FLORIDA – Investor unfairly jacks up homeowner association fees – $180 a month to nearly $500 – in Leesburg subdivision

Orlando Sentinel: Investor unfairly jacks up homeowner association fees – $180 a month to nearly $500- in Leesburg subdivision
March 17, 2013
Lauren Ritchie, COMMENTARY

Sixteen homes, 16 sets of panicked owners.

The residents of a Leesburg subdivision that went belly up during the real-estate bust face a financial dilemma that’s the result of greedy investors, a failure by lawmakers to think ahead and maybe the alignment of the planets. Unfortunately, the same the thing could happen to homeowners across Florida. The retirees at the Cottages of Sanders Grove at the Heritage report that they’ve just had their homeowner-association fees jacked up from $180 a month to nearly $500. And that’s just for this year. If they can’t — or won’t — pay, the association can foreclose on them. And guess who controls the association? The investor who just bought the project. What a clever idea. Raise the rates, and when people can’t pay, take their houses.

In addition, New Jersey resident and new owner Hans Hsu has found a way to force the homeowners to cover the legal cost of foreclosures and any fight they might want to put up over the higher fees.

Here’s the story: Pringle Development had just begun selling and building the 182 retirement homes on 58 acres off County Road 48, south of Leesburg, when the real-estate bubble burst. There was one model home, 16 resident-owned houses and a clubhouse. Pringle went out of business, and a bank took control of both the unbuilt subdivision and its homeowner association. The way the association was formed under Florida law — and this is typical of most homeowner associations — the developer controls the board of directors until three months after 90 percent of the homes are sold. Then, seats on the association’s board pass to the people who own property in the community.

The purpose of the association is to levy fees to take care of the subdivision’s common areas and buildings, such as a clubhouse.

While the subdivision is being constructed, the developer wants the place to look pristine so that customers will buy. Makes sense. People living there want the same thing, so the interests of the two parties coincide. Lawmakers apparently couldn’t imagine a scenario in which they wouldn’t.

Until now.  Read more:

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