Imagine for a moment that your company has transferred you to California’s Central Valley. Lots of warm days are in your future, you get a chance to dry out from all the rain and snow in your old home town.
Your Realtor has been driving you around several neighborhoods in Angels Camp: Saddle Creek Resort, Copper Cove and the little community of Copperopolis. Suddenly you see it! The house of your dreams! The yard is nicely kept, the rooms are large, the last owner has really taken good care of the place. “What’s the neighborhood like?” you ask the Realtor.
Florida has a new law that allows HOAs to evict a homeowner who’s behind on dues and lease the house to a tenant to make up for the lost money. The Bridgewater Community Association in Wesley Chapel has taken that to extremes.
Joanne McCarn says she missed a $225 dues payment in 2009 when her mother died. She claims she knew nothing about the overdue payment until recently. The HOA began tacking on late fees, attorney’s fees, and collection costs. By the time Joanne found out about her missed payment, the HOA was demanding $2,565, more than ten times the original amount. Joanne and her husband both tried to contact Association officials, who refused to talk to them.
The McCarn family had leased their home to a renter. But the HOA used the new Florida law to kick out the McCarn’s renter and put in a renter of their own. Joanne says it’s completely outrageous because the house hasn’t been foreclosed on.
“I still own this house,” she says. “The HOA changed the locks on the home and they call the sheriff if I come near the property.”
A Homeowners Association lawyer in Florida says the HOA’s actions are illegal. If so, then homeowners in the Bridgewater Association may be hit with a special assessment to cover a hefty lawsuit against the community.
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For those of you wanting to make a short sale on your house, you’d better keep an eagle eye on your good old Homeowners Association. They’re starting to get pretty crafty in keeping the neighborhood operating budget full.
For homeowners who are suffering through the housing mess and living with underwater mortgages, working out a short sale might help you save some of your retirement nest egg. The banks take a well-deserved loss, but you’re happy because you’ve found a buyer and you’ve escaped your nightmare of a mortgage.
I wonder if it’s hard for these people to sleep at night. Stealing from neighbors? The ones you say “hi” to on the street each day? Maybe it’s just me, but I could never get used to the guilt. Your neighbors are trying hard to pay their bills, to put the kids through college, some of them even struggling to pay HOA dues. Other neighbors have lost jobs in this economy, and are wondering where the next bag of groceries are coming from?
Then some runny-nosed, gambling-addicted, coke-head of an HOA treasurer grabs all the neighborhood’s money for a quick run to Vegas.