Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Posted July 22 2004
Boca · Cheryl McKenna was only 78 cents delinquent in her condo
association fees in July 2002.
And that's all it would have taken for Camino Real Village to file a
lien on her property.
Instead, the association added
hundreds of dollars more in fees to the lien, and on Wednesday, the 4th
District Court of Appeals in West Palm Beach reversed the foreclosure.
"Having this foreclosure hanging over my head has been a
nightmare," said McKenna, who is in her 50s and works in a travel
The court ruled that the association failed to follow its own bylaws
when it issued a lien on McKenna's property on Aug. 29, 2002, without
waiting for a 30-day grace period to expire.
At the time, she was behind 78 cents for July 2002, and $229.89 in
maintenance dues for August 2002.
But, according to Wednesday's court ruling, the homeowners association
didn't follow its own rules, declaring her delinquent on the $229.89
before the 30-day grace period had expired. Camino Real Village filed
its claim on Aug. 29, 2002.
The association didn't properly notify McKenna that it also was
demanding advance maintenance payments for the rest of 2002, the court
McKenna claims that the association was demanding thousands of dollars,
including legal fees and late charges. She refused to pay, and says that
foreclosure proceedings were started without her knowledge.
It wouldn't have been unprecedented for the association to file a lien
for as little as 78 cents, according to Jan Bergemann, president of the
statewide homeowners group Cyber Citizens for Justice.
"Seventy-eight cents is not even the record," he said;
homeowner associations have filed liens for less. "Foreclosure
liens are used as a profitable weapon. You're not going to tell me an
association is going to go broke over 78 cents."
McKenna concedes she struggled to keep up with the monthly payments in
the community where she has lived for 12 years and raised her
21-year-old son as a single mother. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks,
she lost her job as a travel agent and floundered financially as she
attempted to find work and start her own business.
In the year after Sept. 11, she racked up about $5,500 in late fees, and
says the association filed a lien then as well. But she pre-empted
further action by paying what she owed.
Robert Blake, president of the association, said board officials tried
to work out an arrangement with McKenna, but declined to give details.
"Are you kidding? A lot of effort went into it," he said of
the attempts to strike a deal. "She owed thousands of
David A. Core, attorney for the association, could not be reached for
comment despite attempts by phone.
Now McKenna's case goes back to Circuit Court Judge John D. Wessel for a
But her troubles aren't over.
When she was on the verge of losing her two-bedroom condominium to
foreclosure, a firm called Real Estate Depot entered the picture,
offering to save her home for a fee.
She thought she was borrowing money to avoid foreclosure, but ended up
signing away ownership of her condo. Now, McKenna said, Real Estate
Depot is demanding she pay to get the deed back.
She's still living in her condo with her son.
McKenna hopes Wednesday's ruling will void her transaction with Real
Estate Depot, which she says was made under duress.
She also is suing Real Estate Depot, claiming it took her deed
Real Estate Depot and its representative, Alan Klasfeld, could not be
reached for comment, despite attempts by phone.
Attorney Yale Mannof, who filed the suit, said companies such as Real
Estate Depot prey on vulnerable homeowners desperate to thwart
foreclosure proceedings against them.
"They came to her at the 11th hour and presented her with a gang of
papers to sign," Mannof said.
When she received the offer of help from Real Estate Depot, "I was
at my wits end," McKenna recalled. "All I knew is I didn't
want to lose my home. They told me `You'll be able to stay in your
house. We'll help you.'"
"I thought they'd just show up at the sale to represent me and put
up some money so I wouldn't lose my house. I had no idea they were going
to record a deed and put my home in their name," she said.
"She had to make a deal with the devil in order to save her
house," said Richard Glenn, her foreclosure attorney.
"If I had had the money I might have paid it," McKenna said of
the fines that sparked her ordeal. "It's incredibly stressful to
think you're going to lose your home."
Even more so, Glenn said, when it's for a pittance.
"Maybe this will force the homeowners association to sit up and
take notice of the fact that they have to follow their own rules,"