Neighbor vs. neighbor as homeowner fights get ugly.
'As more are unable to pay homeowners' fees, associations
pit neighbor against neighbor'. Today, one in five U.S. homeowners is subject to the will of the homeowners' association
, whose boards oversee 24.4 million homes. More than 80 percent of newly constructed homes in the U.S are in association communities. And of the nation's 300,000 homeowners' associations, more than 50 percent now face "serious financial problems," according to a September survey by the Community Association Institute. An October survey found that 65 percent of homeowners' associations have delinquency rates higher than 5 percent, up from 19 percent of associations in 2005.'
'Before now, associations rarely, if ever, foreclosed on homeowners. But today, encouraged by a new industry of lawyers and consultants, boards are increasingly foreclosing on people 60 days past due on association fees, says Evan McKenzie, a former homeowner association attorney who is now a University of Illinois political science professor and the author of the book "Beyond Privatopia: Rethinking Residential Private Government."'
'The government does not keep statistics on how often homeowners' associations initiate foreclosures. But a nonprofit research group found that association-initiated foreclosures in the Houston area jumped from 500 in 1995 to 2,200 in 2007. Most association-related foreclosures in Texas do not go through the judicial process, so the group's analysis represented only a fraction of the foreclosures that housing associations have initiated.
In exchange for adhering to the rules, homeowners got safe communities with clubhouses, pools and tennis courts. But what many didn't realize when they bought their homes was that the fine print gave the association the right to foreclose -- even over a few hundred dollars in unpaid dues.'
'The problems in some communities are resulting in more scrutiny. In Nevada, the FBI is investigating corruption in elections of association boards. In Utah and Arizona, legislators are trying to pass bills that would root out the use of debt-collectors who are alleged to have used thug-like tactics to strongarm residents into paying fees.
State legislatures in California, Arizona, North Carolina, Texas and Florida have taken up legislation that would clamp down on foreclosures.'