Saturday, December 31, 2011

You owe me $999,524 in change

A Lexington man is accused trying to use a fake $1 million bill to pay for his purchases at a Walmart.

Michael Anthony Fuller, 53, of 3 Parker St., walked into the Walmart on Lowes Boulevard in Lexington on Nov. 17. He shopped for a while, picking up a vacuum cleaner, a microwave oven and other merchandise, totaling $476, an arrest warrant says.

When he got to the register, Fuller gave the cashier the phony bill, saying that it was real.

Store staff called police.

HOA convenants not generally regarded as contracts

In 1990, Jack Scheuerman began practicing law for homeowners associations.

“In those days, doing HOA legal work was pretty easy,” Scheuerman said. “You just dealt with the board or the property manager. You advised them about the rules and covenant enforcement.

“There was not a lot of conflict.”

How things have changed.

Today, Scheuerman represents about 170 HOAs and it’s no longer a quiet little niche legal practice.

“There’s definitely a lot more conflict,” he said. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in covenant violations.”

He’s not sure why folks who sign contracts agreeing to covenants when they buy their homes then decide not to honor their word.
That's because people don't see HOA convenants -- a real property contrivance -- as contracts. Especially once the developer that drafted them has turned over control of the HOA to the property owners. HOA convenants function more like municipal or county ordinances. No contracts are signed with the city or county; they are the law. And just as some property owners get crosswise with their local governments over ordinances affecting the use or modification of their properties, it also happens in HOAs.

In addition, many property owners don't see HOAs as legitimate governing authorities but instead as an intrusive, overbearing junta of volunteer directors with too much time on their hands aided by managers and attorneys seeking to maximize fee-driven enforcement activities and litigation revenue. Court rulings equating covenants with contracts do nothing to alter this widely held negative perception of HOAs.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Homeowner displays Santa Claus hanging by a noose in front of Sugar Land house |

Homeowner displays Santa Claus hanging by a noose in front of Sugar Land house |
"We talked to the homeowners association who says they are already in contact with the homeowner to try and remove the hanging Santa. We also talked with Sugar Land police who say they've also talked to the homeowner."
"Everybody's talkin' at me, I don't hear a world their sayin'..."
Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link. Bill O'Reilly's ridiculous "War on Christmas" should focus on this.

Byron Raynie » HOA Legislation

Byron Raynie » HOA Legislation
Here is a more complete list of the new Texas laws with the numbers of the bills and their contents.

BofA Posts Worst Showing in Dow Average - Bloomberg

BofA Posts Worst Showing in Dow Average - Bloomberg
Bank of America Corp. (BAC) is on track to be this year’s worst performer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average as concern about mounting mortgage losses and a global economic slowdown weighed on the second-biggest U.S. lender.
So Uncle Sam and the Fed gave Bank of America multiple gazillion dollar bailouts and they still can't make money? Maybe FDIC receivership is in order, along with firing the management and getting an entirely new BOD.

Pennsylvania commission: State spurred gated developments

Cost and government regulations spurred developers to build homes inside private communities, helping to explain the prevalence of these developments in the Poconos, a new state report shows.

At least 56,422 homes are within private community associations in Monroe and Pike counties. There have been financial incentives for both municipalities and developers to make communities private, according to the report released by the Joint State Government Commission.
A rare public sector accounting of the underlying dynamics that have fueled the rapid growth of Privatopia since 1970 and why HOAs are likely to end up in poor financial shape after their developers exit. Call it local government on the cheap.

Beaver Borough Bans Non-Residents From Sledding « CBS Pittsburgh

Beaver Borough Bans Non-Residents From Sledding « CBS Pittsburgh
Sledding is permitted in Roosevelt Park although children under 12 must wear helmets, but the ordinance limits sledding to only Beaver Borough residents.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Delaying foreclosure: Borrowers keep homes without paying - Dec. 28, 2011

Delaying foreclosure: Borrowers keep homes without paying - Dec. 28, 2011
Delinquent borrowers facing foreclosure are learning that they can stay in their homes for years, as long as they're willing to put up a fight. Among the tactics: Challenging the bank's actions, waiting to file paperwork right up until the deadline, requesting the lender dig up original paperwork or, in some extreme cases, declaring bankruptcy.
I love the use of the word "tactic." First of all, the entity foreclosing is hardly ever "the lender." It is a mortgage servicer. And why is it a "tactic" to expect that when some corporation wants to throw somebody out of their home onto the street, they should be required to prove that they have the legal right to do so? Are we just a nation of sheep who shamble out into the cold whenever somebody demands it?

Unfortunately many judges don't care much about these problems when the banks can't prove up their case, such as a total lack of proof of owning the note, perjured affidavits, backdated paperwork, and other things that ordinary people would get thrown in jail over.

Backtracking Lawmakers Expand U.S. Government Role in Mortgages - Yahoo! Finance

Backtracking Lawmakers Expand U.S. Government Role in Mortgages - Yahoo! Finance
An 11th-hour payroll tax cut extension signed into law last week would for the first time divert funds directly from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two mortgage-finance companies under U.S. conservatorship, to pay for general government expenses.

That move came after two others that also are expected to increase government involvement: Lawmakers allowed a tax break on private mortgage insurance to expire and raised loan limits for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration. Advocates of private mortgage finance say they are concerned that using fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is setting a precedent that will keep the government in the mortgage business for a decade or more.

It is always entertaining to hear politicians (in this case the Obama Administration and all the republican presidential contenders) promising to eliminate federal agencies, even if they can't remember which ones. In this case Obama talked about winding down Fannie and Freddie. But the importance of the housing market to the overall economy is more obvious now than ever, and the GSEs are doing something that the so-called "private sector" isn't doing with any enthusiasm now: purchasing and securitizing home mortgages. And now we see that Congress has decided to take money from the GSEs instead of raising taxes on billionaires. How clever. I hope His Lordship King Grover Norquist approves of this.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

America's Dirty Little Housing Secret Is Rocking The Suburbs

America's Dirty Little Housing Secret Is Rocking The Suburbs
In the wake of the Great Recession, poverty rolls are rising at a more rapid pace in the suburbs than in cities or rural communities. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of suburban households below the poverty line increased by 53 percent, compared to a 23 percent increase in poor households in urban areas, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of census data.

Last year, there were 2.7 million more suburban households below the federal poverty level than urban households, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was the first time on record that America’s cities didn’t contain the highest absolute number of households living in poverty. There are many reasons for the dramatic turnabout in the geographic profile of poverty.

While many once depressed urban areas are being revitalized in an effort to draw in more affluent residents, other areas are attracting lower-income families who have moved to the suburbs in search of more affordable housing and better schools. This shift in low-income families to the suburbs coincided with a move of low-wage, low-skilled jobs to those same suburban areas between the 1970s and early 2000s, experts say.

Meanwhile, the introduction of new commerce and high-cost housing in the urban neighborhoods pushed overall prices upward, providing added incentive for low-income people to head for the suburbs.

Read more:

Suburban areas have little or nothing by way of institutional support for poor people. And you can't convince any large foundation that there are any problems in the suburbs worth spending grant money on.

The Most Disturbing Presentation of the Year : Discovery News

The Most Disturbing Presentation of the Year : Discovery News
In Jesse Schell's future we will still shop, eat cereal, brush our teeth and watch TV. But everything we do and (more importantly) all the information we attend to will win us points and benefits across a vast incentives network engineered by corporations and government entities. Or, more tersely: we will live in a game.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Homeowner Association laws could slow down foreclosures

There are more than 30,000 homeowner associations in Texas. Starting January first, they will fall under a new set of laws that put some limits on their power.

Some associations have been accused of moving to swiftly to foreclose on a member’s homes simply for missing annual dues. Under the new laws, associations must now get a court order before foreclosing and notices have to be sent out.

"The purpose of these new laws is to tip the balance of fairness back in favor of homeowners and provide homeowners associations more rigorous rules they have to abide by", said Attorney Clint David.

Falling home values mean budget crunches for cities

“We’ll see, over the next few years, the real impact of the recession and housing crisis on local governments,” said Andrew Reschovsky, a professor of public affairs and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who has studied the effects of the recession on city finances. “I think the case can be made that we have not yet seen the worst of the impact on local governments. . . . That seems to be accelerating.”

* * *

The worst may be yet to come.

“That storm has not yet hit,” Frank Alexander, a professor and housing law expert at Emory University, said of the looming decline in property tax revenues, which he and others agree will last years. “It’s beginning in 2011, but it’s really going to hit in 2012 and 2013.”

While there are some encouraging indications of the economy awakening from a four-year-long slumber, real estate deflation continues. The resulting lower ad valorem property tax revenues are strapping local government coffers. Plus the massive reset in residential real estate values means new homes will be be assessed at lower values, translating into less tax revenue.

The perfessor will predict this means any new residential construction will necessarily involve mandatory membership homeowner associations to help take the strain off local government finances. There's a large degree of irony at work here. The inflation of the housing bubble drove the growth of Privatopia since local governments weren't about to willingly absorb the infrastructure and other costs to service a multitude of new residential "communities." Now that the bubble as popped in the very places where Privatopia boomed from 1999 to 2006 such as Underwater (nee "Fabulous") Las Vegas, they're likely to be just as inclined -- if not more so -- to require all new residential development be of the common interest variety.

Website lets homeowners track Vegas HOA fraud investigation - News -

Website lets homeowners track fraud investigation - News -
Thanks to Shu Bartholomew for this link. The Department of Justice allows access to case information on the huge Las Vegas HOA fraud cases. Here is the link to the DOJ web site. Scroll down to "HOA Cases" and you will see a list of all the cases linked individually by the defendants' names.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Desert Underwater

Las Vegas, used to decades of continuous building and growth, is now in the middle of an unprecedented housing crisis. With unemployment over 13 percent and thousands of homes underwater and going into foreclosure every month, Southern Nevadans are wondering how we can possibly find our way out of the worst economic predicament in the state's history.

Las Vegas TV investigative reporter and Coast to Coast AM guest host George Knapp's series on the foreclosure-fueled implosion of the housing market of this region -- one of the most HOA dense in the nation.