HOA Threatens Foreclosure On Couple Stationed Overseas

08/02/2009

http://www.woai.com/news/local/story/HOA-Threatens-Foreclosure-On-Couple-Stationed/7wigV89ND0iYVpPNSAuF_w.cspx

A San Antonio couple, serving in the military overseas, almost loses their home. Not because they failed to make their mortgage payments, but because they were behind on their homeowners association fees. This military couple was fighting a losing battle, so they asked News 4 Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila for help.

David and Melody Gates admit they fell behind on their homeowners association fees when Melody got sick, but they say when they tried to pay what they owed, the association and its attorney kept sending their checks back and piling on more fees.

We interviewed the Gates using a web camera, because the couple is stationed at an air force base in Germany.

The Gates say since late last year, they have sent three separate checks to the Westover Crossing Homeowners Association to pay off all the dues they owe for their home. But each time, the checks were returned, because by the time they arrived in the mail, more late fees, and attorneys fees had been added to the total. The attorney for the association refused to accept partial payment.

“Every time they mail it back to me, they tell me I owe them more money,” says Melody Gates. “They tell me that I owe them late fees and I also, on top of that, I owe them attorney fees. And I don’t understand why a company, knowing that we’re so far away, is being so unjust to us.”

After six months of this, the Gates’ bill grew from $1,100 to more than $1,800.

The homeowners association filed a lien against their home and was threatening foreclosure. So the desperate couple e-mailed the Trouble Shooters.

“I reached out to you, because I don’t know what else to do,” says Gates. “We have tried very hard to make this bill paid in full.”

The Trouble Shooters contacted Spectrum Management, which runs the Westover Crossing Homeowners Association, and its attorney, Tom Newton, Jr., the man who has been sending the Gates’ all those intimidating letters.

Newton wouldn’t comment, but this isn’t the first time the Trouble Shooters have come across attorney, Tom Newton.

Last year, Newton, who was working for another homeowners association, foreclosed on an elderly disabled couple, Dan and Elaine lambert, because they hadn’t paid $380 in HOA fees.

At the time he said he felt justified in foreclosing on struggling homeowners who are only a few hundred dollars behind on their HOA dues.

“I feel comfortable in taking those steps necessary to enforce my client’s legal rights,” said Newton at the time. “And if that means that ultimately somebody may go through this foreclosure process, it is unfortunate. But it is a consequence of their own making.”

Although, he wouldn’t talk to us, a few days after we contacted Newton, he and the Westover Crossing Homeowners Association agreed to stop tacking on fees and settled the dispute with the gates for $1,300. Almost $600 less than they had been demanding.

If you fall behind on your HOA fees, they can legally do the same thing to you. Be sure to read your deed restrictions which should explain what kind of notice they have to give you before trying to foreclose. And get them to agree to a re-payment plan in writing, to avoid unexpected fees.

Subdivision residents vote to oust HOA board

http://www.mysanantonio.com/community/northeast/50794612.html

r/Northeast Herald

A neighborhood association dispute is headed to court after homeowners met and voted to remove the association’s board of directors and install a new and larger board.

Homeowners in the Ventura and Spring Meadows subdivisions in northeast Bexar County met June 30 and voted 221-1 to remove the association’s current board members — President Lisa Pfeiffer, Vice President Vicki Pawelek and Secretary Kathleen Vargas — after a tumultuous eight months that saw the board close its monthly meetings to the public, remove lifeguards from the community pool and discontinue participation in the county Citizens On Patrol program.

The group of homeowners called a special meeting and gathered at Northeast Church of Christ on FM 78 and voted to remove the three board members, to enlarge the board to five members and to fill the board with a new slate of board members.

But attorney Susan Rice, speaking on behalf of the Ventura Homeowners Association, told those gathered that their votes didn’t count and that any action taken that evening would end up in court.

“Basically, it’s the corporation’s position that this is not a properly called meeting, pursuant to the governing documents; nor are the votes that are going to be taken proper.

“It does not mean that tomorrow morning your votes are going to be honored,” she said, adding, “Those are going to be going through the court system and we’ll be dealing with those through the courts.”

But Lanny Worel, one of a group of organizers of the special meeting, disagreed.

“We feel that this meeting is lawfully called and … in compliance with association bylaws, and that any and all business that takes place here tonight will be valid and binding,” Worel said.

The association board tried to file a restraining order to keep the meeting from happening, but a county judge found no validity in the association’s complaint and allowed the meeting to go forth.

“In November, the board of directors closed the board meetings to all of us, none of us could go,” Worel said. “It was three months later that (they) began sending out invitations. Without an invitation, you couldn’t attend.”

Worel was one of five Ventura/Spring Meadows homeowners elected to the board during the meeting. Also elected to the board were Tony Jones, Evelyn Nolde, Stephen Turner and Gary Siegel.

Worel said the board has done everything in its power to stop the group from meeting, despite the group’s gathering of enough signatures to properly call a special meeting of the association. The board told Worel’s group that the petition contained invalid signatures, but refused to give the group a list of any faulty signatures.

The group decided in May to call the special meeting, assured they had enough valid signatures to do so. A letter dated May 15 was sent to the board, citing articles and sections of the Ventura bylaws that allowed for such a meeting to take place.

Once a quorum was established at the meeting, a motion was made to remove all three current board members from their positions. A ballot vote was taken and the motion passed, 221-1. The next motion sought expansion of the board from three to five members, which was approved 223-0. Names of seven homeowners were put on a ballot and the five were selected.

Residents openly questioned why the board meetings were closed, and asked who was responsible for monitoring the board’s actions.

Worel explained that the homeowner associations are governed under the non-profit corporation act and that board meetings are not mandated to be open, “but what we go by is the (people) who have been here for over 20 years, board meetings have always been open except for a short time in 2007, when they simply didn’t hold meetings.”

Jones, a subdivision resident since 1999, said, “If you pay your dues, you should have a say in how your money is spent. If they take that away from you, you should also be allowed to say, ‘If I don’t have a say, then why am I paying you?’”

Homeowners expressed anger over the board’s decision to cancel its lifeguard contract at the pool and replace it with a camera-security system.

“I’ve never seen a camera give CPR,” Jones said. “By the time you see it on camera, what’s happened has happened.”

“It was a total three-person decision,” Worel said. “It was not our decision to do away with the lifeguards and put a web-based camera in there for security.”

The pool was closed for a period of time following a June 11 investigation by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department. A resident who spoke during the meeting said she called the health district on June 8 following a weekend swim.

“I was disappointed with the condition of the water, it was filthy,” said resident Yvonne Rex. “That was Saturday; on Monday morning, I called the Metro Health Department and filed a complaint, because they (association management) didn’t seem too concerned.

“They officially closed it down (June 11) because of the condition of the water. Come to find out, the filter was broken … but my question is, how long had the filter been broken, and they were still allowing people to use the pool, with that disgusting water?” she added.

Lifeguards in neighboring subdivisions commonly perform hourly or bi-hourly water sampling in addition to enforcing hourly safety breaks and monitoring pool attendance.

Worel said that since the June 30 meeting, both sides have agreed to enter into mediation.

“We don’t know where it will go from here; all we can do is do our best and then carry on,” he said.

San Antonio Homeowners Association May Go Bankrupt and Cause 48 Families to be HomelessSan Antonio Homeowners Association May Go Bankrupt and Cause 48 Families to be Homeless

http://houston.indymedia.org/news/2009/07/67889.php

 

by Arthur Jameson Saturday, Jul. 25, 2009 at 11:35 PM

Former San Antonio HOA President has requested that a bankruptcy attorney be appointed HOA Receiver, for his own personal gain, while fate of homeowners and residents looms in balance.

 

48 families may soon be out on the street, even though homeowners have paid their mortgages and homeowners association dues on time. What is worse is that local government officials, including the Texas Attorney General, have refused to intervene to help homeowners at the Village at Woodlake Homeowners Country Club Association. Many homeowners and tenants there are low-income, elderly, disabled, minorities, women and/or veterans and wish very much to keep their homes. 

The Village at Woodlake Homeowners Association is in a state of disrepair. Some say that it has been grossly mismanaged over the past few years. What’s more is that people live in a hostile, suppressive environment, and are afraid to peacefully assemble or speak out because they are constantly threatened with the prospect of lawsuits. One particular individual has essentially made a living suing people across the country over the past few decades. He knows that homeowners do not have the financial resources to go up against him, and has filed various nuisance lawsuits against homeowners. 

Unbeknownst to homeowners, this month, the former HOA President filed suit against the homeowners association, and therefore all homeowners. The previous President served himself, as the agent on record, and did not bother to notify homeowners of this action. He is seeking $225,000, of which he admits to having already taken $96,000. This is unheard of, considering that Board Members are supposed to serve in a voluntary capacity. 

The former President has requested that the court appoint a bankruptcy attorney as receiver of the HOA, to “liquidate the assets as he sees fit,” so that the former President may collect the full $225,000 to which he claims entitlement. 

Homeowners who are aware of this situation are outraged. The previous President seeks to be compensated for a management contract that he wrote for himself in September 2008. As a condition of the contract, he stipulated that homeowners bond and indemnify him. Homeowners never agreed to these terms, as the document was signed in secrecy by the former President and 3 other Board Members. The former Board did not seek competitive management bids prior to contracting the former President. Less expensive bids obtained by individual homeowners for actual property management companies were rejected before even being heard by the previous Board. 

There currently is no Board of Directors because Travelers Insurance considered the previous Board too much of a risk, and discontinued the Directors & Officers Liability policy on June 10, 2009, citing too many claims as their reason. Travelers cancelled the policy immediately after the former President frivolously filed suit against 8 homeowners for $1,000,000. He claimed alleged defamation and interference with the contract he signed with himself. Travelers has actually appointed legal counsel to defend those 8 homeowners against the previous HOA President’s allegations. 

The previous Board waited until there was no more insurance before they stepped down, and failed to give homeowners any resources for establishing a new Board or liability insurance. Prior to resigning, the former President actually threatened to sue his successors to the HOA Board, knowing that nobody in their right mind would assume the liability involved without insurance to protect them. 

Now there is no Homeowners Association Board, and homeowners hope that the courts may appoint an impartial, objective third party as receiver to the association so that normalcy may be reestablished. They want to regain control of their association and run things responsibly and fairly. 

Homeowners want to have a full accounting for the finances over the past 4 years, since homeowners have not been allowed to see utility statements or financial records during that time. The former President was even been subpoenaed for a contempt of court hearing on July 22, 2009, for failing to provide financial records for a forensic audit. However, his attorney requested that it be postponed until a later date. 

Homeowners simply want to know how their money has been spent over the past few years. While buildings and common areas have been deteriorating, it seems that one former HOA President thought it more prudent to pay himself than to fix several unsightly, structural and safety-related problems. Water in the pool is putrefying and at least one unit is not even inhabitable. 

Brian Mylar of San Antonio’s KSAT News has told only part of this story. You may view it online at the following link:http://www.ksat.com/news/20018507/detail.html

A hearing is scheduled at the Bexar County Court House, in San Antonio, Texas at 9am on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 (Reference Cause # 2009-CI-11491). 

Please plan to attend and follow this case until a satisfactory conclusion may be met for all homeowners and tenants involved.