Woman's property foreclosed over $63.50 fee
Homeowner says she was neither billed nor notified of assessment.
Article Courtesy of the Ocala Star Banner
Published February 27. 2004 

OCALA - Four years ago Pat Smith bought a piece of property in Kingsland Country Estates, built a house on it and moved in.

Two years after settling in, her father bought a house in the same subdivision. But when he received an assessment from Kingsland Country Property Association Inc., she questioned why she never got one.

Smith said when she called she was told the paperwork was messed up and she would receive a bill once it was straightened out.

She never did receive it.
But on Jan. 16, she received a registered letter informing her that her property was in foreclosure for failing to pay three years' worth of assessments totaling $45, plus $18.75, for the current year.

"The whole thing is ridiculous. Who does this to people?" Smith said. "I never got a bill. Why didn't they just send me a letter and be nice neighbors?"

Carl Skyles, looks through the Kingsland Country
Estates homeowners' by-laws as his daughter,
Pat Smith, looks on in the background. Smith was
recently informed that her property was in foreclosure
because she failed to pay assessments over the past
few years totaling less than $65. 

Smith said when she contacted the Homeowners Association attorney, she was told it was her fault and she should pay it. She said the lien was placed on the property on Dec. 4, but she didn't receive the notice of lien until Jan. 20.

"They put a lien on my property on Dec. 4. They have 15 days to notify me," Smith said. "I didn't get notified until Jan. 16. I only had to Feb. 13 to get them a check."

She said if she didn't pay in full by the due date they would foreclose on her property and incur additional costs. Smith said she ended up paying more than $360 to settle the debt, which included fees for a title search, the attorney, document preparation, the notice of lien, a record lien and interest.

"I truly am sorry that they are upset," said Bernie Nowak, president of the Homeowners Association. "Last year practically every newsletter asked property owners to pay their assessment on time because we were switching from a fiscal year to a calendar year.

"If you didn't have any other notice, that last newsletter tipped you off to the fact you should get your house in order," he said.

Smith maintains she never received any kind of literature until she received the foreclosure notice. She said she requested copies of the bill that was sent out to her, the title search and the release of lien now that she's paid the debt but she hasn't received anything.

Nowak said in 2001 there was a dispute about which Homeowners Association had legal jurisdiction, and until it was resolved there was a reduction in dues to $15 year and they were put on hold. He said now that Kingsland Country has legal standing over the Whispering Pines and Forest Glenn subdivisions, the organization wants to recoup some of the money owed to the Association, which totals more than $60,000.

According to records at the Marion County Court House, in 2003, the Homeowners Association filed 25 county civil suits against property owners who did not pay the assessment. Nine cases remain open, but 16 have been closed.

Jonathan Dean, an attorney who represents the association, said he couldn't comment on whether Smith received any notices. But he said the group routinely sends out annual notices and $15 per year is a modest sum.

"The fact that 95 percent or so pay on a timely basis indicates that there is not really a problem," Dean said. "These have been delinquent for years. All the residents have an obligation to make sure their assessment is paid. The deed restrictions are very clear that there will be an annual maintenance assessment."

Smith maintains she had to pay because the association didn't keep good records.

"They way that they did it was wrong," she said. "Where I lived before I was the clerk for an association and we did things right. We never put liens on people's property."