Yes, I’ve moved this blog over to my main website, NeighborsAtWar.com I appreciate everyone’s help and comments on this blog over the past year, but please put your comments on the new website. You’ll see a lot more content there, and your own comments will have a much wider audience.
Tag Archives: California
Yes, folks, it’s another million dollar embezzlement from trusting homeowners in California. At least the Feds are finally taking action. A Federal Grand Jury has indicted Chris Barna for stealing $950,000 from Homeowners Associations that once trusted him. Although he hasn’t been convicted yet, I have no problem calling him a dirtbag. Prosecutors say he misappropriated 342 checks, spent the money on nice things for himself, and manipulated the records for M&C Association Management.
He’s currently free on $200,000 bond, which is a crime all by itself. But heck, California is so broke they can’t pay to feed one extra prisoner. And with state finances in such bad shape, does anyone really think Barna will get any kind of prison term? Ah yes, it’ll be a federal prison, not a California prison. But then again, aren’t the Feds about to “go over the financial cliff” in the current parlance?
Mark my words, Barna will get to keep the 950,000 bucks, he’ll get little or no prison time, the court will order restitution, and Barna won’t pay back a dime. The homeowners will be on the hook, though. Each homeowner who lives in a Barna-swindled association will be hit with a special assessment to make up the stolen money. Ain’t California great?
Oh, and I almost forgot. The owner of Barna’s company is Associa. Who or what is Associa? Well, Associa is owned by Texas Senator John Carona. Ask anyone from Texas.
Or better yet, let me link you to Jan Bergemann’s website where he discusses Associa in detail. And God bless you, Jan Bergemann!
It’s not often that the lowly homeowner has much of a chance of getting a fair hearing in court. The vast majority of all rulings are against the homeowner and in favor of the private non-profit corporation. And many’s the judge who’s told a miserable homeowner that he or she should have read his covenants before signing the real estate documents.
Last week’s ruling, though, by the Supreme Court of Virginia was a clarion call to the National Homeowners Association Movement that it can’t stomp on the homeowner’s Constitutional rights forever. Basically the court ruled that the Shadowood Condominium complex in Reston, Virginia cannot assess fines against residents because there was no such permission granted in the development’s master deed. Bam! Pow!
Stone-faced attorneys in Virginia said the ruling will have a profound impact on 10,000 Homeowners Associations across Virginia. It certainly will have a profound impact on lawyers who make a fancy living from dragging homeowners into court over stupid covenant violations.
Just reading about the wrongdoing by certain Shadowood officials over the years is enough to make one weep. Millions of dollars spent on ‘improvements’ with no accounting oversight. Tens of thousands of dollars paid to certain HOA board members for ‘services rendered’. Towing cars right before Thanksgiving. Turning off the heat and air conditioning to ‘punish’ rule-breakers. It’s ugly, and I’ve linked to the Washington Post’s story below.
Law professor Evan McKenzie predicted in his last book, Beyond Privatopia, that Homeowners Associations were going to face a day of reckoning. He was precognizant, a man of real genius.
Folks, the mightiest dam in the world can collapse. The collapse, no matter how large, starts out with a microscopic fissure somewhere.
This dam has not yet collapsed.
But it will.
Ah yes, Good Friends. This is the season where bad neighbors are supposed to join hands, ill will is forgotten and life is reborn. After all, the Christmas holiday theoretically celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the human form of God Almighty. The birth of Jesus and His subsequent ministry changed the world in a mightier way than any other man, religion, idea, or concept in history.
True Christian brotherhood should never have permitted the Crusades, or the enslavement of races, or a host of other things that Mankind has brought upon himself. Belief in Jesus Christ mandates that believers forgive, forget, and make a moral and spiritual change that amounts to a profound rebirth of the inner spirit. True Christian brotherhood also mandates that even non-believers and skeptics be given as much respect, consideration and love as those inside the faith. Christ was inclusive, not exclusionary, and Christ-followers do not have the right to assume themselves better, or wiser, or more blessed than non-believers, or to demand that non-believers change their ways and accept a belief system against their wishes and without question.
Christ-followers make just as many mistakes as those outside the faith, and human conflict doesn’t vanish simply because someone wishes another “Merry Christmas.” No, strife goes on, and will always go on because all men and women, including Christians, are imperfect.
This blog is usually about that odd American institution known as Homeowners Associations, an invention originally devised to keep blacks, Orientals and Jews out of white neighborhoods. Doesn’t sound very ‘christian’, does it?
Some believers like to play the WWJD game when confronted with a controversial and puzzling life situation. WWJD? What Would Jesus Do? Trying to understand the life and ministry of Jesus, in light of a given current controversy, which side would this incredible figure in history take?
For example, WWJD in a neighborhood where widows have their homes foreclosed upon when money is short and the HOA dues are late? WWJD in a neighborhood where a child with Down’s Syndrome is forbidden from playing outside because the HOA won’t permit a porch enclosure to keep the child from wandering into the street? WWJD with a neighborhood where Negroes are subtlely steered by Realtors away from Caucasian enclaves? WWJD with a Homeowners Association that threatened to sue, seize and auction off a home where a child used firewood and branches to set up a temporary kids’ fort, or where a grandmother was told to face a lawsuit because her daughter’s backyard playhouse was pink instead of beige?
And what about neighborhoods that sue to force homeowners to remove Christmas lights that are set up to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ?
That last question is actually pretty easy to answer. Jesus was not a maniacal egotist. He would never have demanded that humans set up displays to celebrate his birth. He would have preferred that warring neighbors just find a way to treat each other with love and respect, lights or no lights.
Ward Lucas, author of:
Neighbors At War! The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association
Movie producer George Lucas must have incredible patience. But even the most patient man in the world burns out sometime.
Lucas has owned a large ranch in Marin County for the past forty years. His dream was to create a 300,000 square foot movie studio that would have brought 300 million dollars worth of new economic activity to that part of California. Despite the fact that his studio would not have been visible to his rich neighbors, the adjacent Homeowners Association has spent two and a half decades fighting him every step of the way.
Lucas is well-known for his previous environmentally sensitive projects. He has planted thousands of trees on his properties and spent millions making sure his movie developments were low key. He has also built many miles of hiking trails for his neighbors.
But George Lucas has finally given up. A press release from his office says, “The level of bitterness and anger expressed by the homeowners in Lucas Valley has convinced us that, even if we were to spend more time and acquire the necessary approvals, we would not be able to maintain a constructive relationship with our neighbors.”
But then comes the zinger that’ll be talked about by Lucas fans for many years. He agrees that Marin County is a bedroom community. So he’s now going to use his ranch to build housing for low income families. It’s a perfect movie plot ending, as his foul-mouthed millionaire neighbors watch all those “po’ folk” move into their new double-wides. This blogger seriously doubts Lucas will plant trees to screen off the view.
Lucas’s press release is linked here:
And it’s priceless.
And if you know george lucas, Please tell him we’d love to talk to him! He’s our hero. We’d love to complete the circle! There’s not much time to interview him for our blog! God loves those who take a public stand! Help us if you can.
Estrella Bryant was trying hard to keep up with her mortgage payments on her home in San Francisco, California. Like many other struggling homeowners, she thought she could delay a dues payment to her Homeowners Association. Wrong choice. She was unprepared for the nightmare that followed.
The Parkview Heights Homeowners Association told her she owed $560 in dues. The case was turned over to a collection agency, which then tacked on its own fees and attorney’s fees.
The nightmare grew. Bryant said her big mistake was thinking that an HOA was there to help its member homeowners, the exact opposite of what the typical HOA does.
The HOA’s collection firm said it would be glad to arrange a payment plan, as long as she signed an agreement to pay the collection agency’s fee first. (By the way, it’s absolutely illegal in California for collection agencies to make debtors sign such agreements!)
As soon as Bryant signed the agreement she saw the collection fees, the attorney’s fees, HOA dues and interest continue to rise.
Bryant was one of the fortunate few who found an attorney who would take the case pro bono to save her home.
Anyone in California who finds themselves in a similar situation should contact CalHomeLaw.org. The organization has waged a vigorous fight against illegal practices by Homeowner Associations and collection agencies. They also have excellent material on how Homeowners can use Small Claims Court against out-of-control HOAs.