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Title: New Neighborhoods: The Consumer's Guide to Condominium, Co-op, and HOA Living
Author: Gary Poliakoff, Ryan Poliakoff
Rating: Must Read!
Publisher: Emerald Book Company
Web Page:
Reviewed by: Eric Jones

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  • Imagine that you’ve just opened up the board game Monopoly for the first time. You’re sitting around the coffee table with your family and everyone’s excited, then you discover that there are no rules in the box. In fact, there are no printed rules anywhere. So, being the ingenious parent that you are, you and your family come up with your own rules to play and Family Game Night proceeds unfettered. Nice job. But what happens when your family decides to play against another family, and they’ve come up with their own set of rules? What happens when you go to a tournament and everyone has defined the rules in accordance with their own Family Game Night? This is kind of what its like to organize a housing community. Everybody has the same pieces, and the same goal, but nobody quite knows what rules work best. That’s where Gary and Ryan Poliakoff come in like Moses from the mountain and deliver unto us the definitive guide for living in these dens of litigious chaos, “New Neighborhoods: The Consumer’s Guide to Condominium, Co-op, and HOA Living.”

    Essentially, this is the rule book. It offers a point by point compendium for how condominiums, cooperatives, and planned developments typically work, so that when somebody decides to make their home a day care center next door, and suddenly your back yard succumbs to a child infestation, you have a quick resource for what you can do about it. You’ll also learn the laws regarding what actually belongs to you, and what belongs to the community, what you can sell, and a general sense of what say you have in what goes on in your development. I say ‘general sense’ because every development is different, and in those gray areas where laws vary from state to state, the Poliakoffs have taken special care to point you in the right direction for further research.

    All of the information contained in “New Neighborhoods” would be a godsend in itself, as I’ve never seen such a book before that wasn’t over 1000 pages and didn’t have a plain leather face that had the word ‘Law’ printed in gold lettering on the cover. Indeed, “New Neighborhoods” has quite a bit of legalese in it, but the authors’ delivery is often spot-on hilarious, and the comic illustrations offer wonderful relief to the complicated ins and outs of statutes, rules and regulations, collections, maintenance, et cetera, et cetera. The Poliakoffs speak with such a natural dialogue and verve that reading many of these chapters repeatedly is easy (which, believe me, you will have to do if you want to learn it).

    The chapters and subheadings are short and accessible for those who need to cruise through on high speed to find a particular section. The only regretful omission is that of a glossary for some of these overwhelming terms, but even that is miniscule in comparison with the vast amounts of knowledge contained in this short, expertly written, hand book. Even in my short adult life, I have amassed enough experience to understand the vast gray area that comes with living under a homeowner’s association. Most of the time residents are powerless against the board, making each development feel like its own tiny dictatorship and, with “New Neighborhoods”, The Poliakoffs have just handed us the Magna Carta. With cartoons.

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