A Bad Case Of HOA Insensitivity

There are many ironies in the country’s HOA quagmire, but the one that really stirred anger among American families was the 2010 confiscation of the home of an Army Reserve Captain named Michael Clauer.

Clauer and his wife, May, lived in the Heritage Lakes Homeowners Association in Frisco, Texas. They had two young children, one of them just a toddler. They owned their 300,000 dollar home free and clear, a gift from May’s parents.

But when Michael was transfered to command a unit in the war in Iraq, May Clauer allowed what she thought was junk mail to pile up. Sadly, among the items in the growing stack of mail were the couple’s HOA dues, about 877 dollars, and the threat to foreclose.

One day, when May answered the door, a visitor told her that he now owned the home and that she and her family would have to vacate. It seems that Heritage Lakes HOA had done a non-judicial foreclosure, meaning no judge ever heard a foreclosure case against the Clauer family. The HOA had just reached out, snatched the home, auctioned it for $3500 to an investor who sold it again for $135,000.

Federal law prohibits civil actions against service members who are on active duty overseas. But many Homeowners Associations consider federal law just a minor annoyance.

Michael Clauer says not a single person from the Heritage Lakes Homeowners Association ever visited his home, despite the fact that board members live just a short distance away.

The Clauer’s finally got their house back after a federal judge ordered all the parties involved to work out a settlement. Details of the settlement are confidential, but it’s hard to imagine that the experience was not extremely costly for the family.

Clauer now lives in Virginia. He says he’ll never again live in a Homeowners Association.

Ward Lucas
Author of
Neighbors At War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association

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About

Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

2 thoughts on “A Bad Case Of HOA Insensitivity

  1. The Right To Own Your Own Home

    Ward,

    The Clauer’s got their home back in 2010, after taking the issue to court.

    As I wrote at http://www.righttoown.org/home/walter-duranty

    “Because the federal judge in the case placed a gag-order that prohibits anyone from discussing the decision, we can only speculate on what really happened (“Iraq War Vet Declares Victory In Frisco HOA Battle” WFAA. July 28, 2010). I suspect the law was bent over backwards (and perhaps forwards) by the judge to allow Heritage Lakes H.O.A. — which never admitted to any wrong doing and probably acted in a perfectly legal but immoral manner — to save face. If it was simply a matter of a falsified affidavit by the H.O.A. about Clauer’s active-duty status, or enforcement of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), there would have been no need for the Clauer’s to litigate, nor for a gag order by the judge in the case.”

    As I also noted, another aspect of this story was that it was completely ignored by the right-of-center pundits who claim to “support the troops” and property rights.

    Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Glenn Reynolds, Bill Whittle, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Mike Rosen, John Stossel, James Taranto, Jonah Golberg, Jon Caldara, etc. should be ashamed of themselves.

    This incident had the heroes and villains that would have made it a leading story for the above named parties:

    – an American soldier deployed to a war zone
    – Memorial Day weekend
    – theft of private property
    – greedy lawyers

    But, like the modern day heirs of Walter Duranty, the conservative and libertarian media kept their viewers, listeners, and readers completely ignorant about this unconscionable crime.

    The only national media outlets to actually report about Captain Clauer’s plight were the left-wing “Mother Jones” and the liberal NPR.

    As you asked in an earlier blog post, “Why don’t left-wing or right-wing activists raise cain about the excesses of rogue Homeowners Associations” (October 11, 2011)? Why indeed?

    The oppression of homeowners by HOAs is a bipartisan issue. Unfortunately, it’s one where both Democrats and Republicans have agreed to sell out individual Americans in favor of a special interest devoted to the collective ownership of your private property.

    Reply
    1. Ward Lucas Post author

      Bob,

      They did, indeed, get their home back. But I suspect at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars. The fact that they signed a confidential settlement strongly suggests to me that some party in the case had a strong motive to shut the Clauers up. Michael Clauer is pretty bitter about the whole thing.

      Reply

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