Tag Archives: Real HOA Nightmare Stories

Florida Outrage

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.

The Short Sale Trap

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.

But wait!  Your HOA has superior rights over your bank. If it moves quickly, it can snatch your home and foreclose on it before your short sale can go through. Just about any violation of HOA covenants can make your home a nice grab.  If you were a little behind on dues, if your grass became a little brown during those months you failed to water the lawn, if you got fined for leaving the trash can outside, once you add fines, collection fees, legal fees, late fees and all the other fees that can be conjured up, your HOA can actually claim you owe it tens of thousands of dollars.

Like a rat trap, the HOA springs shut on your pending short sale. You lose, the bank loses, your potential buyer loses.  Ah, but your HOA wins. It gets to put your house on the auction block. Sweet, huh?

Ward Lucas

Author of

Neighbors At War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association

Opposition to HOAs: Conservative? Or Liberal?

One puzzle about the HOA movement is, “Why doesn’t the left or right take a stance?” Think about it. Every homeowner signs away his Constitutional rights by agreeing to join an HOA. That abrogation of rights has been upheld in multiple court decisions.

But shouldn’t the left-wing ACLU be furious about the loss of free speech rights by homeowners? Shouldn’t the right-wing Tea Party be furious with the fact that citizens have lost their ability to claim First Amendment, Second Amendment, and Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections just by joining an HOA?

Of course, Americans have the right to contract away their claims to protections in the Bill of Rights. We do that all the time when we agree to abide by confidentiality agreements in out-of-court legal settlements. We agree not to ever discuss how a court case was settled, or how much was paid to which party to settle the case.

Yes, homeowners do have the right to sign away their rights, and that’s exactly what happens when you sign those HOA documents. But why don’t left-wing or right-wing activists raise cain about the excesses of rogue Homeowners Associations?

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

Real HOA Nightmare Stories

One question each homebuyer should deliberate before buying a property in a homeowners association is, “Am I buying a home in Paradise, or will the HOA make my stay a living hell?”

Homeowners Associations offer promises, of course: security, clean streets, well maintained homes, nice amenities. Some new home buyers find it a positive experience. Others discover they have bought into a nightmare. Still others find their homes foreclosed upon, sometimes for the pettiest of reasons.

Here are some recent homeowner stories collected by Bankrate.com:

  • When a couple in Lawrence, Georgia tried to sell their house, they discovered the HOA had quietly placed a $3,500 lien against their property because the couple had placed some pink flamingos on their lawn. HOAs have no sense of humor about such things as pink flamingos. The lien had to be paid before the house could be sold. Homeowners Associations often place such liens without informing the property owner. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to discover that these “secret liens” have been accumulating interest, attorney’s fees, and collection fees.
  • Maryland: a homeowner who was continually harassed by a neighbor asked his HOA to give him permission to put up a six-foot privacy fence. The HOA refused. The homeowner went to court, spent more than 23,000 dollars in legal fees and still lost. He then put up a smaller fence which he thought conformed to neighborhood rules. But HOA officials armed with tape measures, discovered it was several inches too high. He was slapped with a lien, and spent thousands more to settle the case.
  • A Homeowners Association in Donner Pass, California requires homeowners to make their properties ‘snowmobile friendly’. That means not driving cars over the snow or clearing it from around their homes. The intent is to leave areas open zones for snowmobiles. But a woman who had suffered a serious back injury ignored the rule. She drove her car up her half mile long driveway over the snow, saying her back injury made it impossible to walk the half mile to her home. But driving up her own driveway cost her $500 a day in HOA fines. The dispute eventually cost her more than $50,000 in fines and legal expenses.
  • Tampa Florida, a homeowner committed the ultimate sin of being late on her HOA fees. She thought her attorney had arranged the payment of more than $4,000. But she was short $497. The HOA foreclosed on her property, and sold it in a courthouse auction for $4651. An investor bought it and promptly sold it for $88,000. The homeowner lost her home over the $497 shortfall.

There are literally thousands of such stories across America and there is rarely a happy ending for the homeowner.

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