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Category Archives: Crime

HOA Hires Taser Wielding Guards for 3AM Eviction

HOAs and Condominium corporations when dealing with delinquent fees, and after following the correct steps, can foreclose on the property to recoup outstanding amounts. In foreclosing, sometimes you need to evict the owners or tenants.

Apparently, for the Jasime  Homeowners Association, California, simply knocking on the front door during daylight hours, and communicating the need for eviction isn’t their chosen approach. Instead they hired a security company to perform a 3am raid on the tenants.

After the guards entered the premises, awoke everyone, forced them into the street in underwear and then ransacked their stuff, the tenants had an opportunity to show lease and utility payments. This proved that the tenants were actually renters (with rights) vs. what the HOA claimed – squatters. With the new information, the guards allowed the tenants back into their homes.

The tenants are suing the HOA (and it seems rightly from the report) for a variety of charges. I would have to say that all this could have been avoided if the HOA had made sure that clear, and proper, notification of eviction had been given. Say, during daylight hours.

The best part, one of the security guards hired is quoted as saying:

between you, me and the lamppost, the homeowners’ association is over-zealous.

Really? Over-Zealous. Say it isn’t so!

Owner to Owner Intimidation Must Be Responded To Immediately By a Board

Painting “Gay a*****e” on a person’s door is downright rude. But in a condominium community it’s significantly wrong. Publicly attacking a person in this manner stabs at the roots of trying to create an inclusive, functional, community.

It not only acts as an attempt to intimidate the owner, it’s a public statement that directly influences others owners to perform the same action, or become supportive of it. Seriously.

Setting aside all the work on advertising and the use of messaging, there’s a pretty famous test called the Milgram experiment which shows that people who see someone perform an action, even if they find that action harmful to another human being, would perform the same action (in Milgram’s case it was applying powerful electric shocks to another person) more often than a person who has no example of the action. In essence, people are way more willing to do things they are personally uncomfortable with (even harmful) if they have first had experience of the act.

So by publically painting the slogan on, in this case James Burns’ door, the painter not only attempts to intimidate James, but hopes to receive community support to repeat or increase the severity attack on James. Even implicit support (nobody objecting) creates the feedback needed by the painter.

Thankfully at least one other member of the condominium community objects to the vandalism. Mr. Burns received a poster that was hung on the door with statements including “We advocate zero-tolerance for hate crimes” and “heart, caring, helpful, kind.”

That’s freaking awesome. It’s the “backfire” that’s required to nip owner on owner persecution before it grows. With only 66 units in the “upscale” complex (Zillow shows unit prices at about 440k at the moment), the management and board should immediately follow up with letters to all the owners, postings in the building, and a letter to Mr. Burns that state any attack on an owner is fully condemned by the condominium corporation. The communication should not only include positive statements that people of all walks and cultures are welcome at the Copley Court condominiums, Braircliff Manor NY, but person or persons found responsible for the act will be sanctioned to the maximum allowance of the bylaws.

A home, is a home, is a home. And the corporation is always in the role to ensure that all people can enjoy and feel comfortable within their residence, and by extension the common property.

Sadly – at the time of this article neither the board nor property manager has contacted Mr. Burns about this.  Time for the board to step up to the plate ensure a positive community. The longer the board waits to respond, the more implicit support they give the evil doer.

Twin Lakes HOA: Killing for Skittles

HOA Retreat at Twin Lakes, Florida, is about to be owned. And by owned, I mean sued and found responsible for the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. Every owner in the Retreat at Twin Lakes HOA should get ready to open their pocketbook.

Briefly, for those not familiar with the case – HOA Block Watch captain George Zimmerman shot to death Trayvon while the boy was returning to his residence after purchasing Skittles and an ice tea. George Zimmerman claims self defense, even though he chased the boy after the police told him not to, and the deadliest thing Trayvon had on him was 2.17oz of tasty rainbow.

Here’s why the HOA is about to pay out a whole lot of cash:

  1. Mr. Zimmerman was performing an activity authorized and backed by the HOA– performing the duties of Block Watch within the neighbourhood. An HOA newsletter confirms this role in the community.
  2. The HOA, in backing Mr. Zimmerman as a Captain, authenticates a person who had been charged in 2005 for battery of a police offer, and had previously a restraining order filed against him.
  3. Mr. Zimmerman failed to conform to any of the neighbourhood watch mandated training. Block watch clearly indicates that watch members are there to observe only, and never confront suspicious persons. They are “eyes and ears only”.
  4. Mr. Zimmerman was recorded actively chasing Trayvon while on the phone with 911 (audio of call). The 911 operator also indicated that this action was unnecessary. This was definitely an act to confront Trayvon.
  5. While carrying a gun is not illegal in this situation, neighbourhood watch members are not permitted to carry firearms.
  6. Mr. Zimmerman made 46 calls to 911 since the beginning of 2011 to report disturbances, break-ins, windows left open and other incidents. Not only is it reported that he was out on his rounds for the watch, it is reasonable to assume as this encounter also started with a 911 to report a suspicious person, he was operating as a neighbourhood watch member as he was the 46 other times.

It’s a pretty simple line to draw the HOA as responsible for failing to maintain the required screening and standards required of their volunteers. Unlike a criminal prosecution, a civil case needs significantly less burden of proof or certainty. It is well documented that a person found innocent of a crime may still face significant monetary loss in a civil court. In this case it won’t be a person found liable in civil court, but the HOA.

I have said before that the Block Watch program is a phenomenal program, and every condominium and HOA that faces a crime issue should operate one. The Block Watch program has operated for over 50 years with astounding success. I still stand by the success.

The issue is an HOA must take the steps required. A formal relationship must be made between the community and local law enforcement. All members of the neighborhood watch must attend training – both at the beginning and ongoing. The HOA needs to create, back, and act on the mission statement: “eyes and ears only” – and repeat that message to the volunteers and the community constantly.

Importantly, the HOA needs to have a firm, written, commitment from each volunteer that they will abide by all the recommendations and requirements of both the national neighborhood watch program and local police authority.

And seriously, if this event makes you afraid to have a neighborhood watch – don’t be. Just stick to the program and enforce a role of observation only. That approach works most awesomely. A neighborhood watch that observes only, and doesn’t carry weapons, is both safe to themselves, safe to the community, and safe to 17 year olds coming home with a bit of ice tea and candy.

Crime Not Related To Living In Condominiums

When doing research for this blog, and on condominium in general, I often come across news stories linking violence and condominiums:  Inside a condominium unit they found a dead man, breaking into a unit at Arbor Woods Condominium Homes … He fatally shot his father-in-law, and The victim … was found in the charred remains of his condominium.

Almost daily, news feeds I subscribe to have at least one (the above three were taken from a single day’s feed) violent condominium story. Over time it makes me wonder if there is a higher or significant level of crime related to multi-unit housing compared to detached or low density.

Statistics on crime rates in/related to condominiums are next to non-existent. Instead I’ve relied upon some studies that look at crime and population density, along with other factors. Indeed, it’s hard to isolate the concept of crime in condominium because high-density can be, and exists, in almost every strata of society, and every location.

Starting with a Texas study by Jianling Li and Jack Rainwater – using land mapping tools they were able to demonstrate that:

areas dominated with single-family housing are not all associated with lower crime rates … Multifamily buildings are concentrated in the west and north of the city, but crime rates in those areas are relatively lower

the reason for these findings were

highest crime rates were those with the highest percentage of households in poverty and the highest percentage of population who did not have a high school diploma. The two neighborhoods also had the highest percentage of large-size households. In addition, male unemployment rates in the two neighborhoods were greater than 6.6% — topping the index in other beats. In comparison, the areas with lower poverty and unemployment rates, such as those areas in the north, generally have lower crime rates.

The recognition that crime isn’t based on housing density (but on demographic and socio-economic traits) is reinforced by research from Statistics Canada. Their findings indicate:

The population of high-crime neighborhoods has a larger proportion of single people, people living alone, young males aged 15 to 24, Aboriginals, people who moved in the year preceding the census and lone-parent families.

Interesting, Statistics Canada indicates that the statistics don’t indicate that these types of people are more prone to perform crime, but:

The analyses presented here do not establish causal links between these residents and the crime level in their neighbourhood. However, many studies have found links between these demographic characteristics and higher rates of victimization

This says that crime exists where people who tend to be more easily victimized reside. Significantly, they also indicate that levels of neighbourhood wealth are a primary indicators of crime:

A larger proportion of the population of high-crime neighbourhoods spend more than 30% of their income on shelter, and a smaller number of owners occupy their dwelling, regardless of whether these neighbourhoods are located near city centres or are on the periphery of the municipality

Finally, backing up the idea that crime isn’t related to density, the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings released a paper that indicates the gap between city (where I assume higher housing density) and suburban violent crime rates declined in nearly 2/3 of metro areas, and that city and suburban crime rates rose or fell together.

All this leads me to realize that it’s not the nature of condominium or high-density housing to promote or encourage crime. It’s the characteristics of the citizens – education, wealth, and ease of victimization – that births higher crime rates.

Indeed, if there was a single rule of thumb about condominiums and crime, the more expensive the housing in comparison to other homes in the municipality, the safer you will generally be. Single detached housing or condominium.

Mixing Board President and Management Company President Roles Led to Fraud

If there is one easy piece of advice I can offer condominiums – always use an unrelated management company to manage your books. While this won’t eliminate fraud it most certainly cut down on it.

For owners in the Lovers Key Condominium, Estero, Florida – this lesson came with a rude shock: $291,500 stolen from the association’s funds by past president Charles Bennett III, and past vice-president Kenneth Marwick. In this case Lovers Key Condominium also used Bennett’s property management company, EID Management & Realty, to operate their condominium.

When the president of your board is also the owner of the management company you contract, it is too easy for bad things to happen.

In this case both Bennett III and Marwick have pleaded guilty to first degree grand theft charges. Both have been sentenced to prison time and following probation.

Being in the role of both control of the condominium board and the management company they were able to funnel money into companies controlled by the two men, all of them unrelated to association activities. (video)

As more and more money sits or flows through condominiums and HOAs, we need legislation that forces boards and management companies to be non-related. The use of two eyes – the boards Treasurer and a management company is a powerful way to keep the books legitimate and funds safe, and that relationship needs to be kept separate.

Residents Charged with Forging HOA President’s Signature, Stealing Gates

There will never be a shortage for the “dumb things residents do when frustrated” file on CondoFeed. Take for example Desislava Gliha and her husband John Gliha. Desislava was caught on camera buying a money order. Nothing illegal in that, unless you then forge the HOA president’s signature on it, and then use it to pay for the removal of the gates (you know – the gate part of a gated community).

Both Desislava and her husband have been charged with forgery and grand theft regarding the gate removal.

Local news video here.

As always, there’s a history of years of dispute between the owners and the HOA board, and as often happens one side (and HOAs can be asinine and juvenile as well) decides that some “real action” must be done.

Such happy news though, the gates were found and remounted, perfect for the Gliha’s to drive through when returning to their Bristol Estates home after posting bond.

Condos Can Equal Free Fuel for Electric Cars

Three years ago, when I was president of a 107 unit condominium, I suggested that we may have to take steps to regulate the electrical outlets in the underground parking. I was assuming that at some time an owner would buy an electric car and plug in at night. As electric charges for all common AND titled spaces were paid out of condominium fees (no individual meters) for that condominium, I wasn’t about to have someone freeload their “gas” off the rest of the owners.

I was scoffed and laughed at (awww, poor me!).

Well, Mike Nemat of South Keys condominium, Ottawa Ontario, was doing just that – slipping his power cord into a common property wall socket for his 2012 Chevrolet Volt. Now, once he got caught, he’s been offering to pay $50/month for the right to plug in (he estimates the actual electric bill is about $24/month).

The board is having nothing to do with it, and requires Mr. Nemat to install a $2000 meter to continue his siphoning ways. That’s not going well with Mr. Namat.

The board is within their power to demand a separate meter. Indeed, they’re well within their rights to deny Mr. Nemat access to any electricity served through the common property – and unless the condominium’s by-laws are really poorly written, they should back up the board on that fact.

While I am all for getting off the monkey’s tail of fossil fuels – older, and even newer condominiums – aren’t designed for electric car charging. All new construction moving forward though should have parking stalls that, at minimum, have the wiring and sufficient grid to power every car at once – even if they’re not activated or metered till sometime in the future. Retrofitting will be a pain.

Mr. Nemat should in all honesty have approached his condominium board first before buying his car. It’s much like new owners who buy a condo already possessing a vehicle that’s longer or taller than the by-laws allow, and then complain about the board preventing them from using their titled parking spot. Too bad.

Arizona State Senator Thinks HOA Off-Leash Fining is Mostly Very Silly

I fully support Senator Lori Klein’s comment that the off-leash fines issued to homeowners (which she quotes as 25% of all HOA fines) are, as she states, “Most of it is very silly.” I would actually go further and find that most all fines handed out by HOAs tend to be “very silly.”

The problem is I think Senator Klein is picking the wrong fight – highlighting off-leash rules is one that can be easily refuted using real life experience. Even in my own life a close friend’s dog (who was on leash) was viciously attacked by an off-leash dog which charged off  its owner’s front yard. The only reason her dog is alive is because of a local neighbour bludgeoned the attacking dog with a bike lock until it released its grip on her dog. The attacking dog was later removed from the owner and put down. Her dog was put through excessive vet bills. Something she was never compensated for.

I’m also familiar with an acquaintance who laughed at the fact his dog jumped his backyard fence and killed two dogs walking by. This was especially cruel as the dogs’ teen owner was right there with them, and failed to save them.

Senator Klein highlights an elderly resident that keeps getting fined for her tiny Chihuahua. Agreed, this example seems very silly, and I would hope that the HOA realizes fines are not a tool to enforce compliance, but a last resort after trying other methods.

Leashing dogs in public, based my own experience, is a necessary evil. Good dogs are sadly affected by leash laws, but they are required to help control those that are uncontrollable.

Arizona state lawmakers are currently considering a bill put forward by Senator Klein to allow insured dogs off-leash. I would have to say I object to such allowance.

HOA Treasurer Indicted for over $1 Million in Fraud – Please Get More Than One Person Doing Books

Here’s another example of an HOA possibly being defrauded by the treasurer. Aaron Yashouafar of the Paradise Spa Home Owners Association in Las Vegas just got indicted for looting more than $1 million from an HOA. Over a year it is charged that he wired himself $250,000 for personal projects, and then deposited two insurance cheques for over $830,000 into an out of state account.

To me it doesn’t matter if your HOA or condominium account has millions of dollars or tens of dollars – any money misappropriated is a hardship on the owners.  There are some very simple steps to help prevent fraud:

  1. Self-managed boards should always have co-signatures required on cheques, and standing polices that limit the amounts of electronic transfers.
  2. Books and statements should always be presented by the treasurer to the board at each meeting.
  3. If possible, use a management company to do the bookkeeping. While it’s not unheard of for a management company to “go bad” – it’s a lot, lot (lot) less unlikely because your accounts are run through a third-party, who has to make all your account statements available to your board and treasurer.
  4. Move the role of Treasurer around – do not let the treasure remain the same person for more than two year. The bookkeeping isn’t too hard, and even for self-managed, outsourcing the bookkeeping is hugely inexpensive – just search the internet for services.

Criminals Treat Condo as Giant Living Piggybank, Owners Attempting To Respond

The Estates at Westbury, Bluffton, South Carolina has a couple of issues. The first is crime, and the second appears to be a failure of the management company to respond.

The 300 unit complex is riddled with crime and negligent owners and tenants. And I get the feeling that criminals are treating the site as a giant piggy bank. Two (news, news) units have recently been home invaded by armed group of men – both times forcing the owners to lay face down while they rifle through the home for valuables.

Less heinous, one resident describes the building on goings as:

the Estate could be a beautiful and serene place to live, there are a number of facts that make this a less than desirable home. With a number of armed robberies, muggings, residents who are permitted to move in and hold drunken parties until the middle of the night, fist fights breaking out at said drunken parties, carloads of people coming in to the community who do not belong here, people driving at undesirable speeds through the community that are a threat to the children playing here, drug dealings going on that are known to both the Association Manager and to the maintenance team, and music so loud that it shakes entire buildings – the lifestyle and feeling of “home” at the Estate is in sharp decline

It is so bad that one elderly couple fear even their walk to collect mail.

Ouch. That means it’s time for the management to step up.

To their credit, it appears the management is improving lighting and putting in brontosaurus in size speed bumps to limit vehicle speed. Where they fall down is communicating with the owners, and supporting their actions.

Most importantly, when it comes to supporting a proven method to reduce crime in an area – creating a neighborhood watch – the management has been resistant to at each step. The residents put up over 500 flyers to communicate with the community, the management tore them all down. Owners and tenants try to engage the Association Manager; she has banned tenants from her office because they are not owners. Tenant Jennie Krogulski has gathered about 30 tenants and owners volunteers to start a watch; and the final message from the manager – the residents are not allowed to set up a Neighbourhood Watch.

I  would counter with the following: if serious injury occurs to any member of the community – which a reasonable person would deem a neighbourhood watch would have helped prevent – I would go after the resident manager. I would hold her responsible.

Neighbourhood Watch programs have existed for a long time and are supported by the police department. Volunteers receive training and support. Issues of liability have all been resolved over the 50 years the program has been in place. USAonWatch even has a copy of the Neighbourhood Watch Manual free for download.

A Neighbourhood Watch program for a complex with these issues is reasonable, accessible, and empowering for the residents. It is a great and awesome program to support, and should be seen as a progressive action to combat the real and tangible threat of harm and danger these residents have.

For up to date information, the active residents have a Facebook page for the complex that can be seen here.