By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
The latest report of a bully HOA board comes from homeowners in the Rivercrest HOA in the Tampa Bay area.
Not long ago I passed along the report from WTSP news about the Lopez family, whose house was foreclosed over a single missed HOA dues payment of $150.
Well, the Lopez family is not alone.
According to WTPS Channel 10 news, Joseph Matteucci and his family are the latest victims of Rivercrest HOA’s questionable collection tactics. Matteucci was hit with a foreclosure notice just days before he closed on the purchase of his house in 2014. The family was coerced in to paying liens and an additional fine to stop the foreclosure, and figured they’d fight for their property rights through their title insurance company. But two years later, dealing with Rivercrest HOA, Wise Property Management, and Charles Glausier of Bush Ross attorneys, the matter has still not been resolved.
You’ll recall from my previous blog that Rivercrest’s infrastructure is maintained by a Community Development District (CDD). Therefore, the HOA’s primary role is limited to enforcement of restrictive covenants, a non-essential service.
Still, that has not stopped Rivercrest HOA and Bush Ross from using harsh tactics – including foreclosure – to collect what amounts to pennies in HOA assessments. As is usually the case, collecting a few hundred dollars in HOA assessments quickly balloons to several thousand dollars in court costs and attorney fees.
Matteucci says he is so frustrated that he and his family intend to move out of Rivercrest.
Riverview homeowners say HOA taking homes (Kendra Conlon, WTSP)
“They’re trying to take my house, after we worked so hard to keep a roof over them,” says Luis Lopez through tears.
“I don’t understand how they are getting away with this,” Matteucci says.
10News has been reaching out to the property manager, whose office referred us to their Bush Ross attorney. 10News called and stopped by the Bush Ross office and was told attorney Charles Glausier wasn’t there. It prompted an email response: “Bush Ross does not comment on pending litigation. Our client’s position is set forth in the court file for the foreclosure lawsuit.”
For the Matteucci family, it’s not the way they want to feel at home. “I don’t have to deal with that. I can just sell my house. I’m not going to give my money to crooks,” says Matteucci.
The Lopez family has a court hearing the end of the month to fight the foreclosure. 10News will be there.
The Lopez family’s cries for help has prompted action. Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White reached out to Sen. Bill Galvano. Galvano is now working with the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation [DBPR], which licenses HOAs in the state. However, it’s up to lawmakers to pass a bill to give the agency authority to investigate HOA complaints.
Read more and see video here:
The reader should recognize that Senator Bill Galvano is making a political statement by discussing these outrageous HOA abuses with Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). The state agency has absolutely no jurisdiction over HOA disputes, with the exception of arbitration of election and recall disputes.
But given that similar tactics are regularly reported in Florida’s condominium associations, regardless of DBPR oversight, let’s just say that I and many others are skeptical that the state business regulatory agency will do anything to help homeowners resolve issues in their favor.
While Florida Statute requires at least 30 day notice prior to HOA foreclosure, it does not limit attorney fees or collection costs, and contains no provision regarding unfair collection practices or potentially fraudulent billing.
Perhaps the Attorney General’s Office would be the more appropriate venue, given the nature of complaints at Rivercrest and other Florida Association Governed residential communities?
Attorney General, Florida Consumer Protection Division
In conjunction with its authority under the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices law, the Division is also responsible for enforcement of the civil provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, pursuing, where appropriate, the conduct of “enterprises” engaged in continuing patterns of statutorily enumerated illegal activities, such as fraud, theft and misleading advertising.
FL Statute 718 Condominium Act
FL Statute 720 Homeowners Association Act