Hoa’s Harm
HOA's Are Social Engineering Scams
“Kafkaesque” Nightmare for Homeowners
First, let’s clarify “Social Engineering” (SE). Worldwide, the concept first arose in the late 1800’s as a result of industrialists wanting to find ways to more efficiently influence and manage workers. Later in the 1920’s and 30’s it rose to prominence politically most notably in the Soviet Union and Germany as those governments attempted to force citizens into homogenized, conforming populations. There have been many other examples of SE, large and small, public and private, positive and negative: US public education system, various government stop-smoking campaigns, China’s “Cultural Revolution”, American mass-advertising, utopian and splinter religious sects of 1880’s-1960’s (USA) and most recently, the EU (European Union). Because it has been abused by authoritarian regimes and other non- inclusive attempts at SE, it developed a negative connotation. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal of SE has always been the betterment of human life through better (more humane, health promoting) social mechanisms. Since the “Information Age” and computers, the above meaning of SE has fallen into the background and given way to the current “security” definition: often called the “hacker” definition, or, internet fraud where people are manipulated to provide confidential information. An Internet search for “Social Engineering” will get you loads of references to this type of SE. In order to understand our broader, deeper meaning one must search under, “social engineering sociology”, or, “social engineering political.” Here are a few good links: 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_engineering_(political_science) 2. http://www.qualityresearchinternational.com/socialresearch/ socialengineering.htm The following Definition of SE Fits Best, for our purposes: “a discipline in social science that refers to efforts to influence particular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale, whether by governments, media or private groups in order to produce desired characteristics in a target population.” “Scam?” “Scam” means, a dishonest scheme, a fraud. I believe what I have described herein can fairly be called a “scam.” It is a “scheme.” It is certainly “dishonest.” And, at least an ethical “fraud”, if not an actual legal “fraud”, is clearly a part of it. A bit of HOA history is very important, here. From the late 1800’s “exclusionary covenants” in home sales grew increasingly common in the US – prohibited the buyer from selling to certain racial/ethnic groups. By 1920 these began increasing exponentially. It wasn’t until 1948 that the US Supreme Court partially blocked the practice. This only served to drive discrimination underground. The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 helped to further reduce this. However, “exclusivity” and “private” continue to this day to be mindsets used by HOA’s to control inclusion. For more history see - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeowner_association How Do HOA’s “Socially Engineer” Owners into Conformity & Passivity? By design and actual function, using: #1) A Disarming Imbalance-of-Power Most State laws give HOA Boards a decided power-advantage over Homeowners. Most States do little to regulate or hold HOA’s accountable for meeting legal or ethical standards. Also, in most States agencies regulating real estate or consumer rights have no involvement with or control over HOA’s. Further up the governmental pyramid, the problem rests with housing policies at the Federal and State levels that primarily benefit the “privileged” groups - i.e., developers, contractors….politicians. Several Land-Mark Scientific Studies (Stanford Prison Experiment; Milgram Obedience Experiment), plus the long-history of scientific study of the social-psychological dynamics of groups and communities, have shown that when one group of individuals is given this kind of power over others, abuse-of-power is the inevitable outcome. The majority of problems within HOA’s stem from this basic dynamic. Indeed, the entire HOA “system” is a “set-up” to produce it. One common poster illustrates this well - Add this to the lack of honest disclosure and consumers/homeowners are at a severe disadvantage. #2) Ignoring Basic “Human Nature” Private Inurement Temptation – HOA’s create a powerful inducement for “Private Inurement”, or self-dealing. Individuals, who are most prone to self-dealing, tend to either get directly involved in governance or become vendors to an HOA. This is a widespread and deeply ingrained phenomenon in many HOA’s. Collective Narcissism – This is a dynamic that involves the gravitating together of certain community members who tend to have pronounced traits of self-centeredness, superiority and entitlement. One common example in HOA’s are those who were part of the initial formation of the HOA and/or those who became owners very early in the life of the HOA, who view themselves as the “original”, “established”, and, therefore, the most-important, even superior owners. They believe they have an entitlement that exceeds other owners, i.e., an entitlement to have their wishes granted or their opinions given priority. They can exact a heavy toll on an HOA socially and financially. Excessive Pressure To Conform – With an emphasis on CC&R’s, Environmental Control Rules and “corporate sovereignty”, HOA’s tend to expect, even demand, CONFORMITY. As with nearly all human-groups, this desire for conformity often becomes excessive and/or inconsistent. But there is no mechanism to recognize this inevitable cycle nor any measures to moderate or balance it. #3) Creating Illusions of Control “Enhanced Property Values” - This is the irrational belief that simply being a “private” community, having CC&R’s, environmental controls with fines, a security staff, “gates”, amenities and a “conforming” membership, therefore, everything is “better”, “of higher quality” and somehow property values are maintained at a higher level. Research has proven that this completely depends upon how well run the HOA is. Poorly run HOA’s actually lower property values – PROVEN! CC&R’s and Environmental Control Rules – These are rather long, legalistic documents that few owners read and fewer understand. They “legally bind” the owner to abide by numerous rules covering how he keeps his house, land, autos, boats, RV’s, his overall conduct, finable offenses, etc. They give the “illusion” of a more structured, regulated, ordered community, when, in fact, their application depends totally upon those in-charge. “Private” Community – This notion often leads to an “illusory” belief that certain external, “public” rules don’t apply, e.g., freedom of speech, assembly. Most State laws and ALL Federal laws apply to ALL HOA’s. “Gated” Community - A rather thin “illusion” of security. Outsiders still routinely get in! Amenities – Facilities and services within an HOA are usually for-members-only. Reports of poorly maintained and never-expanded amenities are rampant. There are also many examples of HOA’s having bent this concept to make it apply to open-to-the-public, for-profit-businesses, e.g., failing golf courses. Members are forced to continue paying for deteriorating, under-developed and failing “amenities.” #4) Impaired Leadership HOA Boards Are “Volunteers” with Minimal Qualifications. They are unpaid, typically given little or no training for this highly responsible position and usually greatly over-worked. Some directors do have some formal education and some do have prior training and/or work experience in the business world. However, most ex-directors will tell you, they felt wholly unprepared for what they had to deal with. Furthermore, almost ALL HOA’s have minimal qualifications for directors, do little vetting of candidates and most provide little or no training in the duties, responsibilities or skills involved in being an HOA Director. What a “set-up” for serious problems! No or Minimal Administrative Support to Directors. No or minimal assigned administrative support to directors, e.g., clerical or research support. Yet folks are often “surprised” when directors complain of “burned-out” from putting 20-40 hours/week into the “job!” Many Directors Have Age-Related Cognitive Skill Impairments. Due to our large aging population, the fact that many HOA residents are baby- boomers or older and the fact that the demands of the “director job” are unworkable for most full-time workers, many of those who “end-up” on boards are retired. Many of them suffer from age-related cognitive impairments. Few will admit this to themselves. Few will point this out to another. Their involvement in governance causes major problems - confusion, delays, chaos, misunderstandings, ineffectiveness... A Significant Number of Directors Have Life- Long, Unidentified “Disabilities.” At least 20-30% are suffering from life-long and unidentified disabilities (Federal definition - ASD, ADHD, Learning Disorders, Mood Disorders, etc.) that escaped detection due to the fact that identification of such difficulties didn’t even begin in the public school system until the late-1970’s. This is another significant source of major problems in HOA governance - just as above. #5) Managers Inadequately Educated & Trained Training for HOA Managers is provided and regulated within the HOA Industry by the California Association of Community Managers (CACM), the Community Associations Institute (CAI), and the Community Association Managers International Certification Board (CAMICB). The problem with these training programs is that the prerequisites are grossly inadequate: “…the applicant must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or equivalent. The applicant also must have six months of community management experience…” These “Managers” can become “General Managers” of HOA’s the size of small towns, yet no college background is required. Contrast this with “City Managers” who typically have completed a bachelor’s degree but have also attained an MPA (Masters in Public Administration) - usually 5-6 years of course work under professional supervision. The courses offered by CACM, CAI and CAMICB educate the potential “manager” in the technical aspects of specific "community management.” They are clearly a “quickie” route for someone with minimal formal education and minimal “community management” experience to become a “Certified Community Association Manager” - 36 hours of course work, 7 online exams, 3 recommendation letters and payment of over $400 in
Hoa’s Harm
HOA's Are Social Engineering Scams
“Kafkaesque” Nightmare for Homeowners
First, let’s clarify “Social Engineering” (SE). Worldwide, the concept first arose in the late 1800’s as a result of industrialists wanting to find ways to more efficiently influence and manage workers. Later in the 1920’s and 30’s it rose to prominence politically most notably in the Soviet Union and Germany as those governments attempted to force citizens into homogenized, conforming populations. There have been many other examples of SE, large and small, public and private, positive and negative: US public education system, various government stop-smoking campaigns, China’s “Cultural Revolution”, American mass-advertising, utopian and splinter religious sects of 1880’s-1960’s (USA) and most recently, the EU (European Union). Because it has been abused by authoritarian regimes and other non- inclusive attempts at SE, it developed a negative connotation. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal of SE has always been the betterment of human life through better (more humane, health promoting) social mechanisms. Since the “Information Age” and computers, the above meaning of SE has fallen into the background and given way to the current “security” definition: often called the “hacker” definition, or, internet fraud where people are manipulated to provide confidential information. An Internet search for “Social Engineering” will get you loads of references to this type of SE. In order to understand our broader, deeper meaning one must search under, “social engineering sociology”, or, “social engineering political.” Here are a few good links: 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_engineering_(political_science) 2. http://www.qualityresearchinternational.com/socialresearch/ socialengineering.htm The following Definition of SE Fits Best, for our purposes: “a discipline in social science that refers to efforts to influence particular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale, whether by governments, media or private groups in order to produce desired characteristics in a target population.” “Scam?” “Scam” means, a dishonest scheme, a fraud. I believe what I have described herein can fairly be called a “scam.” It is a “scheme.” It is certainly “dishonest.” And, at least an ethical “fraud”, if not an actual legal “fraud”, is clearly a part of it. A bit of HOA history is very important, here. From the late 1800’s “exclusionary covenants” in home sales grew increasingly common in the US – prohibited the buyer from selling to certain racial/ethnic groups. By 1920 these began increasing exponentially. It wasn’t until 1948 that the US Supreme Court partially blocked the practice. This only served to drive discrimination underground. The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 helped to further reduce this. However, “exclusivity” and “private” continue to this day to be mindsets used by HOA’s to control inclusion. For more history see - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeowner_association How Do HOA’s “Socially Engineer” Owners into Conformity & Passivity? By design and actual function, using: #1) A Disarming Imbalance-of-Power Most State laws give HOA Boards a decided power-advantage over Homeowners. Most States do little to regulate or hold HOA’s accountable for meeting legal or ethical standards. Also, in most States agencies regulating real estate or consumer rights have no involvement with or control over HOA’s. Further up the governmental pyramid, the problem rests with housing policies at the Federal and State levels that primarily benefit the “privileged” groups - i.e., developers, contractors….politicians. Several Land-Mark Scientific Studies (Stanford Prison Experiment; Milgram Obedience Experiment), plus the long-history of scientific study of the social-psychological dynamics of groups and communities, have shown that when one group of individuals is given this kind of power over others, abuse-of-power is the inevitable outcome. The majority of problems within HOA’s stem from this basic dynamic. Indeed, the entire HOA “system” is a “set-up” to produce it. One common poster illustrates this well - Add this to the lack of honest disclosure and consumers/homeowners are at a severe disadvantage. #2) Ignoring Basic “Human Nature” Private Inurement Temptation – HOA’s create a powerful inducement for “Private Inurement”, or self-dealing. Individuals, who are most prone to self-dealing, tend to either get directly involved in governance or become vendors to an HOA. This is a widespread and deeply ingrained phenomenon in many HOA’s. Collective Narcissism – This is a dynamic that involves the gravitating together of certain community members who tend to have pronounced traits of self-centeredness, superiority and entitlement. One common example in HOA’s are those who were part of the initial formation of the HOA and/or those who became owners very early in the life of the HOA, who view themselves as the “original”, “established”, and, therefore, the most-important, even superior owners. They believe they have an entitlement that exceeds other owners, i.e., an entitlement to have their wishes granted or their opinions given priority. They can exact a heavy toll on an HOA socially and financially. Excessive Pressure To Conform – With an emphasis on CC&R’s, Environmental Control Rules and “corporate sovereignty”, HOA’s tend to expect, even demand, CONFORMITY. As with nearly all human-groups, this desire for conformity often becomes excessive and/or inconsistent. But there is no mechanism to recognize this inevitable cycle nor any measures to moderate or balance it. #3) Creating Illusions of Control “Enhanced Property Values” - This is the irrational belief that simply being a “private” community, having CC&R’s, environmental controls with fines, a security staff, “gates”, amenities and a “conforming” membership, therefore, everything is “better”, “of higher quality” and somehow property values are maintained at a higher level. Research has proven that this completely depends upon how well run the HOA is. Poorly run HOA’s actually lower property values – PROVEN! CC&R’s and Environmental Control Rules – These are rather long, legalistic documents that few owners read and fewer understand. They “legally bind” the owner to abide by numerous rules covering how he keeps his house, land, autos, boats, RV’s, his overall conduct, finable offenses, etc. They give the “illusion” of a more structured, regulated, ordered community, when, in fact, their application depends totally upon those in-charge. “Private” Community – This notion often leads to an “illusory” belief that certain external, “public” rules don’t apply, e.g., freedom of speech, assembly. Most State laws and ALL Federal laws apply to ALL HOA’s. “Gated” Community - A rather thin “illusion” of security. Outsiders still routinely get in! Amenities – Facilities and services within an HOA are usually for-members-only. Reports of poorly maintained and never-expanded amenities are rampant. There are also many examples of HOA’s having bent this concept to make it apply to open-to-the-public, for-profit-businesses, e.g., failing golf courses. Members are forced to continue paying for deteriorating, under-developed and failing “amenities.” #4) Impaired Leadership HOA Boards Are “Volunteers” with Minimal Qualifications. They are unpaid, typically given little or no training for this highly responsible position and usually greatly over-worked. Some directors do have some formal education and some do have prior training and/or work experience in the business world. However, most ex-directors will tell you, they felt wholly unprepared for what they had to deal with. Furthermore, almost ALL HOA’s have minimal qualifications for directors, do little vetting of candidates and most provide little or no training in the duties, responsibilities or skills involved in being an HOA Director. What a “set-up” for serious problems! No or Minimal Administrative Support to Directors. No or minimal assigned administrative support to directors, e.g., clerical or research support. Yet folks are often “surprised” when directors complain of “burned-out” from putting 20-40 hours/week into the “job!” Many Directors Have Age-Related Cognitive Skill Impairments. Due to our large aging population, the fact that many HOA residents are baby- boomers or older and the fact that the demands of the “director job” are unworkable for most full-time workers, many of those who “end-up” on boards are retired. Many of them suffer from age-related cognitive impairments. Few will admit this to themselves. Few will point this out to another. Their involvement in governance causes major problems - confusion, delays, chaos, misunderstandings, ineffectiveness... A Significant Number of Directors Have Life- Long, Unidentified “Disabilities.” At least 20-30% are suffering from life-long and unidentified disabilities (Federal definition - ASD, ADHD, Learning Disorders, Mood Disorders, etc.) that escaped detection due to the fact that identification of such difficulties didn’t even begin in the public school system until the late-1970’s. This is another significant source of major problems in HOA governance - just as above. #5) Managers Inadequately Educated & Trained Training for HOA Managers is provided and regulated within the HOA Industry by the California Association of Community Managers (CACM), the Community Associations Institute (CAI), and the Community Association Managers International Certification Board (CAMICB). The problem with these training programs is that the prerequisites are grossly inadequate: “…the applicant must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or equivalent. The applicant also must have six months of community management experience…” These “Managers” can become “General Managers” of HOA’s the size of small towns, yet no college background is required. Contrast this with “City Managers” who typically have completed a bachelor’s degree but have also attained an MPA (Masters in Public Administration) - usually 5-6 years of course work under professional supervision. The courses offered by CACM, CAI and CAMICB educate the potential “manager” in the technical aspects of specific "community management.” They are clearly a “quickie” route for someone with minimal formal education and minimal “community management” experience to become a “Certified Community Association Manager” - 36 hours of course work, 7 online exams, 3 recommendation letters and payment of over $400 in fees (in addition to course costs). Again, contrast this with a “City Manager” with an MPA, who has spent 10-12 semesters (about 3 months each) doing coursework+exams for every one of those semesters! A longer educational process does not necessarily guarantee a better “Community Manager”, but the “quickie” programs provided by CACM, CAI and CAMICB cannot possibly produce the knowledge and skill levels required to effectively run especially large, complex HOA’s. Given the fact that people who are “credentialed” by CACM, CAI and CMICB become managers of communities of hundreds or thousands of residents, it’s like putting the lives of all those residents in the hands of “managers” who are marginally trained -- like going to a paralegal for help with something really requiring an attorney -- like expecting a nurse-practitioner or physician-assistant to handle your child’s cancer just as well as a pediatric oncologist. A nice little scheme these organizations have for making lots of money for themselves and their “trainees”, but at what cost to homeowners? ----- WORST-OF-ALL ----- Fear-Based Community Hopefully, it has dawned on you by now that HOA’s are not just highly dysfunctional as member-service-organizations but they can be very unpleasant, if not down-right stressful communities to live in. In fact one mental health researcher has coined the term, “HOA Syndrome”, to describe a type of “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” resulting directly from the dynamics noted herein. Several of our group have been the recipients of verbal abuse from one board officers, deceptive manipulations by other board directors and a security manager. We have been expelled from a board committees, refused re-admission, subpoenaed to Federal Court because we spoke out against poor association management practices, shunned by several association members and bad-mouthed on social media sites due our outspokenness. Yes, it’s a matter of personal principle. One can “choose” to speak-out or keep quite. But, since HOA’s claim to promote a “sense of safety and security”, their actual manipulation of homeowners makes it very clear that any homeowner is “safe” and “secure” ONLY so long as they don’t complain and keep-their-mouths-shut! BOTTOM LINE Whenever any community of people is allowed to function mostly independently and separately from the legal and business norms of the land, the aspects of human-nature noted above will inevitably take hold and create a marginally livable setting. HOA’s are structured just in this way. Sooner or later they develop serious problems that are harmful to their inhabitants. HOA’s need to be radically modified to counteract these problems, or they should be eliminated! back to Contents