South Riding enforces foreclosure law
Resident's home sold when he didn't pay HOA dues
Article Courtesy of Loudoun Times-Mirror

By Scott Cissel
Posted 10-21-2002

A resident of South Riding has received a temporary restraining order against the investment group that purchased his home when the homeowner's association auctioned the house after he failed to pay monthly service fees.

The owner of the home, John Shourds, contends that the homeowner's association, South Riding Proprietary, did not abide by state law when it failed to notify him of the auction.

"I haven't slept in four weeks," said Shourds, "This has been a nightmare."

South Riding Proprietary contends, however, that the Shourds were notified of the $859 fee they owed but did not answer their mail.

The Virginia Property Owner's Association Act allows proprietary groups to sell residents' homes when they fail to pay their monthly fees, which, like a town tax, can cover services such as trash pickup and cable TV. The law requires the association to notify residents of liens and foreclosures by certified mail.

Shourds acknowledged that the fees needed to be paid, but said that he and his wife Jennifer have had financial difficulties. Jennifer was laid off before having a child seven months ago and has not been employed since then, she said.

After speaking about the foreclosure with Paul Orlando, general

SOLD OUT: John and Jennifer Shourds stand in front of their house, which was sold by their homeowner's association, South Riding Proprietary, when they failed to pay monthly service fees.
manager of South Riding Proprietary, Shourds said he felt Orlando had sold his house to set an example for other families in the community.

"He told us that we were the first," said Shourds.

"They have gone beyond what the homeowner's association is supposed to be," he added. "They should be the voice of the people in the neighborhood."

Orlando said he did not want to comment on the matter when called for this story. He forwarded questions to South Riding's legal counsel, Juan Cardenas, who could not be reached before deadline.

Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne ruled in an emergency hearing in September that it was not clear that the Shourds had received adequate notice of the sale and set a Nov. 1 trial date. 

"This is a rebuttable presumption," said Horne, "that the letters properly addressed and stamped were received by the plaintiffs."

Court records show that the public sale of the Shourds' home was advertised in a local paper and sold to a Fairfax investment group on July 30. South Riding Proprietary contends in its filing that it sent an accelerated assessment of $859 for the entire year to the Shourds as early as March, after the couple had failed to pay fees for January and February. Records show that a response was requested within 30 days or South Riding would pursue a non-judicial foreclosure.

South Riding presented evidence that the Shourds signed a certified mail receipt of notification on March 21.

Records also show that the Shourds had about $43,000 equity in the house when it was sold. Disbursement of the money is yet to be determined, pending the outcome of the trial.

Virginia law requires that the cost of the sale covers legal fees incurred against the proprietary during the foreclosure. 

According to the U.S. Postal Service, the Shourd's mail was held from June 29 through Aug. 30 after a postal carrier found their mailbox filled with mail and returned it to the post office, where it was marked "moved left no address" and returned to the senders.

John Shourds said his mailbox is small and becomes filled quickly, and claimed he had not been away from the home for an extended period of time.

In a statement by Chantilly Postal Manager Judy L. Cundiff included in court records, Cundiff said that the Shourds mail was held for a month and should not have been labeled "moved left no address" because they were still residents of the property.

Jennifer Shourds said Paul Orlando thought they had "abandoned" their property.

"They could have taken some steps -- like pick up the phone and call me," said her husband, "or walk up to my door."