association settle lawsuit
Jan. 8, 2002
By JO ANN ZUÑIGA
A Houston homeowners association on Tuesday agreed to stop foreclosure proceedings against a homeowner who had filed suit against the group, accusing it of inappropriately applying his maintenance fees toward its legal fight against him.
State District Judge Martha Hill Jamison helped settle the suit, telling attorneys representing homeowner Robby Hopkins and the Pine Forest Village Community Association, "Let's stop writing nasty letters right now, and let's talk about it. This case is involving only a few hundred dollars, although that is not unusual about these cases."
The association also relieved Hopkins of a disputed debt over past maintenance fees, which was what he asked for in the lawsuit.
Hopkins, who is paralyzed from the neck down, stated in his lawsuit that the association had written him letters threatening him with fines of $200 a day for alleged deed-restriction violations and then a foreclosure notice shortly before Christmas.
Hopkins said the letters incorrectly stated that his house at 16606 Park Firth, which he rents out in the Pine Forest Village subdivision, has a two-door garage in need of repair when the house has a one-door garage that is in good condition.
Another letter stated that his lawn in the Bear Creek Park area neighborhood was unmowed. Hopkins said the tenants who rent his brick house, listed with a market value of $74,200 in county records, use a lawn service that regularly mows and trims the lawn.
When Hopkins paid the association's maintenance fees for 2000 and 2001, the association instead "misdirected" the money to pay for the legal work on the deed-restriction violation allegations and the letters written, the lawsuit stated.
The association has also placed two liens on Hopkins' house for the unpaid fees.
Hopkins was not in court Tuesday because of a medical therapy appointment, said his attorney, Michael T. McGann.
McGann and Hopkins' nephew, Shane Hopkins, agreed to end the lawsuit Tuesday if the association removed the liens and wiped out more than $400 in alleged unpaid maintenance fees.
The association's attorney, William G. Gammon, agreed to end foreclosure action, although he had previously told the judge, "If he owes a penny to the association, there is a lien on his house."
The judge gave a final word of advice.
"The associations need to go talk to the homeowners and make sure it's the right house you're talking about," she said.
|Jan. 8, 2002
Says it is improperly using funds to foreclose
A Cypress man has filed a lawsuit against a Houston homeowners association, claiming it is improperly using his maintenance fees to support its legal efforts to foreclose on his Houston house.
Ancillary Judge Scott Link on Friday granted a temporary restraining order against the Pine Forest Village Community Association to prevent any foreclosure on the house owned by Robby Hopkins, who is paralyzed from the neck down. The case is scheduled for a hearing today before the 164th state District Judge Martha Hill Jamison.
In his lawsuit, Hopkins said the association has "misdirected" his maintenance fees to pay association attorneys. Hopkins said the attorneys have written him letters threatening him with fines of $200 a day and then a foreclosure notice shortly before Christmas.
Hopkins said the letters incorrectly stated that his house at 16606 Park Firth in the Pine Forest Village subdivision has a two-door garage in need of repair when the house only has a one-door garage, which is in good condition.
Another letter stated his lawn was unmowed. Hopkins said the tenants who rent his house use a lawn service that regularly mows and trims the lawn.
The association's lawyer, William G. Gammon, could not be reached for comment Monday.
The association has two liens against Hopkins' house because of about $723 in maintenance fees, letters and attorney's fees so far, said Michael T. McGann, his lawyer.
Hopkins bought the Houston house in 1998 and owns it outright with no mortgage, McGann said. A real estate broker, Hopkins rents the Houston home to supplement his income. He was in a pickup truck accident 25 years ago that left him paralyzed.
"He's a fighter," McGann said. "He has to be because it takes him an hour in the morning just to get out of bed. He's not going to let anyone run over him."
Hopkins' battle with the association began with overdue maintenance fees in 1999 after he did not receive notice of the fees, the lawyer said. Hopkins paid the fees when he was notified in August 1999, but the association had already filed the first lien in April 1999 and never removed it, McGann said.
Hopkins has also paid the maintenance fees for years 2000 and 2001, but that money was instead used to pay the legal fees for attorneys' letters to Hopkins, the lawsuit stated. The association placed a second lien on Hopkin's property on April 16, 2001, for the supposed unpaid maintenance fees.
The lawsuit stated the association "has continued with this course of conduct: more letters, more attorneys fees, more misapplication of plaintiff's payments, more threats."
Hopkins now faces "threats of a third lien, $200 per day in fines, foreclosure and forced sale of his home and a personal judgment against him ... even though he has paid his maintenance fees timely and has not violated the deed restrictions," the suit said.
The latest letter from the association,
according to the lawsuit, came Dec. 17 and threatened foreclosure without
further notice and sale of the home. That prompted Hopkins to file the