Law protects against association foreclosures 

Article Courtesy of InsideBayArea
Posted June 6, 2004

IT'S pretty aggravating when you're in a group and some members don't pull their weight. That's particularly true when financial responsibility is involved. But when homeowner associations start foreclosing on the homes of members who fall behind in their fees, they are going too far. A California bill protecting homeowners from foreclosure in these circumstances restores the necessary balance.

Homeowner association fees are collected to maintain the common properties and interests of members of the association. When residents purchase a home that is part of such an association, they benefit from the amenities and they have a responsibility to hold up their end of the bargain. If they don't pay their fees, the entire association suffers.

But even when back fees add up to a couple thousand dollars, that doesn't   justify someone losing their home in a foreclosure. Such actions are actually forbidden in areas governed by city and county governments. The practice has been allowed where residences fall under the rules of private associations. In California, fully one-fourth of the residents and 60 percent of the newly constructed housing are controlled by the private associations.

That's why lawmakers stepped in to pass a law protecting homeowners who have fallen behind on their fees. When the back fees are $2,500 or less, it requires the associations to go to small claims court or put a lien on the property for the owed amount rather than seek foreclosure. It's a common-sense approach.

The associations always had the option of using these less-extreme methods of collecting what they are owed; how did they ever start the practice of foreclosing   on property for back fees?

An underlying issue is the private associations' autonomy from the laws of local governments. It's an alarming situation if we have an increasing number of areas that don't abide by local laws. Who knows what these private communities might adopt or reject?

The issue of these unreasonable foreclosures should serve as a red flag that local, county and state officials need to make sure these   growing private communities are still abiding by the laws that are supposed to govern us all.