Saturday, January 31, 2009

Real Estate Blog - Fannie Mae Condo Changes - Interest Rate/Hazard Insurance/REO/HOA Dues

Real Estate Blog - Fannie Mae Condo Changes - Interest Rate/Hazard Insurance/REO/HOA Dues: "Fannie Mae is updating its delinquent HOA dues policy for the review processes to require that no more than 15 percent of the total units in a project can be 30 days or more past due on the payment of their condominium/association fee payments. This new policy applies to the review of both new and established attached condominium projects."
That strikes me as pretty tough with an economy like this.

Dealer a guest at judges’ condo | Wilkes-Barre News | The Times Leader: "JUPITER, Fla. – A convicted drug dealer and attorney Robert Powell were among the people who were listed as “permanent guests” permitted to use an exclusive condominium owned by Luzerne County judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella, according to documents obtained Friday by The Times Leader."
Now, that's what I call rehabilitation.

Elected officials get an earful about condo association laws -- South Florida "BOCA RATON - State representatives pushing to reform condominium or home association laws got an earful from residents at a Town Hall meeting here on Saturday. More than 150 residents, from Miami-Dade County to Port St. Lucie and across to Naples attended the four-hour meeting where they shared stories about the problems they face when they live in a condo or homeowner association community...[T]he most prevalent concerns were harassment or retaliation against unit owners who speak out against the actions of the board or a board member, abuse of power by associations and the lack of protection for unit owners when their boards act inappropriately or maliciously."
Shocking. Imagine that. Abuse of power by HOA boards and nowhere for the owners to turn. Why hasn't somebody pointed that out before?


JammieWearingFool: Where is FEMA?: "At least 42 people have died, including 11 in Kentucky, and conditions are worsening in many places days after an ice storm knocked out power to 1.3 million customers from the Plains to the East Coast. About a million people were still without electric Friday, and with no hope that the lights will come back on soon, small communities are frantically struggling to help their residents."
The blogger's criticism is that Obama shows no concern about their well-being and FEMA isn't doing enough. Local governments are overwhelmed. Shades of Katrina?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

01/29/2009 - Rod Blagojevich removed from office as Illinois governor - "SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the boy-faced Chicago Democrat swept into office six years ago as an antidote to the scandal and corruption of his predecessor, was officially removed from office today in the wake of federal corruption charges."
At long last, Governor Hairbrush is gone. This sociopath has all but bankrupted the state. Illinois has become an economic and political basket case in the six years the worst governor in America has blighted the political landscape. Pat Quinn, our new governor, is an honest public servant and a genuine reformer. We will see if he can do something about what is perhaps the worst state legislature in the nation.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - Orleans condos consider ban on smoking at home - Orleans condos consider ban on smoking at home: "The Old Colony Village condominium complex is considering the following bylaw:

* Smoking is prohibited within all units, in all common areas and outside on decks and patios.
* Existing smokers can be exempt. The exemption ends when the unit is conveyed or, if rented, when the smoker moves out.
* Even if the unit is exempt, the board may respond to residents' complaints of secondhand smoke by declaring the smoke a nuisance and requiring the owner to purchase a filter system to prevent smoke from migrating to surrounding areas, seal all penetrations in walls, ceilings and floors, or stop smoking.

The condominium association is debating a smoking ban for its 143 units in response to complaints about secondhand smoke migrating into hallways and neighbors' units in the two- and three-story buildings on Old Colony Way. The proposed bylaw would prohibit smoking as units are sold but would allow the complex's board to require that a resident who smokes install a filter system, seal off places where smoke could escape, or even stop smoking."

Within the units? I think this pretty much snuffs out (pun intended) the notion of a condominium "airspace" unit as a piece of private property.

Woodpeckers in Rossmoor may soon end up in sharpshooter's cross hairs | Outposts | Los Angeles Times: "Woody Woodpecker was annoying, but real woodpeckers are incredible birds with complex social systems and an affinity for drilling holes in trees, in which they store food.

So why would anyone want to kill them?

In the upscale Bay Area retirement community of Rossmoor, it's because acorn woodpeckers (like that pictured above) have been mistaking wooden homes, built within the birds' natural habitat, as trees.

So after months of discussions, one homeowner's association has voted to shoot and kill the birds, while another association has decided to postpone plans to do the same for up to two months."

Shu Bartholomew and Fred Pilot have been sending me links to this deplorable situation. Whenever we get a woodpecker in the trees around our house, whoever sees it first calls everybody to come watch it. I'm a fisherman and a hunter, but the idea of killing a woodpecker is so far from my consciousness that I can't quite grasp the rationale. Wooden houses are not a new idea. So far, woodpeckers have not destroyed any of them, I suspect. I guess it makes sense that somewhere there is an HOA that will find this the only course of action.
ps: I had to change the photo because Fred advised me that I had posted a photo of the pileated woodpecker instead of the acorn woodpecker. I stand corrected.
pps: Fred insisted that I post this picture instead, and I have to admit it is a good one. - Hackers Crack Into Texas Road Sign, Warn of Zombies Ahead - Science News | Science & Technology | Technology News: "Transportation officials in Texas are scrambling to prevent hackers from changing messages on digital road signs after one sign in Austin was altered to read, 'Zombies Ahead.'"
Your tax dollars at work. This warning is as useful as the ones I see here in Illinois. Usually these expensive signs say something like, "Buckle Your Seatbelt," and five minutes later you hit a massive traffic jam with no warning.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

WWII Veteran Freezes To Death In Own Home - News Story - WNEM Saginaw

WWII Veteran Freezes To Death In Own Home: Bay City Electric & Light Restricted Power To Man's Home After He Did Not Pay Bills: "An autopsy determined Schur died from hypothermia in the home he lived in for years. A medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Schur told TV5 and that Schur died a painful death due to the hypothermia. Dr. Kanu Varani has done hundreds of autopsies, and he said he’d never seen a person die of hypothermia indoors. A neighbor who lives across the street from Schur is angered that the city didn’t personally notify the elderly man about his utility situation. Schur’s neighbor, Herndon, said Schur had a utility bill on his kitchen table with a large amount of money clipped to it, with the intention of paying that bill."
It was 32 degrees in his home. He was 93 years old. He didn't even know they had put a limiter on his meter that cut his power. How about this:

DTE [the Detroit power company] said it doesn't use limiters because the Michigan Public Service Commission discourages use of the devices. TV5 also found out that Bay City isn't regulated by the state agency because it's a municipal company. It has a review board that sets its standards. Now it could be sued as a result of its policy on limiters and the fact that it didn't personally notify Schur about the device.

"Could be sued"? How about, "Could be incarcerated"?

Kentlands burglary lawsuit settled

Kentlands burglary lawsuit settled: "A $3.25 million lawsuit filed against two Gaithersburg brothers who pleaded guilty to a 2006 burglary in the Kentlands has been settled.

According to the lawsuit, Jaime Cowger Denzel was given access to units in the Kentlands V building to do maintenance work, but residents were not informed of his criminal history or drug use. Denzel used keys held by his mother Susan Denzel, then president of the Kentlands V Condominium Association, to enter Helene Ellen Berman's unit to steal more than $200,000 worth of property, according to the lawsuit."

They also sued the condo association and property management firm. Kentlands is a planned community that has been widely publicized as a showpiece of New Urbanism If you'd like to read a puff piece on Kentlands from the WaPo, be my guest. But it seems that life isn't as idyllic as it first appears.

Schwarzenegger Wants To Tax Car Repair, Golf - Sacramento News Story - KCRA Sacramento

Schwarzenegger Wants To Tax Car Repair, Golf - Sacramento News Story - KCRA Sacramento: "The Republican governor is proposing to extend California sales taxes to cover some services -- rounds of golf, auto repairs, veterinary care, amusement park and sporting event admissions, as well as appliance and furniture repairs.

The moves are part of his strategy to erase a nearly $42 billion budget deficit over the next year-and-a-half."

With states struggling to cover deficits, and taxes going up, it will be hard to persuade legislators to increase oversight of CIDs, let alone cut do something about double taxation or addressing these local CID construction mandates. Schwarzenegger has two CID reform vetoes under his belt already.

Philip K. Howard: How Modern Law Makes Us Powerless -

Philip K. Howard: How Modern Law Makes Us Powerless - "But there's a threshold problem for our new president. Americans don't feel free to reach inside themselves and make a difference. The growth of litigation and regulation has injected a paralyzing uncertainty into everyday choices. All around us are warnings and legal risks. The modern credo is not 'Yes We Can' but 'No You Can't.' Our sense of powerlessness is pervasive."
Think about this essay in the context of HOAs and condos. A form of housing that deprives people of control over their property has become the norm in new construction. How's that for creating a sense of powerlessness?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Half the room, all the assessment in Roseville

Half the room, all the assessment in Roseville: "At least a half-dozen suburbs have declared a condominium or townhouse -- or a cluster of them -- 'housing improvement areas'' eligible for city-backed loans. The designation is from a 1996 law to help cities prevent these high-profile buildings from deteriorating, as well as to give homeowners a longer-term loan to repay than a big one-time assessment."
Cities bailing out condos to prevent blight? Who predicted that long ago?, he asked rhetorically, knowing the answer.


PUBLIC PENSION WAR :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Personal Finance: "While current retirees receive the promised benefits, what happens to future pension payments if the various fund investments cannot provide the benefits promised by law?

The answer may lie in the court system. James Spiotto, an attorney with Chapman and Cutler in Chicago, helped rewrite the Chapter 9 bankruptcy laws in the 1980s. Rarely discussed, Chapter 9 provides for municipalities to go through a bankruptcy reorganization. It has only been used 564 times since enacted in 1937.

Spiotto explains that a city seeking this type of bankruptcy protection could renegotiate all of its contracts, including pension promises. That sets current workers, who want to make sure the money already in the pension plan is equitably distributed, against retirees and those nearing retirement.

Public pensions are a national crisis."

As a fellow who has been paying into one of these public pension funds (state, not city) while the state government blithely declines to make its contributions, I do not look kindly on the notion that some bankruptcy judge will allow them to get away with it.

But note that the premise of this whole scenario is that the City of Chicago, or maybe the State of Illinois, could go bankrupt. Until recently, nobody even used the words "government" and "bankrupt" in the same conversation, let alone the same sentence.

And you think the nation's HOAs and condos are going to thrive and survive while the cities that surround them go bankrupt? Don't bank(rupt) on it.

Shock, sorrow follow arrest of neighbor in burglary case - LA Daily News

Shock, sorrow follow arrest of neighbor in burglary case - LA Daily News: "WEST HILLS - Inside Equus Estates, a tight-knit gated hillside community with a spectacular view of the San Fernando Valley, a wave of shock mixed with some sadness has descended.

Neighbors in this wealthy community of high-powered professionals have been stunned to learn that living within their protective fencing was the alleged mastermind of the 'Hillside Burglars' who stole millions in jewelry, cash and property from the homes of celebrities and Hollywood honchos."

According to his wife, even she didn't know. I see a TV movie in her future.

14-year-old boy impersonates cop, police say -- "Chicago police arrested a 14-year-old boy for allegedly impersonating one of their own Saturday.

The boy, who has been charged as a juvenile for impersonating an officer, walked into the Grand Crossing District station, 7040 S. Cottage Grove Ave., dressed in a Chicago police uniform, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said. The boy, who reported for duty about 1:30 p.m., partnered with another police officer for about five hours.

The boy identified himself as an officer from another district but was detailed for the day to Grand Crossing and also was savvy enough to sign out a police radio and a ticket book, according to a source. The source also said the boy went on traffic stops with the officer he went on the street with."

That's great. The Chicago Police Department sent a 14 year old boy out on patrol with another officer and didn't become suspicious until "after his tour was over."

They say he "did not write tickets," and that's probably why they didn't pick up on the scam. Real Chicago cops don't write tickets, either.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Google plans to make PCs history | Technology | The Observer: "Google is to launch a service that would enable users to access their personal computer from any internet connection, according to industry reports. But campaigners warn that it would give the online behemoth unprecedented control over individuals' personal data."
We seem to be headed away from private information storage on our own computers, and toward one vast repository of all our data in the hands of Lord Google the Benevolent. We will then fire up our cell phones and connect to the mother lode. This would not work for people who have data they want to keep private, but I'm sure there will always be hard disk drives in the second hand stores, alongside the typewriters and buggy whips.

I'm not sure I'm ready to trust Google quite this much, although I do store things there as a backup.

Fat dogs seized by RSPCA - Telegraph

Fat dogs seized by RSPCA - Telegraph: "The Labradors were taken from their home by an inspector from the charity who said they were just going to be weighed.

The organisation has not allowed Marie Davidson, 48, to see her animals, or even told her where they have been kept for the past three months."

Welcome to Great Britain, where the population has lost any semblance of freedom and doesn't seem to care. Whenever people claim that Britain has an "unwritten constitution," I laugh. Folks, get it in writing next time.

Fight building over judges redoing mortgages

Fight building over judges redoing mortgages: "WASHINGTON (AP) - Most congressional Democrats say the quickest way to save homeowners like Troy Butler of Saginaw, Mich., is to let them declare bankruptcy and allow judges to dictate new mortgage terms.

Easy, except the lenders that would absorb the pain—and lose control of any deals to ease the terms—do not want to get dragged into bankruptcy court by millions of overextended borrowers."

The US Constitution's "contract clause" prohibits states from making laws that impair the obligations of contracts. The clause is there because after the Revolution, when the nation was under the Articles of Confederation, states were canceling debts, banning mortgage foreclosure, and so forth. Merchants and banks were going nuts. The temptation is always present for politicians to make themselves popular by declaring a private debt holiday. The problem is that if Congress does things like this, banks will have to factor into every loan the possibility that the terms will be reformed by a judge somewhere down the line. If Congress wants to "unfreeze" credit markets--i.e., get banks lending freely again--this is not the way to do it.