Friday, November 10, 2017

The Deep Question Behind Rand Paul's 'Trivial' Dispute - Bloomberg

The Deep Question Behind Rand Paul's 'Trivial' Dispute - Bloomberg: "If Skaggs is accurately representing the senator’s views (not to mention the cause of the dispute), Paul has a highly selective idea of property rights. His get-out-of-my-face version of libertarianism doesn’t seem to respect the crucially important freedom to make, and responsibility to respect, contracts.

Your property rights don’t give you the freedom to violate your homeowners association contract specifying how to maintain your lawn any more than my free-expression rights give me the freedom to violate the Bloomberg contract saying I can’t write for The Wall Street Journal. If you can’t live with the restrictions, you don’t sign the contract. And if your neighbor isn’t sticking to the rules, you don’t go after him with your fists. You take it up with the homeowners association -- that most local version of politics."


The problem with this argument is that in most cases HOA and condo association buyers don't "sign" any contract to join the association. They just buy the home, and membership is automatic, so these associations are mandatory-membership organizations, not voluntary associations. It is increasingly common for buyers to find that all the good options are in private communities.The law uses a legal fiction to classify them as voluntary, but in fact that isn't completely true for many people.

Rand Paul may be one of those people who believes that he has the full bundle of property rights and can do whatever he chooses. But is it because he didn't know what he was getting into?  I doubt it. Rand Paul may be one of the few people who really did know and bargain for what he got, but who wants to act as he chooses. He isn't the average person. He is very rich and well educated and powerful. He can live wherever he chooses, and he built his own house in a gated community, where everybody is restricted. So if he wants his neighbors to be restricted, but doesn't want to be restricted himself, then there is a problem.

Then there is the supreme irony that he's a libertarian. Libertarians have been raving about how great HOAs are for the last fifty years. They love the idea that there is a "private" substitute for local governments. They think private, contract-based local government is utopia. 

So, even though I don't normally find that "freedom of choice" argument very persuasive, for somebody like Rand Paul, maybe it carries more weight.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Atlas Shrubbed - POLITICO Magazine

Atlas Shrubbed - POLITICO Magazine:

I love this. Application of the libertarian's favorite, the Coase Theorem, to Rand Paul's leaf-blowing dispute with his neighbor.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

America’s ‘Retail Apocalypse’ Is Really Just Beginning

America’s ‘Retail Apocalypse’ Is Really Just Beginning: "The root cause is that many of these long-standing chains are overloaded with debt—often from leveraged buyouts led by private equity firms. There are billions in borrowings on the balance sheets of troubled retailers, and sustaining that load is only going to become harder—even for healthy chains. The debt coming due, along with America’s over-stored suburbs and the continued gains of online shopping, has all the makings of a disaster. The spillover will likely flow far and wide across the U.S. economy. There will be displaced low-income workers, shrinking local tax bases and investor losses on stocks, bonds and real estate. If today is considered a retail apocalypse, then what’s coming next could truly be scary."


They are talking about big retail chains with stores in cities all over the country that may close. For example, the map that goes with this story says that 26.8% of retail loans in Pittsburgh are delinquent. A number of big chains have filed for bankruptcy, including Toys R Us, Payless Shoes, Sports Authority, Radio Shack, and Circuit City.

Rand Paul not a perfect neighbor, developer says

Rand Paul not a perfect neighbor, developer says: "While there's no official word on what caused the fight, Skaggs suggested it might have stemmed from Paul allegedly blowing lawn trimmings into his neighbor's yard. 

There have been disagreements in the past, Skaggs said, over lawn clippings or who should cut down a tree branch when it stretched over a property line. The two men live on different streets but their lots join and their homes are 269 feet apart, according to Google Maps.

Skaggs described Boucher as a "near-perfect" neighbor, but he said the libertarian politician is a different story.

Paul "was probably the hardest person to encourage to follow the (homeowner's association regulations) of anyone out here because he has a strong belief in property rights," said Skaggs, who is the former chairman of the Warren County Republican Party. 

Skaggs noted the 13 pages of regulations are extensive. But even from the start of Paul's residence in Rivergreen, Skaggs said Paul has been difficult to work with. 

"The major problem was getting the house plans approved," Skaggs said. "He wanted to actually own the property rights and build any kind of house he wanted. He didn't end up doing that, but it was a struggle." "


There's irony for you. Libertarian writers have been waxing poetic about the virtues of homeowner associations and gated communities for decades. But here we have the most famous libertarian politician in the USA who apparently doesn't fully appreciate the nirvana of private rules that he has freely chosen, as they keep insisting. Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Condo disputes can now be resolved online | Toronto Star

Condo disputes can now be resolved online | Toronto Star: "Ontario's 1.6 million condo residents have a new avenue for settling disputes in their buildings and neighbourhoods. Last week, the province launched its first online tribunal to help resolve the complaints that arise in 10,000 condo corporations.

The Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT) provides direct access to mediators and adjudicators in a stepped process that begins with a $25 fee, although to start, it is only looking at issues related to accessing condo records."


There are so many condo disputes that treating them like other civil matters through the judicial system is prohibitively expensive. That's why there are so many proposals to send them off into some form of alternative dispute resolution. Putting the process online is a fairly dramatic step, it seems.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Crime Trackers: HOA treasurer accused of stealing more than $200 - KVOA | | Tucson, Arizona

Crime Trackers: HOA treasurer accused of stealing more than $200 - KVOA | | Tucson, Arizona: "GREEN VALLEY - A trusted member of the community is accused of ripping off a home owner's association in Green Valley.

79-year-old Wendell Byram allegedly stole more than $200,000, leaving homeowners in the lurch.

In April, Byram showed up at the Pima County Sheriff's department in Green Valley, admitted to the theft and turned himself in, investigators said.

A homeowner, who wants to remain anonymous, said they are very familiar with the case. They live in the neighborhood where Byram was the treasurer for the home owner's association for the last seven years. 

“He apparently had the full trust of the board members," the neighbor said. "They never asked to look at bank statements, and he kept two sets of books.”"


Yet another one of these. When are state governments going to accept that HOA and condo association finances must be monitored in some fashion?

Nampa homeowners share their story after ugly HOA fight | KTVB.COM

Nampa homeowners share their story after ugly HOA fight | KTVB.COM: "NAMPA - It has been the center of attention in a Nampa neighborhood for over a year, but the days of a black wrought-iron fence will soon be coming to an end.

"The lawsuit has been settled, we are selling our home, and moving to a new subdivision, the fence is coming down," said Nampa homeowner Bekah Graves.

Bekah and her husband, Eric, have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars battling the Shalimar Terrace homeowners association for the right to keep their powder-coated black ornamental steel fence around their property.

"It got to the point that financially, and emotionally, we just couldn't do it anymore," said Bekah Graves."


And that's the way it usually goes. Homeowners decide at some point that it isn't worth fighting the association.

Subdivision easily approves HOA in step toward reclaiming lakes |

Subdivision easily approves HOA in step toward reclaiming lakes | "CHAMPAIGN — Members of a northwest Champaign subdivision voted to form a homeowners association Monday night, putting them closer to regaining ownership of two retention basins that the county auctioned off without their knowledge.

The next step in the saga, which began in May, comes with a choice — attempt to legally reverse the auction sale or buy the basins back.

A packed room of Timberline Valley South residents voted 94-11 in favor of creating an HOA. The vote comes six months after Nasty Joe's LLC bought the two large retention basins for about $1,800 in a county auction, surprising many residents who didn't know the basins' drainage taxes hadn't been paid for years."


These tax auctions are just bizarre.

Mt. Juliet mom outraged HOA rejected request to put Little Free Library in yard | WKRN News 2

Mt. Juliet mom outraged HOA rejected request to put Little Free Library in yard | WKRN News 2: "MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Mt. Juliet mother is outraged after her homeowner’s association rejected her request to put a Little Free Library in her front yard.

Six-year-old Maggie told News 2 she loves to read. She asked her mother if they could put a Little Free Library in their yard similar to one located a few miles from their Mt. Juliet home.

“I want to build a community library because I want kids to learn to love to read like me,” explained Maggie."


The board says they "felt that it was not in keeping with the neighborhood," whatever that means.

Condo owners sue to close downtown Bay City bar |

Condo owners sue to close downtown Bay City bar |

To the barricades!  The condo owners have a bar in the building and they don't like the noise. The condo association filed a lawsuit.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Was the Mysterious Attack on Rand Paul Politically Motivated? | Vanity Fair

Was the Mysterious Attack on Rand Paul Politically Motivated? | Vanity Fair:

Libertarian republican senator Rand Paul was attacked by his neighbor in the gated community where they live next door to each other.  I hope he recovers quickly, because it turns out that he suffered multiple broken ribs and a bruised lung. Paul's office says he was "blindsided" while mowing his lawn. There is also the suggestion that they have argued before. I don't think we have the whole story.