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Welcome to On the Commons!

Image On The Commons is a weekly radio show, dedicated to discussing the many issues surrounding homeowner associations (HOAs) and condominiums.  It is broadcast live from WEBR, Fairfax, Virginia and available on this web site.

Join us as we explore the world of homeowner associations and condominiums, which are the fastest growing form of residential development in America today.  This housing concept includes homeowner associations, condominiums, cooperatives, and both attached and detached single-family homes.  Unfortunately this type of housing is not as utopian as its advocates would have us believe.  Living in a homeowner association means giving up a part of the American dream.  It means giving up Constitutional rights and control over one’s most valuable asset - one’s home.


 "Property in a thing consists not merely in its ownership and possession, but in the unrestricted right of use, enjoyment, and disposal. Anything which destroys any of the elements of property, to that extent, destroys the property itself. The substantial value of property lies in its use. If the right of use be denied, the value of the property is annihilated and ownership is rendered a barren right."  --- Washington State Supreme Court Justice Richard B Sanders


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The new On The Commons  podcast site

Seven years of easy to find On the Commons Podcasts 


The Curent Show

On the Commons with Vicki MacHale

"If it hurts, it must be good for you" or so the saying went for years.  Fortunately that myth was debunked when cooler heads prevailed and proved that pain was not a good thing. Along the same thinking, and with no conclusive evidence to support their claims of protecting property values, we watched as more and more restrictions, rules and covenants were added to the already long list of what homeowners could not do in their own homes.  This canard was repeated often enough so many people started to accept it as gospel. Well, it appears the pendulum may be swinging back the other way.  New legislation is prohibiting HOAs from banning such things as clotheslines, solar panels and flags.  These were the iconic red flags that were said to lead to "ghetto living".

Vicki MacHale joins us On The Commons this week.  Vicki has 22 years experience in property management in California.  She recently wrote an article about the laws stripping HOAs of some of the powers they had.  She very accurately titled her article:  "The Sky is Falling".   She writes about the reactions from fellow colleagues and board members to the new laws as they are enacted and assures them that the sky really is not falling. Over the years, she has watched as choice in housing has been eliminated.  No longer do housing consumers get to decide how to live.  Vicki calls this the beige-ing of America. We'll talk to Vicki and understand  what she means by the beige-ing of America and we'll learn about some of the laws enacted in California removing powers from HOAs.   We'll find out if the world really will come to an end or will this trend will lead to building real communities instead of war zones.    Listen to Vicki MacHale    

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On the Commons with Bill Davis and John Cowherd


If you live in an HOA, and who doesn't these days?, you are required to pay your share of the common costs in the association. That is only fair.  And it is also only fair that you be told how your money is being used.  Unfortunately part of the common expenses will sometimes include some pretty hefty costs for litigation.  The association may end up in court, and the members of the association will have to cover those costs.  But none of this is news and in fact attorney fees should be budgeted for. What appears to be more prevalent these days, is that as part of a settlement agreement, there is a confidentiality clause.  Here is how this tends to work; the HOA Board is sued, ends up settling the case and as part of the settlement they agree to pay a sum of money as long as the homeowner agrees to a gag order.  The owner is not allowed to talk about the terms of the settlement, if they do, they have to repay the money and start all over again.  I have heard of some really nasty conditions. The owner agrees thinking they'll get that monkey off their backs and be able to get on with the rest of their lives. The problem is that the settlement doesn't always end the dispute.  But beyond that, the association is using your dues to cover up their misdeeds and you are not allowed to know about it or any of the details.  The money you paid them to fix the roof is now buying your neighbor's silence.


Bill Davis and John Cowherd join us On the Commons this week.  They are both attorneys who represent homeowners against in litigation against their HOAs. Bill, from Texas, has been on the receiving end of the HOA litigation so understands what to os like to be in the crosshairs of an out of control board.  John, a Northern Virginia attorney, switched his practice where he worked in real estate law to representing homeowners.  John also has a blog called Words of Conveyance .  His latest post is on point for this week's show topic. We talk about gag orders, why they are used and whether they should be used.    Listen to Bill Davis and John Cowherd   

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