By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Is HOA rule enforcement a tool to harass owners and take their homes?
According to Dave Silva, owner of a townhouse in Ventura Greens at Emerald Dunes, that’s the motive behind his HOA’s attempt to foreclose on his home.
Florida’s Palm Beach Post has been following this saga for months. Silva, a former board member, says one of his 2014 assessment payments was sent, in error, to a former management company. By the time he and his wife realized the error, Ventura Greens had already charged a $25 late fee.
Silva objected, claiming that the $25 fee should be waived, since he had not been notified in advance that assessment payments were to be sent to a new management agent.
But Ventura Greens HOA President Vic Bally insisted on enforcing the collection policy, including the $25 late fee.
The dispute has since taken on a life of its own. Now Silva reportedly owes Ventura Greens more than $47,000, bloated by interest, additional late fees, and legal fees.
Last week, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Robert Panse listened to arguments from Silva’s attorney Richard Glenn and Jeanette Bellon, lead attorney for Ventura Greens. Judge Panse will decide if Ventura Greens can proceed with foreclosure against Silva’s townhouse.
All of this drama began over a mere $25.
As usual, the HOA has labeled the homeowner (Silva) as “difficult.” Why didn’t he just pay the $25 like an obedient association member? Why has he prolonged the battle over such a small issue?
But, it takes at least two people to continue a fight. Ventura Greens, and President Vic Bally, could have put a stop to this madness a long, long time ago. Why has the association continued to dig in their heels?
According to previous reports in the Palm Beach Post, Vic Bally has a sordid history at Ventura Greens. Multiple people, including several former community association managers, have gone on record criticizing Bally for “ruling with an iron fist,” and for leading a “dysfunctional” association. (See my previous IAC post here.)
Management staff can easily walk away from toxic personalities leading chaotic association-governed communities.
Unfortunately, homeowners and residents cannot simply pick up and move out of Ventura Greens. And some owners would argue, they shouldn’t have to move out just to escape selective enforcement from bully boards.
And that begs the important question: Why aren’t one’s abusive neighbors on the HOA board forced to move out instead?
In a nutshell, it’s because state law provides boards of association-governed, common interest communities with excessive, virtually unchecked power to force out anyone they dislike, under the guise of enforcing community rules.
An HOA, condo, or co-op board has ample discretion when it comes to enforcing the rules. And association-governed communities are permitted to rule over members without any meaningful oversight at the local, state, or federal level.
Yet homeowners and residents are not provided with equalizing power that can force abusive board members to step down — other than a legally complex, consistently challenged recall procedure.
And in Florida, as in other states, the HOA election process is subject to fraud and abuse, so disputes are common. Replacing a rogue board can take several years, and, in some cases, accumulating enough voting interests to change board leadership is mathematically impossible.
Besides, there aren’t many homeowners with a strong will and ample bankroll to stand up to one or more bullies on the board. No one wants to be the next target, threatened with fines and foreclosure, and forced to fight a years-long court battle.
Perhaps that explains why obnoxious, aggressive — even corrupt — board leaders remain in charge for years, despite their unpopularity.
WPB man lose townhouse for refusing association’s $25 late fee?
LOCAL By Tony Doris – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Foreclosure trial concludes in case of West Palm Beach townhouse owner who faces losing home over $25 late fee
DELRAY BEACH —
What started with a $25 late fee three years ago for townhouse owner David Silva has grown to a foreclosure fight over a $47,554 bill that had Silva in court two days this week, fending off an effort by his property association to take away his $340,000 home.
His fate rests with Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Robert Panse, who on Monday and Tuesday heard arguments at the south county courthouse that pitted calls for common sense against bad blood and condo enforcement.