My Homeowners Association Wants to Take My House!

Most homeowners know when they purchase a home in an HOA they need to be aware of the rules and regulations as well as pay their assessments or dues. What some homeowners don’t know is just how powerful the HOA may be and exactly what can happen if a homeowner doesn’t follow the rules or doesn’t pay the assessments.

Florida law (specifically  §720.3085) provides that an HOA can have language in their governing documents which allows for a lien on each home or lot in the community. When the governing documents have this language (and a vast majority of HOA’s do have the language) then the Association can place a lien on the house or lot in the event the owner doesn’t pay dues.

The law provides some protections for homeowners faced with these situations. First, the HOA must send a specific notice of its intent to place a lien on the property. The “intent to lien” letter must give the owner at least 45 days to pay the amounts due before the HOA can record the lien.

The most common point of disagreement is the amount owed. With sufficient language in the governing documents, the HOA’s lien secures not only the assessments, but also secures any attorneys fees, late charges, and the like.

Many homeowners receive correspondence from the HOA which demands payment of these ancillary amounts in addition to the assessments. For some homeowners they do in fact have to pay all the charges associated with collection. For others, the only amount they’re required to pay is the assessments plus interest. The determining factor will be what provisions are within the governing documents.

After the HOA sends the first notice and presuming all necessary conditions are met, the HOA can then record a lien to ensure payment of the assessments. Generally, the liens are valid for 5 years and can even be renewed to ensure the lien secures all sums due to the HOA.

After the lien is recorded there is at least one other notice which must be sent to the owner prior to further enforcement action by the HOA. This second statutory notice is the notice that the HOA intends to foreclose its claim of lien. Much like the intent to lien letter previously sent, disputes often arise over the exact amounts reflected on this notice.

Once a lien is recorded on the property, the HOA may then bring a lawsuit to foreclose the lien in the same manner that a mortgage foreclosure may be filed. This is often the most surprising to homeowners. Many times owners realize there are consequences for not paying the assessments. Far fewer homeowners realize the extent of the HOA’s power. If the HOA has properly met all of the conditions, the foreclosure lawsuit moves forward much like a mortgage foreclosure.

If you’ve been sued or received notices from your HOA, call one of our attorneys immediately. If you’re on the Board of Directors for an HOA and want to know about Cornerstone’s Common Sense Solutions Program for HOA collections — call us today.

My bank took my all money out of my account!

At Cornerstone we often receive calls from consumers who find themselves the subject of garnishment. A “Writ of Garnishment” is an order by a court of law to take money or other things due to someone else.

There are many types of garnishment orders, but the most common result from past-due child support and alimony or result from the failure to pay a consumer debt. The latter type of garnishment is the type we handle at Cornerstone.

If a person borrows money or purchases items on credit and then fails to pay the creditor, that creditor may sue to obtain a judgment. The judgment itself isn’t very powerful; after all, it’s merely a piece of paper.

What is powerful are the tools under Florida law which allow that piece of paper to be converted to real money or assets. One of those tools is the writ of garnishment. In Florida, a creditor (usually a bank, credit union, or plaintiff in a previous lawsuit against you) can seize money owed which is in the debtor's bank account.

The garnishment process begins with the creditor asking a court to issue a writ. When the creditor files their motion for a writ, they do not send the debtor a copy. However, once the writ is issued, the creditor must take certain actions such as send the debtor a specific notice informing the debtor they might be exempt from this garnishment. 

There are several exemptions that debtors may find applicable. For example, the funds in the account may be solely from the head of household’s wages. If a person is the head of household and meets certain conditions, a motion for claim of exemption can be filed with the court. Exemption claims seek the court's help in dissolving the writ of garnishment and putting the money back into the account

Most often, the way people find out about the garnishment is logging into their bank account or trying to use their debit card which is declined. The garnishment laws in Florida are extremely detailed and require precise attention to detail. The timing of certain defenses is very important. If your bank account has been garnished do not delay.  Call Cornerstone Law Firm today.