Debt collector for Westbrooke HOA claims homeowner owes more than $3M

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

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About 6 months ago, local TV station WHIO reported that owners in Westbrooke Homes Association, Trotwood, Ohio, were being forced to pay assessments for a filthy, unusable pool and a dilapidated clubhouse.

Below is a link to an updated report, also from WHIO. At this point, delinquent assessment accounts have been turned over to collections. But owners are getting some crazy, outrageous invoices, including one for over $3 million!

Folks, you can’t make this stuff up!

Trotwood residents, homeowners association fight over dues

Updated: Thursday, November 17, 2016 @ 4:58 AM

WHIO — A group of Trotwood residents are claiming that their neighborhood homeowner’s association is trying to take advantage of them.

They are claiming that the Westbrooke Homes Association Inc. wants the residents to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for services they cannot and have not been able to use.

RELATED: Trotwood HOA respond to liens, worn facilities

Earlier this month, a debt collector sent Westbrooke Village neighborhood residents a letter seeking to collect past dues (the monthly fee for amenities was $200) and the homeowners association board has filed liens on properties, including Norman Scearce III’s.

The dues are supposed to be a community space — including a pool, tennis court and clubhouse. It’s all in various states of disrepair, residents said.

“They are absolutely relentless and I’m just sick of it,” he told News Center 7’s Natalie Jovonovich this week. According to Scearce, the debt collector claims he and his wife owe the homeowner’s association $3,623,536.

Read more, see VIDEO:

http://www.whio.com/news/local/trotwood-residents-homeowners-association-fight-over-dues/V5r2DtsufRWjB959sxkzKK/

 

Clearly, there must be an error.

According to the HOA’s website, annual dues are $200 and there are 310 homes. It’s unclear how many tenants reside in Westbrooke, or how many properties remain vacant, but doing the math, that’s potentially $62,000 per year to maintain amenities that include a pool, a small clubhouse, common green space, and tennis courts. The current plan is to convert the tennis courts to a barbecue area for tenants.

But at $200 annually, even with late charges and interest, and even with attorney fees, it is mathematically impossible to amass millions of dollars in debt! I suspect someone forgot a decimal point.

Checking out Westbrooke’s website, and the scrolling announcements window, you can see that the current board of directors is attempting to make repairs to the clubhouse and common areas. The HOA would like to repair the pool, but claims that the shortfall in assessments makes that impossible at this time.

Aggressive collection measures are currently underway, and, according to the announcement, any unpaid accounts as of December 7, 2016, will begin the process of filing liens, garnishing wages, collecting rent from tenants, and foreclosure, if necessary. The announcement gives the impression that quite few accounts are now in collections.

I think it’s quite clear that the vast majority of owners in Westbrooke are not interested in paying for the common amenities. Is it really worth it for the HOA to take extraordinary measures to collect past due assessments from a functionally defunct association? Should an owner lose a home over the money needed to repair a community pool and clubhouse that have long been neglected?

There’s no mention of roads to be maintained in Westbrooke, and aerial views don’t reveal any retention ponds. It appears the only common areas are the recreational amenities.

And if that’s the case – if there are no essential maintenance services for which the HOA is responsible – why should state law authorize the corporation to attach wages and foreclose on private property? Somehow, the punishment does not seem to fit the “crime” of refusing to pay for a neglected, unwanted pool, clubhouse, and tennis court.

Wouldn’t it be easier and less costly to simply demolish the clubhouse and fill in the pool? (With appropriate permits from Trotwood, of course.) Then maybe the Association could even sell their recreational acreage to recover their costs. Let’s face it, even if the HOA is able to collect enough money to make needed repairs, it may still be a struggle to collect the funds to maintain these amenities into the future.

I’m sure there’s more to the story that has not been reported. But the obvious dysfunction and the HOA’s draconian response is yet another example of a common interest community that just doesn’t work as intended.

 


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