…a homeowner has no law to protect them from unscrupulous boards, management companies, and association lawyers. My grandfather protection under US common law was not valid in a private corporate government. You can’t seek arbitration, and you can’t get help from the attorney general of your state. You gave that up when you signed the CC&Rs; didn’t they tell you that?
This area of law has developed into a cottage industry of lawyers who feed off liens, fines, and fees. Along with the management companies, HOA attorneys can increase profits by encouraging conflicts within a community. Covenant litigation has become a profitable legal specialization. The attorney who advises the board on whether to sue a homeowner will often be the same attorney who will handle the litigation (sound familiar?). The conflict of interest could not be more pronounced.
Even with comparatively minor disagreements between HOA boards and homeowners, an attorney will charge anywhere from $50.00 to $500.00 for violation notices (threats to sue) sent to homeowners. The profit incentive is clear – more trouble = more profit. [it is unknown exactly how many years ago this was written so I am sure attorney’s fees are much higher today, especially in Northern Virginia.]
We are a property management company with single family homes and Condo’s who have to deal with HOA all over the city. I can tell you for our point of view that the HOA’s and attorneys are not in any hurry to settle an fines. They have no problems sending a violation out or giving a fine but are no where to be found when you want to find out about details. We even had one HOA that we had paid the HOA dues for 7 years on time every month. We had the payments on auto-pay and it would go out automatically. We would call to see if the dues had been increased, etc and over the years, had talked to this HOA numerous times and even gotten residents approved. We had no idea that the owner was not getting any info from the HOA all this time who lived out of the country. Our new resident contacted us upset and told us that they got a foreclosure notice from the HOA. We contacted them and said – we have paid dues for 7 years. What are you talking about? Of course they wouldn’t talk to us and the attorney’s didn’t want to call us back because we were not the owner. Now realize we had paid on-time HOA dues for 7 years with our company checks. Somewhere in the 2nd year of HOA dues they went from monthly to quarterly and a one payment had been missed during the transition. I don’t think we even knew about the monthly to quarterly until they returned a check but it had been so long ago we didn’t even remember. We, nor the owner was never notified of any delinquent payment. Long story short – the HOA amount was around $100 from 6 years ago. With fees is was now a total of $7000+ All the sudden they did not have our address nor the owners and had sent the foreclosure to the condo. We tried to retrace what had happened and the only thing we could come up with was it must have been when they switched monthly to quarterly or maybe companies or personnel. They Never thought to look at any checks that came in from us for 7 years to call and say “do you know there was $100 missing 6 years ago” The ONLY way the owner could stop the TH from going into foreclosure was to pay the amount quickly. We looked in public records and low and behold the HOA owned many, many TH by this process as well as board members owning foreclosed condo’s at a steal. And I mean STEAL!! I called everywhere and it doesn’t appear in Florida that anybody regulates HOA’s so they have free will to do what they want. Late HOA dues are a money making machine for attorneys and HOA’s and in our case a “secret”.