Chapter SevenIIIChapter Nine

8. The Homeowners: see no, hear no, and speak no

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men (and women) do nothing.” Edmond Burke

If you still can’t possibly imagine how such a corrupt industry could flourish and spread its poison throughout the very cradle of democracy you have only to ask yourself what have you done to stop it.

An industry this transparently corrupt exists only because the public allows it to exist. For the CID homeowner, apathy is the root of all evil. Today as always, the CID housing industry rests upon a solid foundation of homeowner apathy.

government of, for, and by the special interests
Politicians and lobbyists, of course, have always known this and used it to their advantage. The apathetic nature of the American people is the foundation that supports our current system of government by special interest groups. Democracy is a wonderful system but it’s very easy to abuse. Democracy requires participation; it responds to those who take an active role in its creation. Lobbyists for special interests (what ever they may be) take a very active role in the workings of government - the public does not. The system favors the participants, not the bystanders whether it be on a national level or right there in your own little community. If you want an orderly, democratic neighborhood, and not an oligarchy, you are going to have to participate.

absentee support
It’s unfortunate, but sooner or later most people who live in common interest developments become disenchanted with their management company or board of directors, or, most likely, both. Yet, they will often endure their resentment in silence; they don’t know what to do, and so they do nothing—they become apathetic.

What these homeowners don’t realize is that the most powerful weapon that this vile industry has to use against the homeowners is the homeowner’s own apathy towards community involvement. The old, well established management companies have learned this lesson well and they count on homeowner disinterest to give them a free hand in the governance of a community. They have seen it happen again and again: the control of a homeowners association is passed from the developer to the homeowners; an overwhelming majority of the homeowners quickly become disinterested, and a small clique becomes entrenched on the board of directors. The entrenched board (encouraged by the management company and their lawyer) becomes convinced no one knows or cares what is going on in the neighborhood and the problems begin to occur. It’s an extremely common situation in CIDs all over the country.

it’s not your forefather’s government
Apathy is particularly damaging where homeowners associations are concerned. You already know that CIDs lack the system of checks and balances necessary to provide oversight and accountability. There are no provisions in the CC&Rs that address these issues. The only measure of oversight and accountability that can be brought to bear on a rogue board has to come from the homeowners themselves. If their presence is not felt, abuses will occur.

no guts, no democracy
What makes good people so averse to civic responsibility? Allot of it has to do with prior commitments of work and family. Sometimes, it’s the fear of public humiliation a homeowner might experience if the heartfelt opinions they express at an association meeting are not shared by others. Other times, it’s outright fear of board retaliation. We had many people in our neighborhood that were very concerned about keeping a low profile where the board was concerned. They openly expressed dissatisfaction in private but were unwilling to be seen as opposed to the board’s actions in public.

send them packing…somebody?
When I passed out my “Notice to Homeowners” (the topic of chapter 14) alerting our community to the problems developing with the board, I had a neighbor come to me ready to have the board members publicly drawn and quartered; righteous indignation oozed from every pour. But when I suggested he make his grievances known to all on the “Community Conflicts” page of my website, he quickly backed down.

sheep cannot thrive among wolves
Then there is the unpleasant issue of having to repeatedly come in contact with the most notorious troublemakers in the neighborhood. I think you are going to find that most even-tempered and well-balanced individuals are going to be a little conflict averse. In this area, the rogue board really has an advantage.

I found that there was a great deal of fear of our board and I suppose you can’t really blame the other homeowners for their reluctance to get involved. The irascible curmudgeons you find on a board know how to appreciate a good fight, and the average homeowner is not likely to enjoy engaging in vicious conflicts with them.

I can’t even remember all the people in our neighborhood that, at one time or another, tried to get involved with our HOA only to be quickly driven off in disgust by the nasty behavior of our “permanent” board members.

The industry knows that it is very difficult to organize homeowners into an effective deterrent to HOA abuse. In order to overturn a rogue board, you have to overwhelm them with numbers. The management companies, lawyers, and board members know the odds against you organizing those numbers are great, and that is what makes them bold. But I’ve found they are only bold when in groups.

sheep in wolves clothing
In my one-on-one conversations with individual board members over policy decisions, I found they would, without exception, deny any personal involvement in questionable decisions and immediately begin to point the finger at their absent colleagues - they were cowards to the core. However, once in their group (or pack) they were suddenly transformed into brazen bullies. The point of this observation being that these reprobates fear numbers just as much as the good people of your community. The problem is how to assemble those numbers.

don’t let them hide
One of the ways you can begin to awaken your community and generate support for a “changing of the guard” is to expose their activities. The things that they do are terribly difficult to justify, which makes them vulnerable. This is why they try to do so much of their dirty deeds in secret, which is why you must expose them at every turn. But we’ll talk more about that in chapters 11 through 19.

If homeowners can somehow manage to organize themselves within a community they can easily put an end to these problems. The activities of this industry can’t stand up to public scrutiny.

You, the CID homeowners, are what keeps this industry alive.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.


Chapter SevenIIIChapter Nine