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Scenario: HOA Property Management in Las Vegas, NV vs me over unpaid monthly dues.

I wasn't aware that my HOA had changed its Payment P.O. Box a few months ago and hence, my automated monthly payments began being rejected albeit most have been received.

I've been out-of-state for the past few months and hence, finally got a note from a law firm stating that I was delinquent.

I contacted my HOA and they claim I owe them pass due + penalty fee + admin fee + collection fee.

I told them that I want credit on all payments received within the past six months as noted via my bank's statement (as proof of payment) and I'll pay the difference plus the late fee. I refuse to pay the huge collection fee, being that I've been paying monthly in good standing; that the problem was a technical one syncing the bank with the HOA.

I had left a few voice messages and have sent a few e-mails but I haven't received a response since our initial encounter.

So I'm left with no acknowledgement that the collection agency is to be cancelled plus the collection charge void. Nor have I receive a response from my request to pay the difference due.

Question: can the HOA still slap a lien against my property and if so, is it possible for my HOA to force the sale of my property to recover cost?

My wife is freaking out on this.

Meanwhile, I intend to file a Better Business Bureau complaint against my HOA. And if necessary, file a small-claims court suit.

The aggregate requested (dues + fees) cost is about $1000.00:

Assessments             $570.69
Late Fees                $60.00
Interest                  $5.71
Admin Fees               $35.00
Collection Charges      $331.53

Total:                 $1002.93
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    Is your and your wife's goal the principle of the $370 or to get on with your life? – user662852 Jun 9 '16 at 12:56
  • Unclear: Were you contacted by a collection agency? Has your debt been given to one? Or is the HOA merely assessing fees and "working" to collect its own debt? This is important because collection agencies have somewhat stricter rules of operation. – feetwet Jun 9 '16 at 17:46
  • I was contacted by the collection agency. I had been told that the HOA received a certified letter of debt that was signed. I wasn't aware of this, being always out-of-town. So after a few months, the debt was sent to the collection agency. Debt due to: a) wrong P.O. Box and 2) $5.00 increase per month not accounted for. --- all due to archaic Bank Auto-payment scheme. – Frederick C. Lee Jun 10 '16 at 17:38
  • Also, generally speaking, small claims could would not have jurisdiction to clear up a lien that has been filed against your property by an HOA. At that point it would probably have to be handled in the general jurisdiction trial court of your state. – ohwilleke Aug 8 '17 at 20:01
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According to Nolo, which is usually a good source of legal information, yes, an HOA generally does have the power to place a lien on your property if you do not pay your HOA dues, and to foreclose the lien (force sale) if it is still not paid.

They have a specific page for Nevada explaining procedures and restrictions. You'll also have to read your covenant (CC&R) to see exactly what you agreed to when you bought the property, but Nolo seems to suggest that whatever's in there is likely to be enforceable. In particular, the covenant may state that the HOA's lien can include penalties and collection costs, and the law seems to allow that. There's a note on the Nolo Nevada page that an HOA may not foreclose a lien based only on a fine or penalty, so it's not clear what would happen if you paid only the outstanding dues but not the other charges.

Personally, it seems to me excessive to sue over $400. Being on bad terms with your HOA seems likely to cause trouble down the road. Also, if it were me, I'd want to consult a lawyer to get a sense of the chances of winning. The fact that you were out of state and may have missed communications from the HOA or bank seems like it may weaken your case; they might argue that you had a responsibility to check your bank statements and have your mail forwarded. If you lose in court, you might be liable for the court costs in addition to what you currently owe.

  • What happens if I change the property's ownership from me to a trust? Can I avoid the risk of a forced-foreclosure by handing my property over to a trust? – Frederick C. Lee Jun 8 '16 at 21:41
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    @FrederickC.Lee: You'd have to ask a lawyer, but it seems unlikely; that would be an obvious loophole and defeat the whole purpose of the law. For that matter, a lien might prevent you from changing ownership at all. In any case, I bet you that process will cost a lot more than $400 in legal and transfer fees. – Nate Eldredge Jun 8 '16 at 21:43
  • @FrederickC.Lee how are you going to do that? Do you own it free and clear? Your bank is gonna stop that. But even assuming u own it, when the county goes to change the deed they'll see the lien. – jqning Jun 9 '16 at 0:43
  • I own the house/property free & clear. – Frederick C. Lee Jun 10 '16 at 17:39
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Can HOAs put liens on property? In general, yes. The process depends on the specific covenants, but what would be the point of an HOA that can't compel homeowner action by forcing payment for violations of the covenant? Everyone would stop mowing their lawns and tell the HOA to pound sand.

So you're negotiating over the collection fee and possibly some of the lesser charges. They've proposed about $400. You would prefer $0, but it's up to you how much time and money you would put in to attempt to bring the settled number and amount you pay out of pocket down. I'm not a lawyer; I'm not your lawyer, but as a random person on the internet asked to pay $400 I disagree with:

1) Stop the telephone calls. From now on, all communication is USPS Certified Mail. "Return Receipt" is a $5 way to get a dated signature of an individual you can hold over them later to show lack of timeliness on their part, to drive them to accept a proposed lower amount.

2) make the collection agency on notice they're going to have to work for this. Send a copy of bank statements with a "dispute and prove" FDCPA letter.

3) go over HOA documents in detail: are the amounts or rates of fees and interest charged in a written schedule in them, and do these match the charges? Are they all mentioned? Or are any appearing for the first time in this bill? Is the mailing address for the monthly fees printed in the documents (or an incorporated document like "Rules and Regulations")? Did the HOA follow the exact process to change the address? Do documents state how changes are distributed and was this followed? Anything that did not go down as agreed in the covenant is noted and removed from the counter proposal to settle.

4) did the bank deduct the monthly fees along the way (like create bank checks and move money to escrow)? If so, where's the cash?; and overall it seems like a bad deal for you. Are they willing to pay some of the small fees so you don't take your business to a bank that won't accidentally dig you into a mess like this again?

  • I have a history of monthly auto payment. – Frederick C. Lee Jun 10 '16 at 17:40
  • I have a history of monthly auto payment. I received notice that the monthly was increased from $70 to $75 back in November 2015 (unfortunately I failed to adjust my auto-payment accordingly). I wasn't aware of the change in P.O. Box to recently, albeit the bank says that payment was PROCESSED in April & May. I've sent inquiries to the receiver of all processed payments for confirmation. That is, the bank has a means to send inquires to EACH processed-payment destination. I've just finished doing that. I want credit for payments received prior to paying balance. – Frederick C. Lee Jun 10 '16 at 18:37
  • I spoke with a spokesman. I'm constantly told that the the fee-recovery is 'out of our hands'...but am told that it may be possible to give me some leniency. The HOA had talked about my property per month and had tried to contact me without success. I'm told that ultimately a certified letter was sent & received prior to collection. I'm waiting for the tracking of that certified letter (don't remember receiving it) and for credit for payment received before I'm willing to release funds to cover my debt. – Frederick C. Lee Jun 10 '16 at 18:43
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You need to read the governing documents. Generally, yes, HOAs create these kinds of rights. However they are usually tempered. For example, there is often a requirement of notice and an opportunity to be heard or some such thing.

  • I'm told the HOA went thru the full procedure of monthly meetings, etc. I've been out-of-touch for the past months and hence the problem. It looks like I have the short-end of the stick here. I've called & e-mailed the management that my preferred way of communication is via e-mail vs memos to the property address. The HOA had been reluctant to accept my email as the official means of correspondence. Apparently, however, the property MANAGEMENT appears to be acceptable with that. – Frederick C. Lee Jun 10 '16 at 18:35
  • Don't be too quick to assume that their meetings and letters to you meet the requirements of notice and opportunity. There is a lot of room to argue. Check out this document red.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/rednvgov/Content/CIC/Brochures/…. Ask the HOA for the recordings of the meetings. Also check to see if they comply with notice of meetings requirement esp the agenda piece! There are lots of cracks these people might fall through. – jqning Jun 10 '16 at 18:57

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