Tuesday, May 03, 2016

What happens when homeowners try to navigate the quagmire of HOA home ownership without a competent lawyer

In 1961 there was a building called Imperial Towers here in Chicago.  The building was fantastic as it was a project that addressed not only a need, but did it expertly.   At the time I was employed with, associated with, and/or allied with a group of old timers in the real estate market who enjoyed not only 'our' success but that of everyone else.   My employer, Joseph Ronsley, was the ultimate spectator - he knew what he was looking at and most importantly he seemed to be novice to know everyone and everything.   Most importantly for me he was a wonderful teacher.  It is too bad that I was not as wonderful a student as I should have been.

By selling me a bill of goods and taking advantage of my ego, Ronsley induced me to acquire a law degree and to convince me that if I set my mind to something I could do anything. It took me about fifteen seconds thereafter to learn the harsh truth.   A Sow's ear could not be made into a silk purse but a silk purse could be turned into some less than a sow's ear.   He and his friends instilled a principle into me, "THE TRUTH IS THE BEST LIE"      It is amazing how you can offer up the 'truth' as an excuse and no one will believe it!   
The Imperial Towers building was incredible and I wandered out into the Western Suburbs of Chicago and found a 1000 acre plot of land that I fell in love with.   I secured an option to purchase and plotted along trying to develop it.   Out of the woodwork fell literally dozens of the most helpful people.    Within months I had a development plan that was literally making my ego as large as all outdoors.    I intended to copy the model of Imperial Towers as a retirement income community complete with a major shopping center, a championship golf course etc.    Financing offers of 110% rolled in and my center of the universe was me!

The Fall was swift!   I cracked several ribs in a pickup football game and wound up taped up - as was the treatment at that time.   As I was young I healed quickly and the ordeal of having the tape removed loomed!   To avoid the agony, I decided to soak the tape off and made a hot bath.   Of course I had to do something in the bath while the adhesive dissolved, so I took out a copy of the geological reports for the area of my project and studied them.   They made no impression upon me until about 2:00 A.M, when I woke with a start!   the words Bermurly's (sp) Principle (or something like that) started to bother me.    I woke my wife to ask her what the hell it was!   She woke and started to explain it to me, but at that time of the morning I was too dense to understand.    So we call cousin Lester C**** who happened to be a project engineer on the General Electric "Echo project"  (this was a space project).   Les explained the principle in words and phrases that a dunce such as me could understand and together we went through the geological reports (US Geological Service) that I read and determined that the project was wonderful but the top floors of the building would be without water.    Such would be a disaster!

Indeed, the architect and engineers had made a very serious mistake!   As the developer my job was to nurse the project and I did something very unpopular - I killed the pending closing and the project!    Without the dozens of condominiums that would be eliminated from the development the project was not self sustainable - in fact it would have a killer assessment and no fill the expectation that was the project.

I endured harsh criticism from some people but I refused to go further unless convinced that we could make the project viable consistent with the plans that had been represented.  Most of the investors and cohorts understood and worked with me on other projects over the years.    I tell you this not to blow my horn but to point out a change in our National attitude.   Today the norm is to close your eyes to a problem and cast blame!   So many of the developments that are built have high assessments and are affordable due to poor planning a failure of the developer to kill a project that is not designed properly.    The fact that no one will notice is a key element of design - rather than a worry about meeting the actual standards that are promulgated.

Intellectual honesty, while only a first cousin to actual honesty, is essential if a pride of accomplishment is to be achieved.   Yes - the project may make money - but it also has to provide satisfaction.   A job well done is more important than whether it makes money.
Why do I tell you all this?    I do so because I have been troubled by the HOA frauds and the plight of so many of the homeowners lured into development projects that do not meet the needs of the residents.    The government has attempted to do something about this with legislation.  15 USCA 1701 and the Consumer protection acts in particular are serious attempts to address the problem, however, these acts require prior to purchase that a homeowner do due diligence.

Caveat Emptor is still the law of the land.    So many potential homeowners still try to navigate the quagmire of home ownership without a competent lawyer! *****  The traps are out there and in too many instances the developer has not done his homework either.    The net is that there is a disaster waiting to happen IF YOU DO NOT DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND DO IT WELL!   The penalty is a personal disaster that could have been avoided.

The focus on corrupt political souls, corrupt businessmen, etc is well placed, but never forget to focus upon our own corruption - i.e. the failure to do our homework.

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