ANTONIO-The News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooters' recent
investigation into skyrocketing foreclosures by homeowner
associations struck a nerve. Because of the spotlight we
put on the problem, many homeowners are demanding
lawmakers stop HOA's from taking homes because of unpaid
Most of these foreclosures
are filed by one attorney, Tom Newton. He represents
almost all the HOA's in San Antonio. If your home is on
the auction block, there is a good chance he is the guy
you'll have to deal with.
But that didn't scare off homeowner Kent
Hern. When the HOA foreclosed on Hern because he owed a couple hundred
dollars, he took them to court.
|Hern lives on
the north side of town in the Hidden Forest subdivision.
He fell behind on his HOA payments a few years ago while
he was out of the country on business. No matter, Newton
still filed the papers with Bexar County to take Hern's
the ringleader for attorneys who foreclose on homes for
HOA's," says Hern about Newton. "When I saw
there was a number of HOA's that had actually taken these
steps to foreclose on homeowners for such ridiculously
small amounts of money, we just decided that I was going
to fight it because it just wasn't fair," he added.
Bexar County jury agreed with Hern, saying the HOA and Newton engaged in
"unreasonable collection practices" while foreclosing on his
house over such a tiny amount in unpaid HOA dues.
The jury also thought the massive amount of
legal fees added to the dues was completely out of line. Hern was awarded
a total of $22,000; $11,000 of which was to cover his attorney's fees.
attorney, Peter Kilpatrick, took Hern's case because he's
tired of seeing people lose their homes over something so
small. "This is a message to those HOA's that even
though homeowners should pay their assessments, and on
time, when they don't, they have rights too and they
should not be plowed over with these gestapo-like
collection tactics," explained Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick says part of the
problem is in the contract the HOA's sign with Newton. It
says the HOA is not allowed to accept past due payments
from homeowners without Newton's approval.
members dealing with their neighbors, with respect to
assessments and the ultimate weapon
ATTORNEY TOM NEWTON, Esq.
foreclosure against somebody's home, should not give up that power.
Abdicate that responsibility to collection lawyers," explained
"Something has to be done to either
change this law or to discourage the HOA's from taking these ridiculous
measures to put people under thousands of dollars of debt for just a
couple of hundred dollars of association fees," pleaded Hern.
We tried to contact Newton to see if he
would like to comment on the verdict, but he has not responded.
If you'd like to read the jury verdict and
see Newton's HOA contract, click on the links.