Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times
Published April 2, 2017
The case of Tina and Luis Lopez, who are on the verge of losing their home of 12 years over a $150 payment to their homeowners’ association, exposes a system bereft of fairness and proportion. Even common sense went out the window in the Kafka-like series of events that put the home of this innocent Riverview couple and their two children on the auction block.
Worst of all, they didn’t even know it was happening.
They may get a reprieve next week with an 11th hour mediation hearing, thanks to reporting by Tampa Bay Times correspondent D’Ann Lawrence White. But Florida, called upon often to tinker with statutes governing the divisive, de facto city halls known as homeowners’ associations, needs to tinker once again to conform its laws with logic if not fairness.
People living in communities governed by one of the state’s 13,000 homeowners’ associations, and there are 2.5 million of them in Florida, are subject to an escalating series of fines and fees if they fail to pay dues they owe their association. And there is no requirement that the association provide them any notice — or even a bill for annual dues — until they’re ready to slap a lien on the home.
Adding to the nonsense: Once homeowners do learn of the debt and try to bring it down, any payments they make can go first to the fines and fees, leaving the dues owed and the home still subject to liens, foreclosure and auction.
The beneficiaries of this system are the collectors of the fines and fees. In the case of the Rivercrest neighborhood where the Lopez family lives, and in hundreds of other neighborhoods across Florida, that’s a single Tampa law firm that has made a business of these questionable practices. Read more: