The 1995 Jones Family Kingwood Texas Foreclosure
BEING THE FIRST TO LOSE YOUR HOMESTEAD SUCKS
By Harvella Jones
On December 5, 1995, the world of Johnnie and Harvella Jones was forever changed. This was the day we stood in the court house and watched our homestead be sold to one of the homeowner associations who had foreclosed against our property for nonpayment of maintenance fees.
We had fought a long and hard battle since 1990 when we first learned about homeowner associations. We did not know anything about them when we bought the house in 1988. Back in those days, buyers of second hand homes were not notified via actual notice of maintenance fees.
When we found out about the fees and what nonpayment meant to our property rights, we drove to Austin and made a copy of every piece of paper in the “Inwood vs. Harris” case law file. This case law allowed developer’s to place “contractual liens” on the land prior to you owning the land. We studied the file and then went to the Houston downtown court house to find out how many homes in our Kingwood, Texas community were being threatened with foreclosure.
What we found there was appalling. We found numerous foreclosure filings not only in our community but in other similar neighborhoods and generally the same law firm was performing the repetitive foreclosure filings—Butler, Ewalt and Hailey. We eventually turned our findings over to Geneva Kirk Brooks, with the hope she could do something about it.
At the time of our difficulty with our HOA, there were no organized advocacy efforts by other homeowners that we could contact for help. We checked across the country and except for a few blogs here and there, nothing was organized into a political homeowner advocacy group movement.
We decided to testify in Austin in front of a committee that Representative Craig Washington invited us to. Representative Washington had never heard of an HOA being able to foreclose on your homestead in Texas either and thought, like we did, that our homestead was protected by the Texas Homestead Act.
When we got to the hearing in Austin, there were no other homeowners there but us; however, there was a room full of attorneys who we found out later were cottage-industry attorneys and law firms and other people and organizations and services that thrive on the homeowner association foreclosures we have in this state, as well as California, Florida, Arizona and so many other states now.
On December 5, 1995, we finally realized that yes, in Texas, your homestead can be foreclosed by your local homeowner association It happened a few years later to Wenonah Blevins. Many people still do not believe it can happen to them here in Texas, but, yes, it can. They incorrectly believe that when Wenonah Blevins property was returned to her and there was a lot of commotion in Austin about it, the foreclosure issue was fixed. Not so.
The next year, my husband Johnnie and I, formed the first homeowner advocate group in Texas and in the nation called The Texas Homeowner’s Advocate Group, which is now a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. The year I wrote my book, “The Texas Homestead Hoax,” Johnnie passed away October 30, 2004. The following year, I created the National Homeowners Advocate Group, LLC.
With Almighty God’s divine intervention, my organization and I, were able to bring about meaningful Property Code changes for the homeowners in this state living in homeowner association communities.
There is still much to do for condo owners because their ownership was not part of the 2011 legislative action that took place for single-family home owners.
We also need oversight for “all” property owners in the state of Texas because while we have better laws for most of the property owners, we still have to take the perpetrator(s) to court in order to enforce them.
We have advocates across the country now and all are involved in making things better for other homeowners as well as for themselves.
In order to get oversight, possibly through a strong Attorney General’s office, we need more homeowners to become more involved in this advocacy. The days of marches and protest around the courthouse and in various communities, may be a thing of the past, which is fine, because we have a more effective and faster process—the internet.
We ask each of you who read this article to start attending your homeowner association meetings so you know what is being done behind your back. Do not let a handful of die-hard retired people run your community. Also when the next legislative year starts which will be in 2019, make sure you know who your legislators are. Do not wait until a foreclosure comes knocking at your door before you decide to do something about it as it will be too late.
We know there is more still to be accomplished. There are more judges to be exposed. More corrupt lawyers and law firms to bring to justice. More homeowner associations to warn people about. There is much needed oversight.
We are all getting older and looking for a place to sit back and relax in and generally think a homeowner association community is the way to go. Perhaps so but there are still a lot of chaos going on, board meetings not going well, run away board members, excessive fines, fraud and corruption, and I could go on and on. We need a strong government agency either state or federal that we can take our issues to because taking them to the local court house is not working because the corrupt cancer cell has eaten away at our rights there and justice is no longer an option there. However, I personally don’t believe in giving up my property rights to any flawed judicial system or corrupt judges or attorneys litigating for a homeowner association. The power of justice is still in our hands, we just have to not give up or let go of our rights.
The video is a brief throw back to the actual foreclosure day and surrounding events that triggered the homeowner advocate movement in Texas and Nationally. It is my husband Johnnie and I more than twenty (20) years ago when we dug in and promised to keep fighting not only for ourselves but for others. Some of you who have gone through the same thing as us since that time will be able to relate to the pain and suffering:
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