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.