Beware Of Your Homeowners Association
$ 108.00 in unpaid HOA dues cost woman her home
Article Courtesy of Channel 9 - Eyewitness News - Orlando
(05/13/02) -- Your homeowners association can be your best friend, helping maintain your neighborhood and your investment. But that same organization could be your worst nightmare. Just ask a local homeowner who broke a rule and ended up homeless. Action 9 reporter Todd Ulrich investigates a case that could give any homeowner the chills.

It was moving day, but not by choice for local homeowner Nancy Demateis. She no longer owned the home she bought 16 years ago. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would come to this!" Nancy told Action 9. 

Nancy's own homeowners association in the Sheeler Oaks development took the house away from her. The association kicked her out for not paying her annual dues. The total amount due at the time . . . just $108. "It's very, very, very hard to comprehend," Nancy tried to explain. 

Just 8 months earlier, Nancy had withheld her payment over a dispute with the management company. She felt her complaints about a neighbor's home had been ignored. Eventually she did get a notice from the homeowners association. It was a notice telling her the association had placed a lien on her house. "I felt that I fully understood what the notification was," Nancy recalled. 

But she didn't really read all of it. There was more. In that same document she was also being notified that her association would foreclose on her home for not paying the $108 bill. This past January, the association did just that. 

Just 4 weeks later, Nancy's home was put up for sale at the Orange County courthouse. During that public auction, her home was sold to the highest bidder. And within days the new owner was at her front door, telling Nancy to either buy her house back from them or pack up and get out. 

"How does someone walk in and say get out, we bought your house, when I know that it's my home," Nancy asked. We asked that same question to some of Nancy's neighbors. We could not find a single homeowner in Sheeler Oaks who knew what the association had done. 

Kathleen Willard didn't like what she heard. She's a resident in the Sheeler Oaks subdivision and subsequently a neighbor to Nancy Demateis. She found it quite shocking. "I don't think my homeowners association would be like that." she told Action 9. 

The management company that oversees Sheeler Oaks would only say it followed the rules. But, nowhere in the association board minutes could we find the Nancy Demateis case. We reviewed several months of minutes that were posted online. 

Our investigation found association board members that had never even heard of the foreclosure. "If it was just the $108 and it was just recently owed, then I would say it was much too quick and much too harsh for that," according to board member Carlene Elmore. 

No one disputes Nancy Demateis owed a bill that she did not pay. Nor is there a dispute that homeowner associations can foreclose for non-payment. But a growing number of homeowner association critics say many boards act like neighborhood tyrants, rushing to foreclosure, the worst penalty possible. 

At least one board member at Sheeler Oaks wants to review what happened to Nancy Demateis. Action 9 will keep you posted.