Homeowners caught in middle of legal dispute could lose their homes

By Deborah Goonan

Now here’s a bizarre situation. Channel 9 News Orlando reports that several homeowners have had liens placed on their homes by One GMA, and, in all, 145 owners are alleged to be delinquent on their assessment payments.

But owners say there has been confusion over where to send assessment payments. Many of them have apparently been paying the wrong party.

Taking a look at the most recent amendment to an ongoing lawsuit between One GMA, a debt collection company, and Merle Wills, former President of Vista Lago HOA, it’s easy to see that homeowners have been caught in the middle of the dispute between the two parties.

Last year, Wills sold Vista Lago’s uncollectible HOA debt to One GMA. According to the lawsuit, a contract between One GMA and Vista Lago HOA entitles the One GMA to bill and collect on those past due accounts.

But, according to One GMA, and several homeowners, including the one interviewed by Channel 9, Wills circulated a letter to all members instructing them to stop sending payments to One GMA. In the letter, Wills claims that she fired the collection company, and that all future payments would be collected directly by the HOA. It’s unclear from my reading of the lawsuit the exact terms of the contract between Vista Lago HOA and One GMA. Either the HOA is attempting to wiggle out of a valid contract, or the collection company has engaged in deceptive business practices with unsophisticated Board members. The court will have to weigh the evidence.

I did notice that Wills has been found in contempt of court for failure to appear for a hearing, and failure to pay court costs.

In the meantime, scores of homeowners face liens and possible foreclosure as a result of the chaos. To add insult to injury, hefty collection costs have created debts of $3000 for $200 in unpaid assessments. Many homeowners can even produce proof of ontime payment!

How long will it take to sort out this mess, and what will it ultimately cost homeowners? Hopefully, no one will lose their homes.

Source video and transcript:

Channel 9 News WFTV


Ref: One GMA LLC v. Merle Wills, Ninth Circuit, Orange County, Case # 2014-CA-013169-O

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