Homeowner Fights HOA, Gets Thousands in Settlements – WFTV
MIMS, Florida – A central Florida couple claimed the homeowners association threatened to foreclose their home over a debt they did not owe.
Cindy Decker and her husband raised six children in the house they have lived in for 26 years.
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Their bitter, two-year struggle with the homeowners’ community to save their home still seems unreal to them.
“You got me through hell,” Decker said.
She had not paid her club’s annual membership fee on time. The Lake Harney Woods Property Owners Association added late fees.
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Decker wrote a check for $ 892 to cover everything she owed.
“Were you afraid of losing your home?” asked Todd Ulrich from Action 9.
“Yeah, they kept telling me, ‘You have 30 days or we’re going to close the foreclosure,'” Decker replied.
A month after Decker said she paid the full amount, the club filed a lien on her home to collect unpaid dues and fees. It is the first step towards foreclosure.
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The application was filed by DHN Attorneys, a new law firm the association was using. But Decker had paid the association’s former attorney shortly before the move.
She has a receipt showing that full payment has been received. But according to Decker, DHN Attorneys insisted she owed $ 1,300.
Decker said she took her case to an HOA meeting in Lake Harney. “I figured as soon as I showed all the evidence in front of the blackboard with all of my neighbors, it would be done and over,” she said.
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But she claims the HOA president accused her of paying the wrong law firm and then refused to end the foreclosure threat.
“Did it feel like a runaway train was coming straight towards you?” Asked Ulrich.
“Oh yeah! And there was no stopping it. So I had to hire a lawyer,” Decker said.
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Decker hired consumer attorney Jared Lee.
“Has this HOA and their law firm crossed the line?” asked Ulrich.
“It did it in a dramatic way,” replied Lee.
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Lee says it is common practice for some HOAs and their law firms to hit homeowners with late fee penalties, and he says Florida Association laws offer little protection.
But this time, Lee filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the HOA and its law firm had violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
“Both laws protect consumers from collections that have already been paid for, from harassment and abuse in the collection process,” said Lee.
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The association and the DHN reached an agreement in court.
Without admitting any wrongdoing, they both agreed to pay Decker $ 33,000 in damages.
Lee says this sends a message that fraudulent associations “must be careful in collecting consumers and obey the law”.
The HOA did not answer Ulrich’s questions.
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DHN Lawyers advised Action 9 that their law firm relies on information from others and that problems occur on rare occasions. The law firm also said it was taking the homeowner’s request seriously and was unable to comment on the litigation.
“Now they have to pay you $ 33,000?” Asked Ulrich.
“Karma, yes,” Decker replied.
Homeowners struggling with their HOAs should document all payments, receive receipts, and if the dispute is a debt collection, homeowners have rights that will be recognized in court.
Cox media group