Q: In a recent column, you said that most association foreclosures should not take more than a few weeks. This is simply not true. I am a paralegal working in community association law. After a defendant is served, there is a 20-day hold to give him or her time to reply. If there is no reply, we ask for a clerk’s default, and it usually takes about three weeks for the clerk to get that paperwork back to us. After we file for the judgment, getting a hearing is the real time-user. If at the hearing the judge sets a sale date, it must be set for two months in the future so that we have time to publish the required notices. There is then two weeks between the sale and the Certificate of Title being issued, because the court gives time for objections. Altogether, a quick and uncomplicated foreclosure takes at least six months.
Answer: You are addressing the legal action side of the problem. I am talking about the board and management side. I suggested to the board that they take aggressive collection actions. By that I mean establishing a policy to send out collection letters when an owner fails to pay on time: a first reminder letter when a fee payment is 10 days late, a second stronger letter if the payment is not paid within the next 20 days, and a certified collection letter if the payment is not current by 10 days of the second month or 40 days delinquent.
The last letter would warn that the matter will be turned over to the attorney to lien and foreclose if the account is not paid current. This means that the attorney’s office will have the case to lien by 60 days, and it is up to them to perform in the appropriate manner to begin foreclosure as soon as possible, which could be another 60 to 90 days. If the owner does not answer the letters and notices, and the judge is active, foreclosure should take place in four to six months.
Q: We have a problem with our HOA board of directors. It is a small manufactured home park with only 189 lots. We all own our own lots; however, we are all tied into the HOA. Our problems are that our board is not and has not followed our Declaration of Covenants. They have given residents permission to do things that are in violation of our covenants and statutes. They pressure the elder residents and coerce them how to vote. They approve pets in sections of the park that are not permitted to have pets and many other things. When they are notified, they simply tell you that the board has the right to approve these things because they are the board. I feel it is time to bring the state into our park to straighten things out.
Answer: There is no state agency for homeowner associations. It is up to you to take action that can change your association’s direction. The members voted the board into power. You will need to begin to work to vote them out.
There is another action (which I do not suggest), and that is to sue the board for their violations — but the legal costs will be paid by you. Therefore, the best way is to start to talk to your neighbors and try to get them involved. Since you addressed the elder residents, have you talked to them and found out why they voted for the current directors? Have you addressed the violations by the board and seen if they agree with those actions? You have as much right to knock on their door and talk to them as the board has.
Richard White is a licensed community association manager. He does not offer legal opinions; any other questions and comments concerning association operations can be sent to Richard White, 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven FL 33884-4115; or email [email protected]