Friday, August 06, 2004

Home and condo associations hit by soaring insurance rates: South Florida Sun-Sentinel
It costs a pretty penny to insure the lakes, walkways, swales, athletic courts and other amenities dubbed "common areas" that help lure buyers to private communities.

Homeowner and condominium association leaders in Palm Beach and Broward counties say insurance for master policies has gone up 50 to 300 percent in the past two years.

Only a few companies in Florida write master policies, and community leaders are demanding that the state investigate the skyrocketing rates.

[there's more...]

This is a good article with lots of specifics. The situation is troubling, because on the one hand the associations are hitting the limit of affordability for liability policies, but on the other hand if they are uninsured they face massive uninsured judgments for slip and fall accidents by the pool or any other major injury.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Hate your homeowners association? - Apr. 22, 2004
Here's a CNN piece that I missed from a few months ago.

BEND, Ore. (CNN/Money) – Three years after moving into a new 4,700-square-foot home in Brook Hills, a gated community near San Diego, Sonni and James Bass are caught up in an expensive legal battle with their homeowners association.

Brook Hills is suing the Basses, who are returning the favor with a countersuit. Why? The association says they took too long to do their landscaping. Plus, they installed a light on their tennis court without approval.
All my clients have tried to do is enforce the rules," said Michael Kim, an attorney with Peters & Freedman, the firm that represents Brook Hills and about 500 other homeowners associations.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The New York Times > Home & Garden > Tomb Trouble: Nimby Strikes at Woodlawn
LEONA HELMSLEY, the real estate heiress and boldface prima donna, is suing the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx for $150 million and planning to disinter and relocate the body of her dear departed husband, Harry. The late Mr. Helmsley must be moved from the family mausoleum at the historic burial ground, the suit says, because of the ruination of the "open view, serenity and tranquillity."

Mrs. Helmsley's complaint, first reported Monday in The New York Post, is that the "perpetual beauty" and "peaceful solitude" of the spot have been destroyed by the latest of many community mausoleums to be built at Woodlawn. But the view Mrs. Helmsley describes as forever lost is bleak: the access ramps to the Major Deegan Expressway, a traffic light at Jerome Avenue and 233rd Street, and locked gates where the cemetery's grand entrance once was.

So the pursuit of status continues even after death. Ever hear of a dead guy complaining that his view has been blocked?

Are you irrationally exuberant? - Jul. 27, 2004
I would say a bubble is happening," said Robert Shiller, whose book "Irrational Exuberance" (Princeton University Press, 2000) warned, correctly, that the stock market was grossly overvalued by investors' unfounded optimism.

"When it's going to burst is the real question," he said. "It's difficult [to know]."

The Yale economist and principal at real estate firm Fiserv Case Shiller Weiss is now working on the book's second edition, which will among other things look at whether America's obsession with the stock market has been displaced by exuberance for real estate.

During a housing bubble, he said, buyers who would otherwise consider a house too expensive go ahead and buy anyway because they overestimate future price appreciation and underestimate risk. The bubble bursts, or deflates, when buyers are no longer so sure that prices will continue to increase.

Read it all and see if you agree with Schiller. I think he may be wrong about this. I can see problems happening in California, where the prices are ridiculously inflated, but not in the South and Midwest. I think that certainly prices here (the Chicago area) reflect rational market forces.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Yahoo! News - Residents Poke Fun at Topeka With Slogans

Municipal boosterism at its most modest...

TOPEKA, Kan. - The city of Topeka is looking for a new slogan, but some residents just couldn't resist poking fun at their city's image.

Officials planned to begin a contest in October, with the winning motto to be announced around Dec. 5, Topeka's 150th anniversary.

But The Topeka Capital-Journal decided to get a head start.

Some suggestions that aren't likely to win official approval: "Topeka, you won't get a lot of unwanted relatives visiting you," and "Topeka — not as bad as you think."

Mayor James McClinton said Topeka has positive aspects like the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site and the Statehouse that it can promote and shouldn't get sidetracked by naysayers.

"There's so much about Topeka that we all know and that we've lived over the years," McClinton said.

The slogan will be used to promote the city so it must portray it favorably — unlike many of the suggestions that the Topeka Convention and Visitors Bureau has received already.

"I didn't think they were terribly positive," said Stephanie Wallingford, the bureau's marketing and tourism manager.

And if Terry Carpenter's suggestion — "City of morons" — is any indication of the prevailing sentiment, Topeka may just forgo a slogan entirely.

"No slogan is better than a bad one," Wallingford said. "Maybe we don't use one. Maybe we get our theme knocked out and get some graphic that we can use that says it all."

Chicago Tribune | Family of boy sues condo group
By Chris Young
Tribune staff reporter
Published August 1, 2004

A family with a disabled child sued their Palos Park condominium association Friday in federal court, saying the association refused to let them install a wheelchair ramp at the entrance of their new home.

The child, Phillip Baron, 14, cannot stand or walk by himself and needs a motorized wheelchair.

The Barons contend that the Baron Condominium Association, which has no relation to the family, illegally discriminated against them under the Fair Housing Act and Illinois Condominium Property Act.

"Under the Fair Housing Act, it's a reasonable request," said Barbara Baron, 40, the boy's mother. "We can't move in until the ramp is installed. It's upsetting."

The act requires the association to allow "reasonable modifications that enable persons with disabilities to use and enjoy housing on par with non-disabled individuals," the lawsuit said.

Barbara Baron submitted two ramp proposals and letters to the association, including one dated June 10 and drafted by an attorney, which the association has not responded to, she said.

The suit demands that the association let the Barons install the ramp and pay damages for "pain, suffering and humiliation" and "willful, malicious or reckless misconduct."

If I live to be a thousand I will never understand why HOAs do this sort of thing.