FLORIDA – ‘More power than a bank’: HOA uses loophole to foreclose on Beulah dad’s home, lawyer says

‘More power than a bank’: HOA uses loophole to foreclose on Beulah dad’s home, lawyer says

Kevin Robinson, Pensacola News Journal

Published 5:39 p.m. CT May 4, 2020

Caleb Leitch’s wife passed away unexpectedly in 2013, six months after they bought a new home in Beulah. Leitch, now 31, has spent the last few years putting himself through school, working as a counselor for folks trying to quit tobacco and raising his elementary school-aged son. The last thing on his mind was his homeowners association fees.

Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is about to lose his $230,000 home over an $8,800 debt to his HOA and its attorneys

.According to Leitch’s attorney, the First Judicial Circuit appears to be one of the few court systems in Florida that is proceeding with lien foreclosures despite an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis suspending foreclosures and evictions while more than one million Floridians are out of work.

Christine Kelly Fausel, a senior attorney for Legal Services of North Florida, is representing Leitch in his foreclosure case. Kelly Fausel said she believes this case and others are moving forward based on a hyper-literal interpretation of the governor’s order, an interpretation she thinks is both legally flawed and contrary to the spirit of the document. “Obviously the intent is not to have people homeless during COVID-19,” Kelly Fausel said.

Issued April 2, the governor’s order put a 45-day suspension on any statute providing for a mortgage foreclosure — the process which allows a lender to evict a homeowner and sell their property if the homeowner defaults on their payments. However, the governor’s order contains no explicit prohibition on “lien foreclosures.” That process allows homeowners’ associations and condominium associations to place liens on the homes of members with unpaid fees and assessments. The process can ultimately result in a “lien foreclosure” where the home is auctioned off to pay the HOA or COA.

Kelly Fausel said the state statutes that govern the lien foreclosure process are interdependent with the statutes that govern the mortgage foreclosure process. She believes both should be paused under the governor’s order.
Via email, a spokesperson for the First Circuit said it would not be appropriate ethically for judges or staff to discuss their interpretation or application of the law in this case, since it relates directly to a pending case and cases that could arise in the future. Read more:   https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2020/05/04/coronavirus-florida-lawyer-says-hoas-using-loophole-foreclosures/3065363001/

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