|THE “AMERICAN DREAM"
By Hilda Covarrubias
August 26, 2003
“American Dream” goes far beyond owning a home. Freedom, democracy,
money and power are all parts of our ways to achieve the American Dream.
For some, the so-called “American Dream” is just the norm, something taken for granted. For others is not easy. People from all over the world come to our shores to seek THE AMERICAN DREAM, but what in all reality is the so-called “American Dream”?
IN SEARCH OF THE DREAM
You have decided to go house hunting. No matter whether you choose a new home in a new development or a pre-owned home in an older neighborhood, you will need lots of money. You will need money for a down payment. You will need money for all of the closing costs. You will need money for insurance.
You find the perfect home and you imagine yourself in it. You make an offer and it is accepted. Your closing is done and you are now the proud owner of your dream home.
Make sure you know what your monthly mortgage payment covers. Does it cover the cost of property taxes and insurance? If not, you will have to budget additional amounts of money to cover those costs.
Make sure before you close the deal that all maintenance and cleaning of the home have been completed to your satisfaction. You do not want any unpleasant surprises after you buy your home. If a developer requires that you sign a document after he completes the construction of your home, make sure that you know exactly what you are signing.
Check out all of the details. You may need new furniture as well. You may need to landscape your new yard. All these tiny details translate to one thing: $ $ $ $ and among other things, please be aware, from now on everything will = $!
As soon as your deed is recorded in the courthouse, it becomes public record. Your name is now available to all advertisers. You may receive notices from realtors (even though you have just bought the home and they wonder if you want to SELL it). Advertisers and loan companies think you had “enough money to buy a home.” Therefore, they think that you must have enough money to buy some more things.
Remember that you may think that you own your home, but in reality you will be renting it from the bank or mortgage company for many years. Miss a payment and your home is no longer yours.
Homeownership and the sense of “DEMOCRACY, LIBERTY and FREEDOM” give you security. You have made the largest purchase of your life: Your home.
Homeownership vs. Homeowners’ Associations
Millions of homeowners have bought homes that are included in MANDATORY ASSOCIATIONS. The theory behind associations is that they provide security and services at an affordable price. In reality. sometimes the benefits of associations are outweighed by their difficulties.
Please be sure to read the legal documents when you buy your home. You may be handed a large book full of deed restrictions and bylaws. Read and study them to avoid future problems in your community.
It has been said that Homeowners’ Associations are one of the biggest legal scams in the nation. Because HOAs are mandatory and regulated by legal documents, it is often difficult for the property owner to receive justice, if there is a conflict between his needs and those of his association.
Is this a DEMOCRACY? Is this is MY PROPERTY? DON’T I HAVE ANY RIGHTS? Your rights are spelled out in the bylaws and in the deed restrictions that you receive when you buy your home. Most people do not read these documents thoroughly. Some of the documents are written in language that only a legal professional could fully understand. Unfortunately, these bylaws and deed restrictions can be amended by the Board of Directors that administers your association. The amounts of your assessments can be changed by these same directors.
In addition to the fees payable to the HOA fund, often an association will be administered by a management company. This will cost all of the homeowners a lot of money for this service.
Even though statutes have been created, most of them cannot be enforced to make sure that the homeowner is protected. At times the homeowner’s “American Dream” of owning a home becomes more like a nightmare.
MY STORY IN BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA
The developer who bought land also created a MASTER association. This master association requires some of the homeowners to pay additional fees. It is in the contract that was signed at closing. This means that in addition to the fees paid to the HOA, there are additional fees paid to the master association at certain times of the year.
Worse yet, there is nothing given to us for these fees. If we want to use the swimming pool or tennis court, we have to pay another fee.
The rich don’t mind paying and the poor can’t afford these homes, while the middle class if forced to “keep up with appearances”!
The only thing a person can do is to join with other homeowners to try to right the wrongs. Talk to your neighbors. Do get involved. If you join the groups that, like me, are trying to fight for all people at state and at national levels to confront these companies and government, then there will be FORCE and VOICE in numbers.
TRYING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Jean is a nurse who lives in my neighborhood. We met one day when she had been given a parking ticket for parking her vehicle ON HER OWN PROPERTY. We decided together to try to make a difference in our community.
You wouldn’t believe the number of people like us who have issues, but are willing to lose everything rather than bringing it out in the open and find ways to solve their problems.
They are AFRAID to speak up! AFRAID TO SPEAK IN AMERICA? Yes! Afraid because everything you do IN AMERICA costs money -- attorneys fees, court costs, the list is endless. There are some people who do not speak the English language fluently. These people are either afraid or embarrassed.
Also, sometimes dishonest persons will “arrange” to pay so that the homeowner cannot have justice.
So this is what Jean and I did. We went to the management company and demanded to see all the minutes of all meetings held within the last two years plus the bids on different projects the board had suggested for the community and projects that had already been done. We were told that all the information was in the “archives”!
Jean is not the kind of person to take "no" for an answer and she is an excellent communicator. She was told that if she wanted copies, she would have to provide her own paper. Can you believe this? Anyway, Jean showed up with a huge ream of paper! She got some of the copies, not all.
We started by making our neighbors aware of issues. Using our own time, effort and money we campaigned to boot out the president of the association. He walked at night to check if the neighborhood kids were “behaving.” If your garbage was not put out in bins but in a bag, you got a threatening letter. If there was a bit of tape in the outside because of your Christmas decorations, you again got a threatening letter. Your car dripped oil? Either clean it or guess what -- another letter! Having a party? Expect the board president to visit you! The list of “wrongs” was endless. After the letter came the FINE! (At this point, I am not going to get in the stuff about fines.)
To accomplish this goal of ousting the president, we prepared a petition in both English and Spanish and printed it on colored paper. We went door-to-door to ask for signatures. We were met with a great many excuses by our neighbors, who were very reluctant to sign a petition. I was in pain from a back surgery and that made this effort very difficult for me. Although we did our best, we were not able to achieve our goal of getting rid of our association’s president.
During one of the meetings when I was given “permission to speak” and did, and then Jean and her husband spoke, we were asked to leave the meeting.
As I walked out, the wife of our past president looked at me with ire and in a rough tone yelled at me: “If you don’t like it, MOVE!” As if it was so easy for us to just sell and go elsewhere! OH, HOW I WISH!
However, Jean and I persevered and went to two other meetings. In neither were we given time to speak and on the last one, when they finally got to us, they acknowledged it was pretty late and the meeting was adjourned. We never even got to open our mouths. We were mad, bewildered and we kept saying, “Where are our rights? Are we still in the United States of America? Where are our liberties?”
Jean and I learned quickly that our homeowners’ association wanted to be left alone so they could do as they please with our property, our monies and our basic democratic civil rights to express ourselves. This is what is true with the majority of HOAs.
Please get involved for yourself and for your children. Can you imagine the hurdles they will encounter when they are your age?
What can I do to regain my rights of homeownership? I surely hope
some of you do get involved too in the problems of your community.
With a lot of effort we can get some state and federal laws to stop the
Even with all the advancements in technology, we are becoming more and more uncivilized and culturally biased and ignorant, anti-social robots tied up in a an endless dull routine. We want no problems, because we can be sued. We don’t share cakes, cookies and pies because we are afraid even to knock on our neighbor’s door, just in case they don’t even answer!
We used to know our neighbors and their children. Now kids are meaner than ever before. Respect for the elderly is a thing of the past. Beautiful songs of our past with messages of tender pure love have been replaced by rappers using words that I wouldn’t even dare repeat! Marriage is a thing of the past. We used to marry because of love and, regardless of the ups and downs, we toughed it out TOGETHER, and still together we went through the hurdles. Our children grew up loving land, church and home, respectful and mindful of others.
WAKE UP AMERICA! WAKE UP HOMEOWNERS! Don’t let the filthy rich take your money and trample your inalienable legal and civil rights as a citizen of this great country -- The United States of America.
Let us regain the American Dream! Let us regain our freedom. The United States of America is still the land of the free. The American Dream should never die!