Tracking Arizona homeowners association foreclosures
The Arizona Republic is seriously going after the HOA foreclosure situation. I've been commenting on the issue for just about forever, and so have a lot of other people. The problem is that CIDs typically have exactly one source of income, which is assessments. The volunteer owner-directors typically don't have enough training and experience to do their jobs, so they tend to rely on property managers and lawyers. In most areas where there are many CIDs, here are some law firms that function basically as HOA/condo assessment collection agencies. Their bread and butter is an automated business of sending demand letters, slapping liens on people's homes, doing foreclosures (often nonjudicial), and slapping attorney fees on every action they take. It is all collectable, all secured by the lien, and that means that the owner can't extinguish the lien unless s/he pays the attorney fees. So you get situations such as owing $1000 in unpaid assessments and $12,000 in attorney fees. The final piece of the problem is that in virtually every state these lawyers and their foreclosure mills are not regulated in any meaningful way. So there are abuses. Now, I would be the first to say that CIDs need to collect assessments, and they need to be able to foreclose at some point--for the assessments. That is a serious situation. They will go under if they can't collect, and before they go under the burden of paying for delinquent owners fall on the other owners, which can drive them into delinquency, too. So associations need to be able to collect their assessments in a timely manner. But what about all the extra charges and attorney fees? Here, there has to be some oversight and some proportionality, so that people don't lose their homes not because they can't pay their association, but because they can't pay the padded bill of the association's lawyer. And no, I don't begrudge these lawyers their living, because they have to pay the rent, too. But there are many documented examples of abuses, and state legislatures need to set some standards.