Monthly Archives: August 2012

You’re Being Sued For Sex Discrimination and Abuse?!?!

I should say, “Hard to believe,” but in the world of Homeowners Associations each story is wilder than the last.

Members of the Saw Creek Homeowners Association in Bushkill, Pennsylvania, are now being sued for sex discrimination and sexual abuse. And it could cost the homeowners a pile of money.

The complainant, who worked for the association, claimed her supervisor made increasingly aggressive physical and verbal sexual advances. When she refused he allegedly called her a “slut” and a “whore” in front of other employees. He then began spreading rumors that she had worked as a prositute. When the woman complained to her superiors, she was fired.

In any other work environment it would be a run-of-the-mill “hostile work environment” lawsuit.

If she wins, which she very well could, every resident of the Saw Creek HOA would then be construed as sex offenders. Elderly couples, ministers, respectible people of the community, would have to cough up the money to settle the sex abuse case.

Now there’s a special assessment you can be proud of folks! Amazing!

Ward Lucas, author of Neighbors At War! The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association

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70/30 Marxism

You don’t think you’d like to live under Marxism?  Well, how about just a tiny taste of it?

Let’s envision some super-smart city planners who’ve determined that cities are only healthy if they consist of at least 70% owner-occupied homes, and no more than 30% renter-occupied.

So they establish what they call a 70/30 rule. Any residential block found to have less than 70% owner-occupied homes is deemed to be “unhealthy.” The solution? License all landlords in the city.  If any block falls below the 70/30 rule, then no more homes can be rented on that block. If some poor homeowner is facing foreclosure and tries to rent out his home to save it….”Well, screw ‘em.” He can’t get a landlord’s license and he’ll just have to let his house go into foreclosure.

On the other hand, if people who’ve been hit hard by the housing crisis can’t find a house to rent, even though there are thousands of vacant homes in the city, “Well, screw ‘em.”

Come to think of it, maybe the 70/30 rule will force more homes into foreclosure. Then those homes can be sold dirt-cheap to former renters. Sure, it’ll slash tax revenues and drive a number of cities into bankruptcy. But it must be a good thing because it’s “redistributing wealth.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s exactly what’s happening in Minnesota in towns like Winona, and Mankato.

The Institute for Justice has filed a lawsuit.  They say it blatantly unconsitutional. But Marxism is all about social experimentation, isn’t it?

Ward Lucas, author of Neighbors At War! The Creepy Case About Your Homeowners Association 

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A Stinking, Treacherous, Romance-killing Bog

It was so romantic when we first moved into the Denver area searching for what we thought might be our Shangri La.  In leaving our home in Seattle, Washington, we were leaving behind a city where nearly every home looked out over a view of lakes, rivers or the ocean.  We had lived all our lives in the Pacific Northwest, where the annual rainfall and humidity are so high that seemingly every drainage ditch was flushed daily and grew an abundance of blackberries, strawberries and raspberries.

In our first plane flight over Denver we thought we saw hundreds of little ponds and reservoirs scattered across the landscape, so we felt we had nothing to fear. Our Shangri La waited for us just below. We didn’t yet realize that the Denver area sits right on the edge of semi-arid desert.

We even found a home on a tiny water-skiing lake. Beautiful white homes surrounded our lovely gem. Neighbors were glad to meet us; we were thrilled to meet them.

But then the cold hard reality set in. Those lakes we saw from the plane were all mirages. They’d been thrown up by developers anxious to make a quick buck. The lakes weren’t stream fed. They weren’t washed by the Spring rains. No, those lakes eventually turned into fetid pools, reservoirs, divots in the ground designed to collect rainwater to be pumped up to the grass in community common areas. They smelled bad, they brewed up a noxious mix of odors, mosquitos and other biting bugs. So in Summertime, we found ourselves cowering indoors, covering ourselves with DEET and shaving cream, and anything else we thought might combat the biting bugs.

Then, came the letters from the Homeowners Association. “Our lake is essentially illegal, since it blocks rainwater and keeps it from flowing into the local drainage basin. We can try to get it permitted by the state, but it would have to be annually dredged to an appropriate depth. We plan to argue that our pond has become a federally protected wetwater area for migrating waterfowl.

“We all love our little wildlife pond. But to maintain it properly and legally is going to require an assessment from each of the surrounding homeowners. We will schedule a series of neighbood hearings, of course, but the meantime it appears that each homeowner is going to be assessed an extra $130,000 to help save our community asset.  Alternatively, we can drain and restore the area with a little wooded park, which should only cost our neighborhood HOA about $50,000 per resident. In any event, none of these costs reflect the legal expenses we will otherwise incur, which will sadly be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Can you imagine the anger at our annual meeting?  The insults hurled back and forth. The community picnics and parties we would never hold, the icy glares we got from neighbors who once smiled at each other?

We got conned. We all got conned. And it gave us our first taste of HOA community life.

Ward Lucas, author of Neighbors At War! The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association

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Another Day, Another Embezzlement

The latest one was in the Osprey Homeowners Association in Sarasota County, Florida.

Charles Nichols allegedly wrote himself at least 33 checks for thousands of dollars. HOA officials said his actions left the association deeply in debt.

Nichols is 69 years old.  This blogger highly doubts the HOA will ever get restitution. That means a special assessment to all homeowners to make up for the losses.

Thanks for the Herald Tribune for bringing this to light.

Ward Lucas, author of Neighbors At War! The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association

 

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Tiny Mice Gang Up On Big Rats in California

Homeowners usually get the raw end of the deal when they try to fight the “Bigs” in the HOA industry. Some Homeowners in California are trying to turn that trend around. An HOA in Riverside County has sued three former property managers for “fraud, conspiracy to defraud, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty.”  They had employed the management companies for eight years.

Canyon Lake Association then sued its own law firm, Fiore, Racobs & Powers, accusing them of “fraud and malpractice.” They say a lengthy investigation found “no cash management, no separation of accounting duties, credit card abuse by employees, employee salary increases that were not approved by the board.”

The lawsuit further claims that three HOA managers “created and concealed a secret, systemic pattern of conversion and theft of (HOA) assets and funds…and made representations to the board that were not true and were a cover up designed..to delay discovery of the cover-up.”

By the way, this information comes to us from the CCHAL organization in California. It’s dedicated to helping out the “tiny mice” in the HOA movement, and it’s an outstanding organization that every homeowner should join.

One final thought comes to mind here.  We haven’t heard much from the federal investigators in Las Vegas. We hope the widespread corruption they found in the Vegas HOA industry hasn’t depressed them to the point that they want to throw in the towel. Actually, we hope the opposite is true.  We hope they take a look around the country and discover that the legal scams in Las Vegas are as identical and numerous as the legal scams in Riverside County, and Modesto, and Weld County,  Colorado. and Dallas and Houston and Miami, and North Carolina.

If you don’t think it’s happening in your own community, you are either naive or dumber than a box of rocks. When we signed those CC&Rs, we stepped into an entirely new form of government with no checks and no balances. We essentially told law firms and property managers, “It’s OK to steal from us.” And then we whine when they steal from us. What gives?

Ward Lucas, author of Neighbors At War! The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association

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PUBLISH TIME IS GETTING CLOSER!

After all sorts of hiccups and more layers of editing than I ever dreamed possible, my book, Neigbors at War! goes to the printer this week.  That means sooner or later I’m going to be moving this blog to a new site.  I think you’ll like it. It has a lot more flexibility, more features, and more chance to interact with others in the HOA business.  I’ve also included the Table of Contents and a couple of sample chapters. Most authors won’t do this, but I’m putting my index on line as well. This way, researchers don’t have to type in every chit and chad in a hyperlink, they just be able to click on the link and have immediate access to the resource. Any and all suggestions will be considered.  It’s a sales website, of course, but I’d like to keep it a community resource as well.

Ward Lucas, author of Neighbors At War! The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association

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The Lawyers Get The Shaft, The Lawyers Get the Shaft, hey ho the dario The Lawyers…….

CCHAL, a homeowners rights group in California as been d0ing a superhuman job on behalf of homeowners. Let me tip you to their latest escapade.  Working with the Nevada Attorney General and the Nevada Real Estate Commission, they’re dragging three HOA board directors and their associations into Small Claims Court in Nevada!

Among the charges, failing to hold association elections, staying in office beyond the HOA’s term limits, imposing arbitrary and capricious rules to keep homeowners from voting, failing to keep financial records or have them reviewed by a CPA, using the HOA credit card to enrich themselves, diverting association funds for their own use, failing to maintain corporate reserves, failing to keep corporate minutes, retaliating against homeowners who file complaints of any of the above officers, interfering with the current corruption investigation into Nevada’s HOAs.

CCHAL was the Knight in Shining Armor who fought to allow Small Claims Court to conduct such hearings in California. Become a paying member and they’ll let you see all their court files and many other items of interest to beleagured homeowners.
Reach them at  calhomelaw.org
Ward Lucas, author of Neighbors At War! The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association

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Creepy, Creepy, Creepy!

I don’t want to creep my friends out too much before our new week begins. But controversial news items keep piling up in my in-box, and they have to be cleared out sooner or later.

ITEM: 30,000 military drones are on their way to law enforcement outfits in America. It won’t be too long before extremely inexpensive drones are available to other government agencies to do aerial inspections of zoning violations. Now the Air Force is developing drones the size of a hummingbird, or even a mosquito. It’s not hard to imagine a mosquito flying through an open door or window and grabbing a microscopic piece of your DNA from bedsheets or clothing.

ITEM: New York City is first on the list to buy a sky full of the new drones. New York is also working with the Microsoft Corporation to develop a 30 million dollar computer/camera system that keeps track of everyone in New York ALL the time!

ITEM:  Gary Harrington, of Medford, Oregon, has just begun serving a 30 day jail sentence. His crime? Collecting rainwater and snowmelt that fell on his property. Oregon says it’s illegal to divert streams. Harrington’s argument that “diverting rainfall was not the same as diverting streams” fell on deaf ears in the courts.

ITEM: Martha Boneta owns a 70 acre farm where she grows vegetables. She has a permit to sell from a little farm store on her property. Her mistake is that she sells some souvenirs and trinkets and occasionally has pumpkin carving events and an occasional birthday party for her friend’s kid. But now she’s facing a $5000 fine for selling non farm items and not getting a permit for the birthday party.

CONCLUSION: Government is becoming more and more intrusive. Does it take any kind of imagination to see the day when HOAs can send drones over your property and in through the windows of your home looking for covenant violations? There’s already a case in Texas where an HOA president used a helicopter to photograph a resident’s back yard! Theoretically, we have a Constitution that prohibits unlawful searches of your property and belongings. But HOAs involve private contracts with homeowners. Your HOA doesn’t have to respect the restrictions in the Constitution.

Am I nuts about all of this? Not according to the link below.

http://washington.cbslocal.com/2012/08/10/domestic-spying-mini-drone-can-watch-neighbors-from-above/

Ward Lucas, author of Neighbors At War! The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association

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Neighbors Outraged at Fake HOA

There are lots of wise people who specifically bought homes outside of HOA control. The Moss Ridge neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida does just fine without one. The neighborhood has only 59 houses and most people are friendly with their neighbors. Moss Hill is clean, homes are nice, there are no cars on blocks, no pink and purple houses.

But a number of homeowners there started getting fake “code violations” in their mailboxes. One person is ordered to paint her house…”or else!” Another is told “Remove the flowerpots from your deck… “or else!”  Still another, “Edge your sidewalk! Or else!” The notices demand correction within 90 days… “Or else!”

The neighbors say there is absolutely no HOA at Moss Ridge. City Zoning says the citations are fake and were not issued by them.

Homeowners are rattled by the phony notices. One woman says, “We obey every rule in the City of Jacksonville. I don’t want to be harassed by some anonymous man.”  Others say they are frightened by the demands.

The neighbors may have good reason to be concerned. In some parts of the country, HOAs have actually been created without notification or permission of all the neighbors.

Kudos to Ken Amaro of FirstCoastNews.com for first reporting this story.

Ward Lucas, author of Neighbors At War! The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association.

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Let’s Brainstorm

Let’s suppose you are King of the World, and it’s your job to re-write the rules governing Homeowners Associations. Let’s also make the assumption that some kind of neighborhood controls are necessary to ensure that property is kept in good condition. Possibly another assumption is that many homeowners would continue to be apathetic about neighborhood governance. The goal, here, is to build a friendly neighborhood, not one that scares people and drives them into their caves. How would you change the current system to avoid corruption, abusive board members, making liens rare, and making liens fair?

I’d love to hear your solutions, no matter how wild.

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