Every time I read of a homeowner who’s lost his or her home to a bank foreclosure, it breaks my heart. HOWEVER, every time I read of a Homeowners Association which has done the same thing to a homeowner, it infuriates me.
Homeowners Associations can foreclose on a member of an association in a matter of hours for even the pettiest violation of the covenants. Yes, I agree that all homeowners should be required to pay their HOA dues ON TIME! No exceptions. HOAs need those funds to operate and to maintain the common areas. The problem is that many HOAs and management companies are abusing that power.
Take for example, the case of Stephanie Bonefont, a member of the South Pointe Homeowners Association in the Tampa area.
In 2008, this single mom’s house was foreclosed on because of unpaid HOA dues. Cut and dried case, right? She should be tarred and feathered and run out of town strapped to a rail, right?
Hmmm, let’s take a closer look at her case. It turns out Bonefont’s bills for her dues were apparently being sent by the HOA to the wrong address and she had no idea she was in default. But that didn’t matter. The HOA snatched her home and sold it to a bidder, Pasto Angula, for $7400, the amount of her missing dues and legal expenses. A judge saw through the property grab and ordered the home returned to Ms. Bonefont, after she reimbursed Angula for $7400.
But the South Pointe HOA claimed it had no evidence she had paid Angula, despite the fact that her attorney produced a copy of the check.
And now the HOA is moving forward with the lawsuit until the woman writes THEM a $7300 check. “Double dipping,” Ms. Bonefont calls it.
This is America, the model for the entire world, where people are supposed to be able to seek and find justice. But our litigiousness has made America the laughing stock of the world.
How is it that cases like this slip through the cracks? Why can’t a judge just lock all the parties in a room and say, “I love you guys, but I’m not going to let you mock the American justice system. You’re staying right here in this room until you figure out how to settle this case in a way that will make all parties believe that they were able to find justice in an American courtroom!”
Some of these cases have an obvious solution, but it requires forcing all parties to mull over their own mistakes, and emerge from the room when they have a solution. Before the PC movement, some moms used to do that with their kids! “No lunch until you solve your own problem.” These days, that kind of thing is called “child abuse.”
What’s the solution? How can you solve a case like this without trashing the Constitution? Ah, and no lawyers allowed! They just seem to gum up the system!
Here’s an incentive: “Hey folks, if you DON’T go to court, you’ll be saving about thirty thousand bucks worth of attorneys fees. So let’s throw that same amount of money into a common pot, and let the warring parties decide who gets to split the pot and how evenly.”
The lawyers would never let that happen, of course. Not in a million years, would they let that happen. Hmmm, maybe THAT’s the problem.
“I don’t think you can make a lawyer honest by an act of the Legislature. You’ve gotta work on his conscience. And his lack of conscience is what makes him a lawyer.”
Neighbors At War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association