Editorial: HOAs have a purpose, foreclosing is not one of them

Courier file photo

There is no doubt that Homeowner Associations do a lot of good for communities, especially in protecting everyone’s investment in their properties.

No one wants to fight with their neighbors because one or two people refuse to maintain their yards or are engaging in something that will drive down property values.

But no one enjoys having a group of power-hungry folks bossing them around, either.

It’s a fine line that people who serve on HOAs must walk, protecting everyone’s investment while trying not to appear too heavy-handed.

The Arizona Republic reported this month that HOAs are foreclosing on a record number of homeowners because of missed maintenance payments. Some people are losing their homes for as little as $1,200.

The state of Arizona allows HOAs to foreclose on a property if they miss payments for a year and the debt is $1,200 or more. What’s worse, is that homeowners desperately fighting to save their homes are finding it nearly impossible to determine how much they owe so they can pay it and keep the house, because HOAs are adding legal fees and interest on the late payments.

Lawyers are getting rich as HOAs take the homes of people who are struggling.

“It’s become a huge issue,” Arizona Real Estate Commissioner Judy Lowe said in the Republic story.

Phoenix lawyer Jon Dessaules was quoted saying, “It’s an attorney … selling a house in order to pay himself.”

Since 2015, HOAs have started foreclosure procedures on more than 3,000 Phoenix-area homes, according to the newspaper’s story. In 2016, 330 people lost their homes to HOA foreclosures.

HOAs have a purpose, and that is to make sure everyone in the community is maintaining their homes so property values do not diminish. And there should be some recourse when a homeowner does not pay the fees they agreed to when they purchased the home.

People occasionally face tough times. If a man loses his job and has to choose between feeding his family and paying the HOA fee, that’s not a hard decision.

Allowing people some flexibility in getting caught up by increasing their payments (plus interest) once they are on solid financial footing again is better than taking their home.

When Arizona lawmakers return to session in January they should take another look at this and find a way to adequately protect HOAs, as well as homeowners.

No one should lose their home because they owe $1,200 to the HOA.