By Richard Slater
It’s amazing how fast legal fees and collection costs pile up for homeowners delinquent on their HOA dues. I saw court documents the other day where a homeowner is suing a collection agency for potentially violating the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Those documents reflect that the homeowner owed $80 to their HOA. The collection agency sent one letter stating that the cost to cure the delinquency was now an additional $300. In addition, the letter stated that if the homeowner didn’t pay the now $380 within ten days, the collection agency would file a lien that would increase the balance due by another $325 plus sundry clerical costs. If this isn’t the ‘pound of cure’, I don’t know what is. Only two questions could possibly enter a reasonable person’s mind; how on earth is this collection agency making any money, and what kind of stationary are they using that it costs $300 to send one letter?
The unfortunate thing is that this case isn’t even close to exemplifying how bad it gets for some families. I sat with an attorney from one state’s free legal aid service who told me of a case where over one hundred thousand dollars in legal fees had accrued in proceedings over a single family dwelling. Granted, that’s the extreme – but grievances abound between those two examples. The truth is, there are people in the HOA industry who are absolutely making merchandise of homeowner’s lives.
So here we are… teaching people that the ‘ounce of prevention’ is more neighborly than the ‘pound of cure’. Let’s face it – collections aren’t fun, but upholding the rules in a fair and equitable fashion is the fabric of any society – even a micro-society, like an HOA. And when some homeowner is paying their dues and keeping the common interests safe, clean, and functioning – and someone isn’t paying their dues (who is able to), well fair is fair. Something has to be done.
But isn’t it time we realize that when a family goes from paying their obligations to not paying them that something has changed; and perhaps we should not bury them with legal and collection costs that double and even triple the burden they’re under? How much easier would it be for the family mentioned above to pay the $80 they owe, plus $20 – instead of paying an additional $300, or even $625? Sometimes it’s time to stop doing things the good old fashioned way… because sometimes, there’s nothing good about it.
Richard Slater is Director of HOA Operations for NCSPlus (RecoverHoaDues.com) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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