If I’ve learned anything from this site over the years, it’s that homeowners’ associations are evil and to be avoided. Sometimes you don’t have a choice, though: the home of your dreams or basic neighborhood amenities require it. And sometimes, as one Kentucky woman discovered, not joining the HOA means you can lose your house.
If that sounds farfetched, well, a quick look through the Consumerist archives shows us that it’s happened before. In one horrific case, a man set his house on fire after a court awarded ownership of it to his HOA over a dispute regarding…unpaid dues and fines he racked up during a dispute over a fence.
This happened in Lexington, Kentucky. According to TV station LEX 18, the 75-year-old bought the house back in 2007, but works as a horse trainer and isn’t home all that much. Apparently she didn’t have anyone grabbing her mail: the HOA claims that they’ve sent her dozens of letters and legal summonses since 2009.
The HOA dues in her neighborhood? $48 per year. She owes a total of $288. The homeowner says that she just tossed the letters she received, assuming that the HOA was some kind of social organization that collected money from residents to access the pool or something. “I didn’t know it was mandatory to join this…homeowners’,” she says with some distaste. “I told them, I’m not joining.”
The good news, if there is any in this situation, is that the company that now owns her house did not immediately throw her out in the street. Also, she did get some of the proceeds: about $80,000. She paid $125,000 cash up front for the house in 2007, and that’s about what the house should have sold for today.
HOAs do often foreclose on abandoned homes, but there’s a difference between “owner is frequently away on business and not good about reading her mail” and “owner has completely abandoned her house.”