Responds to Biased
ABC "20-20" Segment on Homeowners Associations
: Original Release in Black, comments
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Community Associations Institute Responds to Biased ( in which way? Homeowners and board members were provided time to tell their side of the story!) ABC "20-20" Segment on Homeowners Associations.
Alexandria, VA, Apr. 24, 2002 – On April 19, 2002, the ABC newsmagazine program 20-20 aired a segment on homeowners associations that highlighted the stories of several disgruntled (here we go again, let's start the name-calling! ) homeowners association members, excluding the perspectives of nearly 50 million satisfied ( Another assumption, the same as the CAI claims in their advertising that they are the voice of the homeowners!) members of homeowners associations throughout the United States. The resulting segment was a one-sided and inaccurate portrayal of life in a community association. (It was a good report of events which happens in HOAs on a daily basis.
Community Associations Institute’s (CAI) Chief Executive Officer, Thomas M. Skiba, has responded to the airing of this program with the following letter, sent to the program’s producers, host and correspondent.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
April 23, 2002
Victor Neufeld, Senior
Dear Mr. Neufeld:
Your 20-20 story which aired on Friday, April 19, 2002 regarding homeowners associations did a disservice to your (CAI) viewers and America’s homeowners by ignoring three key facts:
1. People choose
to live in community associations.
2. Homeowners determine
how their community associations are run.
3. Community associations
successfully serve some 50 million Americans.
The program’s theme
was clear, as restated at your website: if you’re “…living in communities
run by homeowners associations, you may find you don't have the freedom
to do everything you like on your property.” Absolutely true. But in the
presentation of several isolated*
anecdotal stories of disgruntled**
homeowners, 20-20 failed to provide a story up to its usual standards of
Fact # 1 – People choose to live in community associations.
People choose to live in an association-managed community for many reasons. Community associations offer a host of amenities – for example, a large percentage offer swimming pools, parks, recreational facilities, and other community services and features. Architectural and landscaping guidelines ensure attractive, well-maintained communities. In addition to being satisfied with these amenities and guidelines, the “National Survey of Homeowner Satisfaction,” conducted by The Gallup Organization in 1999 for the Community Associations Institute (CAI) Research Foundation, found that 75% of community association homeowners are very or extremely satisfied with their community; only 7% found their community’s rule enforcement very or extremely unfair. The Gallup survey also found that 85% of homeowners believe that property values in their association-managed communities are rising, which is an important factor in our uncertain economic times.
Residents have every opportunity to become aware of the rules, regulations and guidelines before they make a decision to live in the community. Those same rules – which might preclude residents from doing things like opening an auto repair business in their driveway, painting their shutters in multicolored stripes, or dumping old furniture on the front lawn – are a primary attraction, because they help maintain property values and attractiveness.
Community associations work well because the residents and their leadership are in agreement over the basic rules that guide the community.
Any statistic can
be twisted in favor of the organization paying the bill. It just depends
on whom you ask or how you phrase the question. It would be as well easy
to produce a total opposite statistic. As an example : more than 2000 homeowners
living in HOAs in Marion County, FL signed a petition to improve and enforce
legislation for homeowners within a 2 weeks period.
Fact #2 – Homeowners determine how their community associations are run.
Community association Boards are made up of members of the community, in other words – neighbors – who are elected by their fellow neighbors. The Boards are not strangers telling anyone how to live.
In fact, one of the Community Associations Institute’s (CAI’s) most important objectives is to help homeowners and their associations ensure that rules are made and enforced reasonably and fairly, and to ensure that homeowners have access to resources that help make better communities. To that end, CAI offers a variety of services for homeowners, the residents who serve on the Boards of their homeowners associations, and professional community managers.
For example, homeowners can choose to live in communities run by – or encourage their boards to hire – association managers who have expert credentials, such as Certified Manager of Community Associations® (CMCA®), Association Management SpecialistTM (AMSTM), Professional Community Association Manager® (PCAM®), Reserve Specialist™ (RSTM) and others. CAI-trained and certified professionals are an important part of ensuring safe, successful and well-run communities.
Homeowners and board members can also study some of the educational materials provided by CAI, such as our innovative guide, "Be Reasonable! How Community Associations Can Enforce Rules Without Antagonizing Residents, Going to Court or Starting World War III," and "Community First! Emerging Visions Reshaping America’s Condominium and Homeowner Associations," and "Decision Making in Communities: Why Groups of Smart People Sometimes Make Bad Decisions," which guide associations in reasonable, common sense – not overzealous – rule-making and management.
Communities can learn from the findings of events such as the March 2002 CAI-sponsored "Communities of Tomorrow Summit II," which brought together 100 of the nation's key leaders and experts in the fields of community planning, design, development, governance, security, and management – including keynote speaker Professor Evan McKenzie, author of "Privatopia," who appeared on your 20-20 segment. The group continued the groundbreaking discussions begun during our 1999 Summit.
And there are mechanisms in place for residents to have a voice in changing rules they deem inappropriate or outdated. This was seen in the wake of the September 11th tragedy, when residents and associations who wanted to fly the American flag were able to quickly revise their older rules and regulations – with the encouragement and assistance of CAI, via our Operation Old Glory program for homeowner associations.
These are just a
few of the many publications, training programs, educational opportunities,
events, and other resources CAI offers to help homeowners ensure that their
community associations are well-run, and that the homeowner experience
is not only positive, productive, and responsive – but neighborly.
Fact #3 – Community associations successfully serve some 50 million Americans.
In various contacts with 20-20 Executive Producer David Sloan and Producer Bonnie VanGuilder, CAI sent numerous informational materials, and made many offers to connect them with community managers, homeowner association board members, and homeowners who could share perspectives representative of the vast majority of community associations. The fact is, the vast majority are quite satisfied with their communities and associations.
Failing to include that perspective and actively ignoring the majority opinion left viewers with an unbalanced, distorted and inaccurate perception. It also effectively silenced the voices of millions of satisfied homeowners who live in community associations, and who are happy and proud to live in vibrant, responsive, competent communities that promote harmony, community and responsible homeownership and leadership.
On behalf of CAI
and our members, if at any time you would like to again explore the topic
of community associations, our offer of further materials – as well as
the chance to hear from homeowners, board members and community managers
who can offer their personal perspectives – still stands. We would welcome
the opportunity to help illuminate this issue further for your producers
Walters, Host, 20-20
My personal opinion:
The show was very balanced and gave both sides, homeowners and board members, ample time to tell their side of the story. The fact that some board members refused to comment can't be considered the fault of 20/20.
The name CAI was never mentioned in the whole segment. This was a show of problems in homeowners associations. Florida problems were never mentioned and could definitely fill some more chapters of ridiculous examples of ludicrous problems. The CAI is a trade organization trying to advance the monetary interests of their members, mostly attorneys, management companies, landscaping companies etc. For them HOAs are in existence to make money for them, since they have no invested financial interest. Having their opinion in a newsmagazine about homeowners association would be comparable with having the janitor having a say in the stockholders' meeting of the corporation he is employed with. If anybody should have the right of any additional input it would be the many homeowners' activists groups from all over the nation, who definitely have a vested interest in these problems.
I think that the
CAI is absolutely overestimating their rights for any input, even considering
the fact that they are misrepresenting themselves by stating that they
are "The nation's voice" on their Website banner. Replacing it with ""The
tradespeoples' voice" would come much closer to the truth!