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
3 thoughts on “FL HOA homeowner: “I’m not going to give my money to crooks!””
My opinion is that there’s no practical reason for and HOA aside for the maintenance of community held property. A community pool, for example, needs money to maintain and someone has to oversee operations. However, the line needs to be drawn between community and personal property.
While an argument is often made that and HOA makes the neighborhood look nice, this isn’t always the case and even when it is it’s open to the interpretation of whoever is making the rules. One HOA made the arbitrary decision that children can’t play outside. Another decided that dogs have to walk in the middle of the public road where it’s too hot to safely walk on. Another decided that it was illegal for anyone to park in front of a house, and then proceeded to find anyone for having anyone park in front of the house whether or not they actually knew that person with parking there. People have to give up their vehicles, and people weren’t allowed to have guests. Another decided that homeowners weren’t allowed to decide who gets to enter their home, relying on the premise that on approved guests are trespassing on community property, which was used to prevent people from registering to vote. Then there are the underhanded tactics used against people. For example, people’s homes have been sold to cover dues they didn’t even realize they had missed and then they were evicted before they even knew what happened. That’s a story that’s repeated many times already. And to make matters worse, because they spend so much money collecting on that money they are basically just cheating all the other homeowners out of it. Disrupting the Peace of the neighborhood, and making everyone spend more money than they otherwise would have to, for no good reason at all.
They invade privacy by looking into your backyard, or even taking pictures of the inside of your house. They are selective about enforcement, with one HOA charging the woman the entire cost of all community electricity for plugging her electric car into the garage even though she had stated her willingness to pay the cost of her usage and even though most of the usage was spread between other users. One HOA even kicked people while they were down after a fire spread the neighborhood, and another fined people for not having green grass during a drought which in turn restricted the municipal ability to regulate water usage in a state of emergency and that one required a whole new state law to fix.
The underlying pattern is that an HOA can do whatever they want whenever they want. that’s the problem. That would be the equivalent of your bank deciding to change the terms of your loan arbitrary early after you’ve already signed a contract. Or any company really. It’s not right. If it was written into a covenant, that would be different because you are agreeing to all the rules up front when you purchase the property. Those cannot be changed our but really without your permission. New restrictions cannot be added to your covenant. That is why I feel the HOA needs to be abolished as overly restrictive
If it developer wants to maintain full control over how a particular neighborhood operates, they should maintain ownership of the properties and use the power of a landlord instead of a covenant. I have actually lived in some very nice communities, in Florida, where all of the land was owned by a single company, but I would never live in an HOA area.
Horrible that our great state of Florida has no teeth when it comes to enforcement of statutory HOA law. HOA oversight similar to Condo Association regulation would prevent more widespread corruption. Our legislators need to fix this. Seems that this is a big problem and very much overlooked. I live in a HOA with rogue leadership, lavish party spending, community neglect, no transparency and no term limits as required by law. Cheaper to move than to hire counsel. What about homeowner’s investments?
Dealing with a similar neighboring HOA. [Name of HOA withheld] has also become abusive and selectively enforces rules.
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