with a resurgence, albeit modest, in the local housing market. Foreclosures are falling and home prices are creeping upward (though they remain far short of the prerecession peak). But with a transient population of down-and-out gamblers and a glut of homes that have already been foreclosed, opportunists can still take their pick of thousands of empty houses. Inside one, squatters had scrawled a warning to stay away on a wall: “Violent tweekers on guard.”

---------

During the housing boom there was far too much housing built in Las Vegas. Developers were trying to take advantage of the easy credit that was available to home buyers back then. In other words, these housing units were expressly built for people who couldn't afford them. There was no real market for them then, and there is even less of a market now. So now that the cocktail waitresses and golf caddies have lost their $300,000 homes to foreclosure, there is no real buyer for these units and they sit idle. In come the squatters. This is going on in other nations as well. Spain is a great example, where Barcelona elected a socialist as mayor in part based on a proposal to legalize squatting.

Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Happy Together - The New Yorker

Happy Together - The New Yorker

"The building, Kennedy’s new home, is run by the co-living startup Common, which offers what it calls “flexible, community-driven housing.” Co-living has also been billed as “dorms for grown-ups,” a description that Common resists. But the company has set out to restore a certain subset of young, urban professionals to the paradise they lost when they left college campuses—a furnished place to live, unlimited coffee and toilet paper, a sense of belonging."

----------------

Sounds a bit like an episode of "Friends," and I can see the attraction of it. A lot of Americs are looking for a sense of community in a small, shared, living environment. Except for some seniors developments, I don't think many people find that in condominiums or HOAs.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Legislator pushing for more oversight of homeowners associations | Local news | tucson.com

Legislator pushing for more oversight of homeowners associations | Local news | tucson.com

"Farnsworth’s bills would add regulations to the operation of HOAs. SB 1496 deals with HOA directors, stipulating that if a member of the board of directors is removed from their position, he or she cannot be reappointed to that post. It’s an issue that has been raised by homeowners. The other bill is SB 1498, which would require HOAs to provide ample warning time for homeowners before charging late fees and inform homeowners of their right to dispute the fees through a state process. HOAs would also have to maintain members’ voting records for one year. Both bills have passed the Legislature. Gov. Doug Ducey signed SB 1498 into law. The other bill has not yet been signed."

------------

See the post immediately below.

Former Quail Run HOA treasurer accused of grand theft - wptv.com

Former Quail Run HOA treasurer accused of grand theft - wptv.com

From Palm Beach: "A former treasurer for the Quail Run Homeowners Association has been charged with grand theft, according to the Boynton Beach Police Department. Police arrested Norman Glavas, 69, Thursday morning. Investigators say he embezzled more than $50,000 from the HOA."

------------

The need for transparency and oversight of HOA/condo association finances is obvious.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

HOA bans homeowners renting to sex offenders, but is it legal?

HOA bans homeowners renting to sex offenders, but is it legal?: "HOUSTON - A Fort Bend County neighborhood's homeowners association has put a ban on any homeowner renting to a registered sex offender.

Lots of families with young children live in the Kingdom Heights neighborhood. The deed restrictions established by the HOA for the quiet suburban Houston community are crystal clear -- no homeowner may lease a residence to a registered sex offender...The state's property code calls into question the HOA's deed restrictions. It was revised last year and states that HOAs can no longer be involved in the approval process of a lease agreement for prospective tenants. Essentially it says an HOA has to mind its own business."

--------------

Once again we have an HOA attempting to do something that appears to be against the law. See below for the HOA in California that wants to violate state law concerning watering lawns in a drought.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

FHFA Vows to Keep Fighting HOA Super-Priority Liens - DSNews

FHFA Vows to Keep Fighting HOA Super-Priority Liens - DSNews

"The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has reaffirmed its support of authorized servicer reliance on the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008 in foreclosures involving homeowner associations (HOAs) and super-priority liens, saying it will “aggressively” fight any HOA that tries to extinguish a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac lien through foreclosure.

The super-priority lien issue has been a contentious one since it came to prominence following a decision by the Nevada State Supreme Court in September 2014 that allowed HOAs to use super-priority liens to foreclose on homes with delinquent HOA dues—without the permission of the mortgagee.

The FHFA responded in December 2014 with a warning to HOAs that loans with super-priority liens attached would not push mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into the secondary position. In June 2015, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada ruled that HOAs could not foreclose non-judicially on GSE-owned mortgages using a super-priority lien.

In August 2015, FHFA stated its support of authorized servicers of GSE loans that rely on the HERA to prevent HOAs from foreclosing on loans insured by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The FHFA recently reiterated its position in support of the servicers."

-----------

 It will be interesting to see if the CID industry is able to prevail over opposition from the Masters of the Universe.  The banking industry and the GSEs have enormous political clout.

Ducey vetoes bill that would allow developers to levy taxes on homeowners

Ducey vetoes bill that would allow developers to levy taxes on homeowners

"The governor rejected House Bill 2568, a priority of House Speaker David Gowan, citing concerns the legislation could harm taxpayers. The bill would have changed financing rules for community facilities districts, which are special taxing districts created to pay for infrastructure such as roads, sewers and water lines. Gowan, backed by a coalition of developers and investors, argued the bill would allow development to proceed more rapidly, primarily because it would have loosened some control local governments have over formation of the districts. For example, it would have mandated a district be formed upon request by landowners, and it would have given developers more control of the district's financing. Local governments pushed back, complaining the bill would minimize the oversight cities and towns provide on the tax rate needed to pay for infrastructure. Local government, controlled by elected officials, is more accountable than a board controlled by unelected developers or their designees, they said."

---------

These special districts are being used increasingly in Florida, Colorado, California, and other states. They give developers total control over public--not private--government entities that can issue muni bonds to pay for building infrastructure. Guess who pays back the bondholders, through property taxes? Right--the eventual home owners. And these districts are usually set up to be so undemocratic that they make HOAs look like Rousseau's peasants regulating the affairs of state under an oak tree (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book IV, Ch. 1, if you are interested). Interestingly, most of the people who think HOAs are undemocratic and illiberal have zero to say about special districts.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Confessions of a Donald Trump Tabloid Scribe - POLITICO Magazine

Confessions of a Donald Trump Tabloid Scribe - POLITICO Magazine: "He wanted attention, but he could not control his pathological lying. Which made him, as story subjects go, a lot of work. Every statement he uttered required more than the usual amount of fact-checking. If Trump said, “Good morning,” you could be pretty sure it was five o’clock in the afternoon...I once received a tip that Trump and Richard Nixon had had a lengthy meeting in Trump’s office. Trump said he knew nothing about it. I ran the story, not only because I had an excellent source, but also because a Nixon aide confirmed it. Nixon, who was shopping for a condo the day he met with Trump, may have had issues with credibility in his time, but over Trump, I’d have believed him any day. Trump was such a pretender he even used to fake being his own spokesman, as I learned recently, though I never heard from the faux flack he called John Barron." 

--------------

We have never had a condo developer run for President before. Trump has learned the art of the big lie. When he is caught lying he just keeps right on blustering through. He has no sense of shame or guilt.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Law meant to protect Wash. homeowners instead pushing up condo prices | KIRO-TV

Law meant to protect Wash. homeowners instead pushing up condo prices | KIRO-TV



SEATTLE —

In a housing market rife with new apartment complexes, there is an extremely short supply of condominiums being built and sold. Puget Sound developers point to substantial risk in building condos, due to the Washington Condo Act, a risk that does not exist for apartment development.

--------

What is this supposedly draconian law that developers are whining about?

It states a condo must be:
(a) Free from defective materials;
(b) Constructed in accordance with sound engineering and construction standards;
(c) Constructed in a workmanlike manner; and
(d) Constructed in compliance with all laws then applicable to such improvements.

Doesn't sound all that oppressive to me.

The GOP's 24-hour meltdown - POLITICO

The GOP's 24-hour meltdown - POLITICO



The right wing thought that, at long last, this was going to be the year a virtuous "true conservative" made up for Goldwater's obliteration in 1964. Half a dozen of the candidates would have made them happy. Then all of them got personally humiliated and driven from the race by an unprincipled, narcissistic, quasi-fascist bully. The final blow: they are now expected to support him. No wonder they are...unhappy.

It will be interesting to see how far the American Mussolini's cult of personality can take him. His followers are so swept away by his empty promises to make everything "great," with "so much winning," that they have lost all capacity for critical thought.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Sperlonga, Equifax to record HOA payments for credit scores | 2016-05-04 | HousingWire

Sperlonga, Equifax to record HOA payments for credit scores | 2016-05-04 | HousingWire:

"Sperlonga will use its technology to automatically extract assessment payment data and account status every month for all HOA property owners, according to a release. It will then report the account data to Equifax.

"We believe this will have a major impact on the HOA industry," Sperlonga CEO Dan Berman said. "According to the Community Association Institute, associations along with property management companies collect approximately $70 billion in assessment payments each year and CAI estimated there were at least 333,000 community associations in the U.S.""




--------------

Nobody knows how much HOAs and condo associations collect because government has washed its hands of any responsibility for this massive privatization of services and infrastructure. But in any event, now people who fall delinquent on their HOA assessments will have a problem with their credit rating.

Man admits stealing $2.5M from homeowner associations - The Washington Post

Man admits stealing $2.5M from homeowner associations - The Washington Post:

"BALTIMORE — A man who prosecutors say financed a lifestyle of nightclubbing, NBA games, manicures and limousines by stealing $2.5 million from his clients has pleaded guilty to wire fraud.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release that 39-year-old William Francis of Elkridge entered the plea Wednesday in federal court in Baltimore.

Prosecutors say Francis owned two companies which managed HOA reserve funds, which were typically held in savings or money market accounts.

According to his plea agreement, Francis defrauded at least 51 of his company’s HOA clients by taking reserve funds.

Prosecutors say Francis spent the money on Washington Wizards games; adult entertainment venues and nightclubs; dog grooming services; a nail salon, and a limousine service.

Francis faces a maximum of 20 years in prison at sentencing Sept. 13."




--------------

Yet another embezzlement from HOA reserve accounts. When will state legislators understand that there has to be oversight of HOA/condo finances?



Thanks to Shu for this link.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Bill would grant tax deduction for homeowners association assessments - Chicago Tribune

Bill would grant tax deduction for homeowners association assessments - Chicago Tribune:



"The same residents also pay local property taxes to municipal, county or state governments. But unlike other homeowners, only their local property tax levies are deductible on federal tax filings. Their community association assessments that pay for government-type services are not. Now a bipartisan group of congressional representatives thinks that's inequitable and needs to be corrected. Under a new bill known as the HOME Act (H.R. 4696), millions of people who live in communities run by associations would get the right to deduct up to $5,000 a year of assessments on federal tax filings, with some important limitations:

• Deductions would phase out if their incomes exceed $115,000 for single filers, $150,000 in the case of joint returns.


• The property would have to be their principal residence, not a vacation or rental home.


• To qualify for write-offs, the assessments would have to be "regularly occurring," mandatory levies that directly benefit taxpayers' properties and that exist solely because of their automatic membership in the homeowners association.


The bill's primary author is Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif. Co-sponsors include Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Barbara Comstock, R-Va.. Though the bill has little chance of moving through the House or Senate during this election year, it sends a message to the legislative committees now working on possible tax code changes for next year: Congress needs to acknowledge the role the country's community associations play in providing municipal-type services. The way to do it is to allow deductions on a capped amount of the money residents are required to pay to support community services."

---------------------

The bill has industry support. I would be surprised if this passed, because it would cost billions of dollars in lost income tax revenues, but it it interesting to see bipartisan support for the idea. Here is  link to the text of the bill.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Documents meant to combat fraud in condo elections raise more questions | Miami Herald

Documents meant to combat fraud in condo elections raise more questions | Miami Herald: "Representatives of Sunshine Management Services, which manages the complexes, said it implemented the new system of securing affidavits to prevent electoral fraud. The company has said residents have repeatedly complained about falsified signatures on the ballot or ballot envelopes in elections of association boards.

But an investigation by El Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 showed that the affidavit system put in place by the company has substantial irregularities."

-----

Indeed.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Hundreds protest against condo fraud in South Florida | Miami Herald

Hundreds protest against condo fraud in South Florida | Miami Herald:

  "More than 250 South Florida condo residents marched Saturday through the streets of Doral to demand that authorities take steps to stop a wave of fraud hitting their neighborhoods.

With posters, flags and whistles, the group of protesters marched through downtown Doral shouting about alleged abuses by their board of directors and the private companies hired to manage the condominiums.

“We want our demands heard in Tallahassee,” said William Mendieta, one of the organizers of the march and resident of the Las Vistas condos in Doral. “We have left behind apathy and indifference to unite with other condos so that together we can make one request: Justice!”

It was the fifth public protest since an investigation by el Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 in March revealed the systematic frauds facing condos in Miami-Dade County — including at least 84 fraudulent votes in November election for the board of directors at The Beach Club condos in Fontainebleau Park, and a fraudulent bidding process in which a company won a $5.2 million contract in a competition against two front companies."




'via Blog this'

Puerto Rico Will Default on Government Development Bank Debt - Bloomberg

Puerto Rico Will Default on Government Development Bank Debt - Bloomberg

"Puerto Rico will default on a $422 million bond payment for its Government Development Bank, escalating what is turning into the biggest crisis ever in the $3.7 trillion market that U.S. state and local entities use to access financing...A default on those constitutionally guaranteed bonds would be the first by a state-level borrower since Arkansas missed payments on its debt in 1933. That would likely trigger a restructuring of the commonwealth’s $13 billion of general obligations, which would be the largest-ever in the tax-exempt market."
---------
This situation has been building for a long time. Puerto Rico has $70 billion in muni bonds, they have been in the grip of a severe recession for a long time, and now they are in the process of defaulting on these bonds, piece by piece. There is an unusual problem in that Puerto Rico is a US territory, not a sovereign nation, so it can't go to the International Monetary Fund or pursue other sovereignty-related remedies. It isn't a state, either, and it can't go bankrupt. Congress passed  law in 1984 saying that US territories can't use Chapter Nine, the bankruptcy provision for local governments. So Puerto is betwixt and between, as the saying goes. They can't pay and they can't discharge or reorganize the debts, so they are defaulting. The Republican-controlled, do-nothing, blame-Obama-for-everything Congress could fix this, but so far they haven't.  Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan clearly wants to take action.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

LaHood alleges misuse of HOA funds for pool - San Antonio Express-News

LaHood alleges misuse of HOA funds for pool - San Antonio Express-News

"More than $300,000 in homeowner association funds for a swimming pool that was never built are at the center of a criminal case filed against two men with ties to the city of Windcrest.

Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood said Robert Colunga and Tom Pittman were indicted by a grand jury in April on the first-degree felony charges. Although a civil lawsuit is pending in the project, LaHood said he believes a criminal case also is warranted against the two men, and possibly others, the case involving plans for a pool to be built in San Antonio’s Stone Oak area."

-----------------

Texas is about as laissez-faire as any big state when it comes to regulating what goes on in HOAs. And these private associations have a lot of power over people there. Civil litigation alone doesn't get the job done. With $300K in losses, it isn't hard to see why criminal charges are being filed. The question is, how many other associations have similar problems that haven't come to light?

New Local Law Says Parents of Bullies Must Pay Fines if They Don’t Control Their Kids | LawNewz

New Local Law Says Parents of Bullies Must Pay Fines if They Don’t Control Their Kids | LawNewz

Interesting approach. I'm always intrigued by local ordinances that experiment with unusual approaches to solving problems. There is something called "vicarious liability," where one person is held legally responsible for the conduct of another person, but I've never read about it being applied in this way.  Bullying is a big problem and currently nobody pays for it except the kids who get bullied. Teachers and principals pretend they don't know it is happening, parents deny that their precious snowflake would ever bully anybody, the police pretend that crimes like assault and robbery aren't crimes if they happen in a school, and the bullies get away with it. So here is an effort to fine the parents of the bully. But is it legal to impose fines on parents for not preventing something their kid did when he was at school, supposedly under the control of school officials?

Michigan Lawsuit Shows U.S. Voters May Not Technically Have the Right to Elect Their Mayors - CityLab

Michigan Lawsuit Shows U.S. Voters May Not Technically Have the Right to Elect Their Mayors - CityLab

From the State of Michigan's brief, defending the power of state-appointed emergency managers to take over running a city:



"Here, Plaintiffs are still free to vote in federal and state elections. And they offer no adequate support for the proposition that the right to vote in local elections, once extended, becomes a fundamental right as opposed to simply a right to participate on equal footing. ...Nor do Plaintiffs’ cited cases offer support for a recognized right to participate in local political processes, even where the local unit is a legislative body."



-------------

I've posted about this case before.  The State of Michigan says that as long as there are state and federal elections, the right to vote is not impaired--you have no right to vote for local government officials. If the state "extends," i.e, give you out of the goodness of their heart, that right, then it still doesn't include the right to choose the people who make the real decisions.
The implications go beyond Michigan. Extend the principle to other parts of the local government system. County boards, special districts, school boards, and the rest of the alphabet soup of local government entities.  Do you have the right to choose the people who make the decisions on those bodies? Or can a governor put them in receivership?
As for HOAs, if the state can take away your power to choose the city council and the mayor, making constitutional rights arguments about HOA elections would seem like a lost cause. So this case is significant. It is in the District Court now, meaning the lowest level of federal court where trials are held. But if it goes up on appeal to the Sixth Circuit, it could become a major case on voting rights and autonomy of cities. The Center for Constitutional Rights is co-counsel, challenging the emergency manager law. You can read up on it there.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Colo. Court Case Puts Spotlight on Special Districts That Issue Munis | The Bond Buyer

Colo. Court Case Puts Spotlight on Special Districts That Issue Munis | The Bond Buyer

"A broad ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals in a case of a developer's egregious fraud has sent lawyers to the state's General Assembly for legislation to protect existing special districts that issue tax-exempt bonds...The case involves a high-profile developer, Zachary Davidson, who used sham contracts to make him and five associates organizers or "eligible electors" who formed a special metropolitan district in Greenwood Village, Colo. that issued almost $35 million of bonds now in default. Davidson included nearby condominium purchasers in the district and obligated them to pay taxes to help pay off the bonds, even though the condo owners were unaware they were in the district or that bonds had been issued. Davidson stole millions of dollars of bond proceeds for his personal use and was eventually indicted on 20 felony counts by an Arapahoe County, Colo. grand jury. He eluded law enforcement for months and ultimately committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree in Withlacoochee State Forest in Florida at age 46. After several years of litigation, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued a ruling on April 21 favoring the condo owners' Landmark Towers Association, Inc., ruling in part that Davidson used sham contracts to give him and his associates control of the special district and the bond issue."



-------------

Here is a link to the opinion.  The court ruled, "In sum, because the TABOR election was conducted illegally —with the participation of ineligible voters and without constitutionally required notice to eligible voters — the District’s taxes to pay the bonds were levied illegally. Pursuant to TABOR’s refund provision, the District must refund all illegal taxes paid with ten percent annual simple interest. Id. at § 20(1). The Landmark buyers are also entitled to an order enjoining the District from levying any further taxes without proper voter approval."



So now the lawyers and people buying these special district muni bonds are afraid that other people will head for court to unwind the tax obligations imposed on them by these special districts.  They want the Colorado state legislature to save them from more litigation. As I have written before in connection with Florida's special districts, some of these arrangements are so undemocratic and autocratic that they make HOAs look like the Golden Age of Pericles.



And the Colorado special district debacle has the potential to shift the national picture on these "dirt bond" districts:  "The Treasury and IRS are now proposing rules to expand that test to add two new requirements. Under rules they proposed February, a political subdivision that can issue tax-exempt bonds, would also have to serve a governmental purpose and be governmentally controlled "with no more than an incidental private benefit. The proposed rules have met with a firestorm of criticism from muni lawyers who have warned they would threaten existing special districts and potentially millions of dollars of bonds."



Stay tuned--this sort of thing flies under the public's radar, so you never know what a state legislature will do with it.


Rauner turns to privatization push during second year in office - Chicago Tribune

Rauner turns to privatization push during second year in office - Chicago Tribune

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is a private equity billionaire with no political experience and no idea what he is doing, except that he hates the very idea of government and public employees and unions and wants to destroy all three.  He used his personal wealth and his connections to other fat cats to basically buy the job.  He funneled millions of his own money into a record-breaking tsunami of money and outspent Pat Quinn almost two to one.  He also had the help of the Chicago Tribune, which is relentlessly anti-union and pro-big business, and the Chicago Sun-Times as well (there were some interesting financial connections there).  His big idea is to turn Illinois into a Republican state. He wants to destroy the Democratic Party's political base. Destroy unions, the tort system, public employee pension systems, and the workers' compensation system.  Let cities and school systems go bankrupt so they can break their contracts with unions. Enact term limits to get rid of powerful Democrats in Springfield. It's basically Scott Walker in Wisconsin without the charm.



But Democrats won big in both houses of the state legislature, and they won't commit political suicide by abandoning the people who voted for them. So how was Rauner to impose his "turnaround agenda" on the state? Simple: refuse to sign budget bills, starving social service agencies and the public education system of funds. That's what he has been doing since the day he was elected. Poor people, the disabled, the elderly, and students will suffer until the legislature turns the whole state over the Rauner and his party. Social service providers are laying people off and going out of business. Chicago State University just laid off 1/3 of it's staff.  And the suffering goes on, and on, and on.



Rauner  is one of these American corporate tough guys who proves how tough he is not by suffering himself, but by enjoying the suffering of the little people.



Now his big idea is to privatize every single state function that he can.  There seems to be no principle behind this--no set of guidelines for which services would be better to privatize and which to keep inside government.  And of course he won't work with the Democratic Party that controls the state legislature, so this is going to be done through executive action.



The risks here are obvious. People may end up paying more for less. The opportunities for corruption increase. Wages will be lowered and people will be laid off, leading to consumers having less purchasing power, which may hurt the state economy.



I wish I could find some silver lining in the so-far disastrous Rauner administration, but I can't. This man is just destroying everything he can't control, and he doesn't seem to care who gets hurt.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Master-Planned Communities Look to Innovative Future - Urban Land Magazine

Master-Planned Communities Look to Innovative Future - Urban Land Magazine

"One of the notions presented to the panel was to offer health care for MPC communities. “If a company has 10,000 employees and can offer insurance to all of them, why can’t an MPC insure the 5,000 people in the community?” Cecilian asked. “When we consider millennials today, the two great concerns are health care and student loans. Why not look at the residential community to provide group health insurance? It’s a very interesting concept, especially with what’s happening in tele-medicine. You could make group health insurance part of the real estate package...Among the other topics considered: raising equity or debt through crowdfunding and providing for driverless cars. Crowdfunding in MPCs could be used to support community amenities, create retail options earlier, or construct revenue-producing venues such as golf courses. “Crowdfunding is coming and hitting real estate very quickly,” said Kaufmann. “Smaller-scale projects could be crowdfunded. There is a lot of money out there and it’s not that hard to organize. You should think about it for some pieces of the community.”

-------------

Notice how the development industry always uses the fuzzy, feel-good word "community" instead of explaining exactly how your HOA, run by unpaid, untrained volunteers, would somehow become responsible for your health insurance.  And crowdfunding instead of assessments to pay for "community amenities" means that your private streets and the pool would be dependent on people chipping in whatever they want by clicking a button on a website.  



What could possibly go wrong with this bright, shiny future? 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Nevada Supreme Court rules in favor of investors, banks in HOA fees case | Las Vegas Review-Journal

Nevada Supreme Court rules in favor of investors, banks in HOA fees case | Las Vegas Review-Journal: "CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in a long-awaited dispute over homeowner association dues in super-priority lien cases, finding that Nevada law does not allow for the collection of costs and fees in addition to nine months of back-owed assessments.

The unanimous ruling came in an appeal brought by Horizons at Seven Hills Homeowners Association against Ikon Holdings.

The ruling is a major victory for investors, banks and others who acquired the foreclosed properties. It is a big loss for homeowners associations, collection agencies and others who sought additional compensation in the super-priority lien process.

The super-priority lien in Nevada law allows associations to recover nine months’ worth of assessments. But a legal dispute has been ongoing for years over whether fees and collection costs could be included as part of the lien."


---------

Superlien litigation (and legislation) is hot right now. Lending institutions are slugging it out with the community association industry over the wreckage of people's lives.

Brannon Hill condos allowed 30 days to remove trash | www.ajc.com

Brannon Hill condos allowed 30 days to remove trash | www.ajc.com: "Residents of a trash-filled and partially burned-down condo complex in DeKalb County are being given 30 days to clean up.

The Brannon Hill homeowners’ association and the county agreed in court Thursday to allow the community to remove debris, worn mattresses and tires strewn across parking lots before the government considers stepping in."


---------------

Another crumbling condo development has become a burden on local government to the point where it may be declared a public nuisance.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Miami condo owners confused by election monitor | Miami Herald

Miami condo owners confused by election monitor | Miami Herald

"But what López and others involved in the election did not know was that Hidalgo is not a monitor appointed by the Office of the Condominium Ombudsman. In fact, since 2010 that office stopped assigning Hidalgo as an election monitor after stating that she “blatantly ignored” instructions prohibiting the delegation of responsibilities, misrepresented not being at a meeting and other issues. The ombudsman concluded the March 31, 2010, letter by stating, “your actions, lapses in judgment, and inattention to duty… have seriously undermined and diminished the trust and confidence placed in you and reflects adversely upon the election monitor program administered by this office.” Her identification badge was revoked."

----------------

This is mind-blowing. This individual is still running around charging condominiums for monitoring elections. Here is her excuse. You will love this:  “I never say I am certified. I always say I was certified. Little words that are specific and powerful in any court,” said Hidalgo, who owns Luminary LLC, a company that supervises condo and co-op elections.




Monday, April 25, 2016

China Homeowners Live in Legal Limbo - WSJ

China Homeowners Live in Legal Limbo - WSJ: "SHANGHAI—A land-title dispute in southeastern China is highlighting a major uncertainty over homeowner rights in a nation where the government owns all the land."

------------------

This situation has been the subject of several major revisions in the law over the last twenty years or so. It's a tough one to resolve. The national government wants to have a thriving real estate market, but local governments want to own and lease the land. That is a gross oversimplification but it will have to do for now.

Peterson: East Bay HOA's heavy-handedness leads to bigger conversation, expert says - San Jose Mercury News

Peterson: East Bay HOA's heavy-handedness leads to bigger conversation, expert says - San Jose Mercury News: "The residents of Blackhawk, the upscale East Bay gated enclave, recently received unsettling news from their HOA: Tidy up your landscaping by June 1 or face "aggressive enforcement" that could result in sanctions ranging from a fine to disabling transponders that open gates to your neighborhood.

Where to start? Like a lot of us, some Blackhawkians allowed their lawns to die last summer after Gov. Jerry Brown mandated a 25 percent reduction in residential water consumption. Like a lot of us, some Blackhawkians will be soon be consulting with landscapers."


-----

I am quoted in this article. I posted something about Blackhawk the other day. There is a state law in California that prohibits HOAs from taking certain enforcement actions when there is a declared drought emergency. Maybe there's some aspect to this particular situation that I don't understand, but based on the facts as stated in these articles, I don't see how "aggressive enforcement" is appropriate. The El Nino conditions did produce some relief, but not enough. "Drought conditions have improved following a wet January and a relatively wet March, which raised water levels in many reservoirs to roughly average for the current date. However, this winter’s rain and snow levels have not been sufficient to end one of the state’s worst droughts in recorded history." 

Homeowners’ Associations and the First Amendment: Are your 5 Freedoms Guaranteed? – Independent American Communities

Homeowners’ Associations and the First Amendment: Are your 5 Freedoms Guaranteed? – Independent American Communities:



Deborah Goonan weighs in on the issue of civil liberties in HOAs.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

5 Reasons You Hate Your HOA

5 Reasons You Hate Your HOA

I'm quoted in this Kiplinger article, but I didn't say anything about hating anybody.



McKenzie tells me “there are very few avenues for individuals to take on their associations.” There are elected seats on the board, usually filled by home owners, but manipulating that internal political process is “harder to do than it sounds." And getting bylaws changed? Forget about it. "The problem is those governing documents were intentionally set up to be very hard to change," McKenzie says. "This has always been like this, back into the ‘60s. They want to know that the product isn’t going to change, so they made the declarations very hard to amend.”



Resorting to a lawyer is another route, but a tricky one, says McKenzie. Judges won’t smile down on you. “They look at you like you’re complaining about something you agreed to; you accepted the rules.”

What drought? East Bay gated community orders homeowners to green up - San Jose Mercury News

What drought? East Bay gated community orders homeowners to green up - San Jose Mercury News

BLACKHAWK -- The homeowners association for this upscale, gated community has threatened to fine homeowners for brown or dead lawns and landscaping despite a continuing state drought emergency. "We believe that allowing the drought to negatively impact the landscaping at any Blackhawk home does a disservice to property values throughout the community and is a violation of our CC&Rs," wrote Mark Goldberg, the community manager for the association, in a letter that went out to 2,027 Blackhawk homes, just east of Danville, last month. Effective June 1, the association will begin "aggressive enforcement" of landscaping standards that could include issuing fines, filing lawsuits, doing landscaping improvements and handing the bill to the homeowner or turning off gate clickers to enter the community."

-----------

This, despite the law:

California Civil Code Section 4735:



"(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this part, an association, except an association that uses recycled water, as defined in Section 13050 of the Water Code, for landscaping irrigation, shall not impose a fine or assessment against an owner of a separate interest for reducing or eliminating the watering of vegetation or lawns during any period for which either of the following have occurred:

(1) The Governor has declared a state of emergency due to drought pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 8558 of the Government Code.

(2) A local government has declared a local emergency due to drought pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 8558 of the Government Code."


Sea change for Florida's 60,000 homeowners associations - Sun Sentinel

Sea change for Florida's 60,000 homeowners associations - Sun Sentinel

"On July 1, Florida law was amended to give condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners' associations throughout Florida the right to conduct membership votes online. While online voting has been permitted for some time in other states, this new law represents a sea change for Florida's more than 60,000 community associations. For communities with a large percentage of investor and snowbird owners, online voting gives these owners a newfound opportunity to participate in important membership votes in their association. Currently, many of these owners are unable to timely return voting materials and they are disenfranchised as a result. Even for owners who are local but do not wish to attend meetings or send in a proxy, online voting may spark an increase in their participation."

--------------

Ordinarily I'm in favor of making voting easier in all elections. I hear from young people all the time that they want to vote in public elections with their smart phones.  But here we have the issue of whether absentee/investor owners have a different set of interests than the resident owners who actually live in the community. If so, making it easier for non-residents to vote changes the balance of interests in elections. Attorney Donna Berger is the author of this article and she is all for this change, and her firm is selling a software voting package.  We will have to see how this works out in practice.

Stapleton HOA that blocked radon mitigation is now charging legal fees - 7NEWS Denver TheDenverChannel.com

Stapleton HOA that blocked radon mitigation is now charging legal fees - 7NEWS Denver TheDenverChannel.com



DENVER - The Stapleton Homeowners Association that blocked a homeowner from installing a radon mitigation system is now sticking her with the legal fees before she sells her house.



"It's so ludicrous," said homeowner Melissa Crowder. "I am sure they are absolutely embarrassed, and that's their way of getting back to me."

-----

I won't get into the merits of this particular dispute, but speaking in general, fee-shifting provisions in CC&Rs and the statutory and contractual lien powers of associations carry with them the potential for abuse. It is an aspect of HOA/condo activity that needs to be subjected to more careful judicial oversight.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Homeowners' Associations Could Face Liability for Bear Attacks | Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A. - JDSupra

Homeowners' Associations Could Face Liability for Bear Attacks | Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A. - JDSupra



I didn't know there were so many black bear sightings in Florida. I thought all they had were Burmese pythons, boa constrictors, alligators, piranha, walking catfish, and wild boar. Who knew they had anything normal that could kill you.

Michigan Lawsuit Shows U.S. Voters May Not Technically Have the Right to Elect Their Mayors - CityLab

Michigan Lawsuit Shows U.S. Voters May Not Technically Have the Right to Elect Their Mayors - CityLab

"Public Act 436 seeks to put local governments on better financial footing. It does this by appointing an [emergency manager] in jurisdictions where the Governor and State Treasurer have determined that the local government was experiencing a financial emergency. The Act does not take away a fundamental right to vote, because such a right has never been recognized by the courts."

------------

So said Federal District Court Judge George Steeh, in an order that is on appeal.



Most Americans view the right to vote as fundamental, as they understand that word. And they believe that self-government at the local level is a fundamental right that is at the core of popular sovereignty. But most Americans don't understand the constitution very well.  Listen to the utter nonsense that comes from "sovereign citizens," militia goons, property rights extremists, gun rights absolutists, Cliven Bundy, and a host of other fanatics, who come up with their own bizarre interpretations of a constitution that they don't remotely understand. For them, it means whatever makes them feel good.



The word "fundamental" has special meaning in the context of civil liberties jurisprudence. Some liberties and rights are viewed as being essential to constitutional governance, and laws that infringe on those liberties and rights are viewed with "strict scrutiny" by the courts.  When it comes to the right to vote, what is the scope of that right, and how "fundamental" is it?  In the context of the emergency manager law, is the right to vote merely the right to trot off to the polls and vote for people of your choice, or does the right to vote require that the people you vote for have the power to govern your community?  Because people in cities that had been taken over by governor-appointed emergency managers could still vote for city officials. It's just that the municipal officials they voted for no longer had any power to govern.



Related to this is Dillon's Rule, which is the old doctrine saying that local governments are just creatures of state law and state constitutions, with no constitutional right to exist except insofar as state law permits. Home rule statutes were a response to this principle, but ultimately those are just state laws, too, by which states delegate sovereignty to cities. That means state laws can take it away again.



To me, the right to vote is fundamental, and it should include the right to local self-determination. Operationalizing that can involve a lot of detailed issues, of course. But I don't like this emergency manager system, and I think the racism that underlies it is obvious. As the article explains, quoting a legal brief, there is a scoring system to determine whether to appoint an EM, and:  "...six out of seven communities (85%) with a majority population of racial and ethnic minorities received [emergency managers] when they had scores of 7. At the same time, none of the twelve communities (0%) with a majority white population received an EM despite having scores of 7 or higher."  




Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hidden Harbor Homeowner's Association President indicted | WTVC

Hidden Harbor Homeowner's Association President indicted | WTVC: "Detectives investigated an allegation that Markee, who was the President of the Hidden Harbor Home Owner's Association, had embezzled monies from the association. Detectives presented their findings to the Hamilton County Grand Jury who returned the indictment."



------------------

As I keep saying, there needs to be more visibility and more oversight of condo and HOA financial activities.

KFOX14 Investigates: Residents continue battle with Oasis Ranch HOA | KFOX

KFOX14 Investigates: Residents continue battle with Oasis Ranch HOA | KFOX: "Some residents living in the Oasis Ranch neighborhood in east El Paso are continuing their protest against their Homeowner's Association board.

KFOX14Investigates reported last week some residents stopped paying their $20 monthly HOA fees, saying they're not getting the maintenance services they pay for.

Dana Properties, who manages the neighborhood, said the HOA can't do needed maintenance because they don't have the money since people have quit paying the fees."

----------

Not paying HOA assessments is always a risky tactic. You can find yourself facing a lien on your home that can be released only by paying the assessments plus thousands of dollars in attorney fees and penalties.

Family watches in horror as dog mauled to death in their own home - 680 NEWS

Family watches in horror as dog mauled to death in their own home - 680 NEWS: "Tuesday night his little Havanese named “April” was mauled to death on the floor of his condo by a neighbour’s pit bull that got loose in the hall and muscled its way through his front door...



-------------------

I have no idea why people want to own aggressive dogs.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Victoria homeowner horrified after tenant lists condo on AirBnB | CTV Vancouver Island News

Victoria homeowner horrified after tenant lists condo on AirBnB | CTV Vancouver Island News:



Cheeky of him.

CanLII - 2016 ONSC 2565 (CanLII)

CanLII - 2016 ONSC 2565 (CanLII): " This is an application for a declaration that the respondents have breached section 117 and 119 of The Condominium Act, 1998, SO 1998, Chapter 19 (the Act) by failing to permit the applicant to enter the respondent’s (Mr. Lu’s unit) to carry out repairs required as a result of flooding in the unit, and an order permitting the applicant to enter the unit as necessary to:

(a)         inspect the unit and common elements and determine the repairs required as a result of flooding in the unit, and;

(b)         to carry out the required repairs to the unit and common elements."



--------------

Which it turns out the owner should not have done: " In the circumstances I find that the respondents should be responsible for costs in the amount of $12,000, payable immediately.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Goldman Sachs Agrees to Pay More than $5 Billion in Connection with Its Sale of Residential Mortgage Backed Securities | OPA | Department of Justice

Goldman Sachs Agrees to Pay More than $5 Billion in Connection with Its Sale of Residential Mortgage Backed Securities | OPA | Department of Justice: "“This resolution holds Goldman Sachs accountable for its serious misconduct in falsely assuring investors that securities it sold were backed by sound mortgages, when it knew that they were full of mortgages that were likely to fail,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery.  "



----

But this is a civil case. What about throwing some of these crooks in jail? Here's an intriguing line from down in the press release: "“This resolution holds Goldman Sachs accountable for its serious misconduct in falsely assuring investors that securities it sold were backed by sound mortgages, when it knew that they were full of mortgages that were likely to fail,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery."

Saturday, April 02, 2016

EDITORIAL: Who leaked details in the HOA probe? | Las Vegas Review-Journal

EDITORIAL: Who leaked details in the HOA probe? | Las Vegas Review-Journal

This just reeks--we have a Nevada Supreme Court Justice named as a leaker, reports of Department of Justice personnel leaking to the conspirators, and a federal judge who sealed it all up at the request of...the Department of Justice. As the Review-Journal says:



"The public obviously has a greater interest in learning whether the employees of their federal justice department engaged in misconduct that could have affected a massive public corruption case than those same employees have in keeping their personal indiscretions secret. The public has a right to know if a thorough and competent investigation of alleged wrongdoing was conducted, and why no one was ever held accountable for the alleged leaks."

Homeowners want changes to HOA transfer fees - 7NEWS Denver TheDenverChannel.com

Homeowners want changes to HOA transfer fees - 7NEWS Denver TheDenverChannel.com

Ka-ching, ka-ching, goes the cash register at the property management firm.

Bill Text - AB-1799 Common interest developments: association governance: elections.

Bill Text - AB-1799 Common interest developments: association governance: elections.



Yesterday I had a long phone conversation with Marjorie Murray of the Center for California Homeowner Association Law.  She told me about a new Assembly bill that is now in committee.  California has detailed statutes regarding procedures that HOA and condos must adopt for elections, to ensure that they aren't rigged, including independent election inspectors, handling and preservation of ballots, recounts, etc.  This bill, AB 1799, would create an exemption from that law for uncontested elections. This is a problem.  For example, boards could disqualify potential challenger candidates by charging them with rule violations, and in effect manufacture an uncontested election, which they could then rig with impunity.  They can also just discourage challengers by other means--"hey, why are you costing us all money by running for the board?" In any event, allowing any HOA or condo elections to operate outside the law is a terrible idea. I suppose the idea is that it is a waste of money to have an inspector for an uncontested election. But I would want to know how many ballots were cast anyway, and I don't like the idea of creating an incentive for associations to save money by not having contested elections.



The bill is sponsored by the Republican leader in the Assembly, Chad Mayes. The California legislature is run by Democrats and Jerry Brown is the Governor, so I hope this thing gets killed in committee. But please don't hesitate to send emails to the Committee.



Here is the operative language:



"(f) Directors shall not be required to be elected pursuant to this article if the governing documents provide that one member from each separate interest is a director, or if the election of directors is uncontested. For purposes of this subdivision, an election is uncontested if the number of candidates for election does not exceed the number of directors to be elected at that election."



The bill is in the Housing and Community Development Committee and will be heard on April 13, Marjorie tells me.

Friday, April 01, 2016

As Water Infrastructure Crumbles, Many Cities Seek Private Help

As Water Infrastructure Crumbles, Many Cities Seek Private Help

"More than 2,000 municipalities have entered public-private partnerships for all or part of their water supply systems, according to the National Association of Water Companies, which represents private water companies like Veolia North America and American Water. Partner municipalities include San Antonio; Akron, Ohio; and Washington, D.C. Miami-Dade County is considering partnerships for three water facilities, including one built in 1924. And Wichita, Kansas, is starting to study the issue."

-------

The problem is that voters don't want to pay taxes to maintain existing infrastructure. They can be more easily persuaded to approve bonds and borrow to build something new than to maintain what they already have. When it comes to boring old maintenance, they don't want to approve the borrowing and spending. So municipal infrastructure is in serious decline in this country, to the tune of at least $3.6 trillion needed by 2020. But of course people want top quality infrastructure--clean water, safe bridges and dams, smooth roads and highways--they just don't want to pay for it. And this is where PPPs (private-public partnerships) and investment banks come into the equation.  It's another way to say "privatization." And the record of bad, bad deals in the name of these complex arrangements is quite impressive.  There's always some cool way of financing the whole thing--investment banks, sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms, vendors, concessionaires, derivatives, interest rate swaps... The deals usually get negotiated in secret by the city mayor or chief executive of the county, then fast-tracked through city councils or county boards without sufficient study or any right to change it--up or down, now, or it's off--and foisted off on the public as brilliant ways to get something for nothing. Ask the people of Jefferson County, Alabama.  They got taken to the cleaners so badly using interest rate swaps to pay for a new sewer system that the county had to go bankrupt. J. P. Morgan took care of everything, don't you know.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Donald Trump Made Up Stuff 71 Times In An Hour

Donald Trump Made Up Stuff 71 Times In An Hour:

"On Wednesday, The Huffington Post assigned five and a half reporters to look into a roughly 12,000-word transcript of Trump’s town hall event on CNN the night before. It took us hours, but in all, we found 71 separate instances in which Trump made a claim that was either inaccurate, misleading or deeply questionable. That’s basically one falsehood every 169 words (counting the words uttered by moderator Anderson Cooper), or 1.16 falsehoods every minute (the town hall lasted an hour, including commercial breaks)."



--------------

Of course, this means nothing to his followers.

Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball » The Electoral College: The Only Thing That Matters

Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball » The Electoral College: The Only Thing That Matters:



Larry Sabato is the just about the best at this prediction business, and he has a Clinton-Trump matchup turning into a route: Clinton 347 electoral votes, Trump 191. Trump is toxic for the Republican Party, which is why they are trying to derail him in Wisconsin. With the RNC chair and the Speaker of the House both being from Wisconsin, with Trump's goon campaign manager being brought up on battery charges, and with Trump saying he wants to jail women who have abortions, it seems likely that he will lose Wisconsin. But we shall see what the voters have to say.




14 Million Americans Live in Extremely Poor Neighborhoods | FOX40

14 Million Americans Live in Extremely Poor Neighborhoods | FOX40:

"Suburban neighborhoods fell into deep poverty at more than double the rate of cities, according to Brookings. Almost three times as many people lived in concentrated suburban poverty in 2010-14 than in 2000. Also, a growing number of suburban neighborhoods are on the cusp of extreme poverty.

Lower income Americans have been flocking to the suburbs in recent years, following the jobs in construction, retail and restaurants that relocated there. But the suburbs lack the transportation, social services and affordable housing to help lift poor residents up the income ladder, Kneebone said. And those who lose their jobs become stuck in poverty there."




------------------

Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link. Being poor is hard, but being poor and living in a neighborhood of concentrated poverty is much worse. And non-whites who are poor tend to be concentrated in poor neighborhoods:  "Whites make up 44 percent of the nation’s poor, but account for just 18 percent of the poor people living in concentrated poverty. Poor blacks are almost five times as likely to live in extremely poor neighborhoods as whites, and poor Hispanics are more than three times as likely."  Poor people have been "flocking to the suburbs" for several decades, moving to small municipalities where there is little or no government of non-profit support structure for poor people. This has created crisis conditions in a number of places here in the Chicago, including south-of-Chicago suburbs  such as Harvey, Dolton, Markham, and a number of others.

Driverless Taxi Pods to Come to Gurgaon, An Indian City Run by Private Industry - CityLab

Driverless Taxi Pods to Come to Gurgaon, An Indian City Run by Private Industry - CityLab

Libertarians are excited about this city because it grew like crazy and has virtually no government or public infrastructure, and no regulation--Privatopia, in other words. Unfortunately, it is an environmental hellhole, and that's only the beginning.  If you are rich and living in a luxury skyscraper, I guess life is pretty sweet. But if you are poor, not so much.

--------

"Gurgaon may be a bustling metropolis, but it lacks infrastructure, which means there’s no citywide system for water, electricity, or sewage. Private companies handle those, the economists write: Trucks that haul away waste dump it on public land, tap water is often delivered by private trucks, and reliable electricity often comes from diesel generators that pollute the environment."

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Urban Revival? Not For Most Americans | Jed Kolko

Urban Revival? Not For Most Americans | Jed Kolko:

"In recent years, numerous studies and media reports have documented that college-educated young adults have been drawn to urban centers. At times some have claimed a broader demographic reversal in which cities grow faster than suburbs, and even the end of the suburbs.

But, in fact, the U.S. continues to suburbanize. The share of Americans living in urban neighborhoods dropped by 7%, from 21.7% in 2000 to 20.1% in 2014. Even looking at only the densest urban neighborhoods where about one-third of the urban population lives, the share of Americans living in these neighborhoods fell by 5%, from 7.4% in 2000 to 7.0% in 2014. (See note at end of post for details on data, methodology, and definitions.) Headlines about educated young adults flocking to Brooklyn and San Francisco aren’t wrong – but they are far from the whole story and are unrepresentative of broader trends. Other demographic groups are suburbanizing faster than the young and rich are piling in to cities.

This post looks at the change in urban living for detailed demographic groups, using individual-level data from the Census. The findings are consistent with analyses of the most recent county data and of detailed neighborhood data, both of which confirm that the American population overall continues to suburbanize. What’s new is that individual-level data show us how skewed the urban revival is toward rich, young, educated Whites without school-age kids."




-------------------------

That whole "middle class returning to the city" thing kind of flopped.  Young rich people are doing it, but when they have kids it is off to the suburbs even for them. The people who predicted the end of the suburbs couldn't have been more wrong.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Crack down on condo association abuses | Miami Herald

Crack down on condo association abuses | Miami Herald

This is unintentionally hilarious. They "revealed" this in the sense that Columbus "discovered" America. In both cases, there were a lot of people there ahead of them.



"Allegations of fraud by condominium associations in South Florida is nothing new, but the latest case to come to light is shocking in its scope. And it reveals something else: That investigation into such abuses by local authorities is too infrequent, and many condo residents are left frustrated without the help of the agencies created to protect them."




Condo owners face financial losses under receivers’ watch | Miami Herald

Condo owners face financial losses under receivers’ watch | Miami Herald

"Tropical Point is one of many Miami-Dade condos whose directors went to court to request the appointment of a receiver to help them regain their financial stability. In theory, the receivers take over units that are vacant or have defaulted on their mortgages, rent them and pass the income to the owners' association to make up for the owners who are not paying their maintenance fees. In exchange, the receiver is allowed to pocket a set percentage of the rent. During the 18 months that Caridad Alina Ortega, the receiver appointed by Judge José Rodríguez, was in charge of Tropical Point, some of the owners paid thousands of dollars for maintenance and their debts, as well as special assessments. But conditions never improved, according to the testimony of several residents of the complex, which also faced a lien by the city of Miami. The electricity and water bills were not paid, and elevators and fire alarm and sprinklers were not repaired."

---------------

The Miami Herald is discovering that a whole lot of people are profiting from bad governance and inadequate capitalization of condominiums.

State must improve policing of condo fraud | Miami Herald

State must improve policing of condo fraud | Miami Herald

Gee--do you think?  Actually there are about 50 states that should improve their policing of condo and HOA fraud. But perhaps a person could be pardoned for being a bit skeptical about any state or local government's intention to actually do something about it. Local governments have been using CIDs as cash cows for decades, and the profits come from collecting property taxes and not providing services. Criminal investigations and prosecutions for white collar crime are expensive. Got to the police or prosecutors with a condo fraud issue and they tell you it's a civil matter.

Multiple South Florida condos under state investigation for election fraud | Miami Herald

Multiple South Florida condos under state investigation for election fraud | Miami Herald

"Frustrated condo residents say they have few options. Local police agencies say that most of the complaints do not involve criminal activities and can be handled in civil courts. Prosecutors say police or the DBPR are responsible for enforcing the laws, but the state agency argues that it cannot investigate complaints about actions that fall outside its jurisdiction or that lack sufficient evidence. After receiving several complaints in recent months from residents alleging financial mismanagement, lack of transparency and electoral fraud in condominiums, el Nuevo Herald and Univisión 23 launched an investigation. Their findings included at least 84 fraudulent signatures on ballots for the board of directors at The Beach Club. From the more than 500 complaints filed with the DBPR by condo owners in Miami-Dade in 2015, the investigative team focused on the 81 cases still under state investigation. Of those, 27 involved alleged irregularities in elections to boards of directors — people who approve lucrative contracts for the condos and 31 involved a lack of access to information that owners have a right to obtain under state laws. Another nine cases involved allegations of financial mismanagement. The rest involved the unauthorized use of reserve funds, disputes over fines and other issues."




Sunday, March 27, 2016

Deposition says HOA fraud figure was warned about FBI raids by State Supreme Court Justice Saitta | Las Vegas Review-Journal

Deposition says HOA fraud figure was warned about FBI raids by State Supreme Court Justice Saitta | Las Vegas Review-Journal



"Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta “tipped off” a key government target to FBI-led raids in an investigation of massive homeowners association fraud, according to a sworn deposition obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In the deposition, Lisa Kim, who ran a company that managed HOAs linked to the long-running investigation, testified that the FBI’s target, the late lawyer Nancy Quon, told her about the tip on Sept. 24, 2008, the first of two days of court-approved law enforcement searches across the valley...Saitta, who was first elected to the Supreme Court in 2006, presided over construction defect cases while she was a Clark County District Court judge. Quon often appeared before her."

--------------

Ever since the news of this investigation broke, there were stories about alleged connections between judges and prosecutors and the HOA fraud ring, especially construction defect attorney Nancy Quon. Some stories suggested that such connections explained why the Nevada US Attorney's Office was kicked off the case, which was taken over by a special white collar crime unit from Washington, DC. All the documents on that, though, are tippy-top, hush-hush, secret.   To wit:  "The epic federal case wrapped up in January with more than 40 convictions, but the government continues to keep a lid on a super-secret investigation into the leak allegations that did not result in any criminal charges. Kim, who pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors, said in the June 9 deposition that Quon also told her a member of the U.S. attorney’s office had tipped her to the investigation months before the raids. Quon did not identify her source at the office, which then was overseeing the high-profile prosecution...Quon told Kim she was warned by a government source to watch her back. “She said that someone in the U.S. attorney’s office had told her that there’s this big HOA thing going on and that things were going to be bad really soon … and that I don’t know what you’re doing with Benzer, but just be really careful,” Kim testified."



Jeff German of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has done an incredible job on this case for several years. This story is a blockbuster, and I strongly urge you to follow the link and read the whole thing.