Woman, 85, ousted from her home of 20 years in On Top of the World

Eleonore Berg didn't pay association fees, so her villa was foreclosed.

Article Courtesy of The Ocala Star Banner

By Austin L. Miller

Published May 16, 2010

Barring a miracle, an 85-year-old woman will be evicted Monday from the villa she has lived in at On Top of the World for the past 20 years.

Eleonore Berg's failure to pay homeowner's association fees led to foreclosure of the property, which has been sold. She is under court order to evacuate and is receiving assistance with relocation.

When Berg moved into the villa in 1989, the monthly homeowner's association fee was $115. Since then, the cost has gone up to $397 a month. With fees and other court costs included, she wound up owing about $8,000.

Andrea Wolfkill, with the Fifth Circuit Guardian Corp., told the Star-Banner that Berg had paid the HOA fees up to two years ago.

Gerald R. Colen of Largo, an attorney who represents On Top of The World, told the Star-Banner in a telephone interview Friday that the OTOW Owners Association tried to work with Berg, but was unsuccessful. He said the association's job is not to put people out, but to try to persuade them to pay. If they don't pay the fees, he said, everyone suffers because others would have to pay more and maintenance could deteriorate.

Berg's home, in the 9000 block of Southwest 83rd Avenue, was assessed at $50,837, according to the Marion County Property Appraiser's Office website. It was offered for public sale to the highest bidder on April 20, and was purchased for $100.

Eleonore Berg, 85, left, talks with Olivia Baird, Berg's private guardian.

Court documents show the buyer was Danny Robertson, an associate in the law firm of David E. Midgett.

Colen said the association got a judgment against Berg and that prior to the foreclosure sale, Midgett called him and agreed to purchase the property.

Robertson could not be reached for comment.

A woman at the law office directed all inquires to Berg's attorney, Kathy Ackerman, who also is executive director of the Fifth Circuit Guardianship Corp.

On Wednesday, Wolfkill's agency was granted emergency guardianship of Berg. It was discovered, however, that she did not meet one of three criteria and her case was turned over to private guardianship.

Ackerman said that, to be eligible for her agency's services, the client must:

  • have no friends or family;

  • have no money to pay for care; and

  • be mentally unable to care for herself.

Ackerman said she could not reveal which category was at issue for Berg.

Ackerman said the guardianship program receives funding from the state Department of Elder Affairs, United Way and private donations. Her agency helps a number of people in similar circumstances.

She said the staff is looking into Berg's case to see if they can get her home back.

There was a co-owner on the property, Aung Thein, 87, who lives in New York and is a part-time professor at a college. Officials trying to contact him have been unsuccessful.

He reportedly occasionally visits Berg, who is a widow.

Berg, who is from Germany, has a master's degree in health sciences and teaches yoga. Her only income is Social Security.

On Friday, officials from the private guardianship and the Fifth Circuit Guardianship Corp. took her to visit assisted living facilities.

If she does not find a place to live by Monday, a Marion County Sheriff's official said they will not put her things out on the curb.

The agency would be charged with evicting Berg if she does not comply with the court order. But sheriff's Chief Tom Wilder said because of her age, and his agency's community policing philosophy, they will assist her in finding a place to live.

He said the Sheriff's Office's mission is to ensure that she is taken care off.

"We're going to work with her to make it amenable to both parties," he said.

Berg told the Star-Banner that she does not want to leave her two-bedroom, two-bath home, and that she has no family or friends in the U.S. to help her.