PLEASE NOTE – THIS IS AN ARCHIVED ARTICLE AND MAY NOT REPRESENT CURRENT INFORMATION.
Taking Control of Liens and Foreclosures
In the past week I have been trying to wrap my head around the delinquencies here in Almond Glen while trying to fully understand the best way to approach the liens and foreclosures. I have a bit of personal experience with debt which gives me some insight into the struggles which must be facing some of our membership.
When I was 18 I joined the Army. I quickly obtained my first credit card ($300 limit thank goodness) and maxed it out. I fail to pay the balance and it ended up in collections. In the meantime I managed to get into debt with several landlords, Blockbuster Videos (remember them?), B&G Music Service, etc. You get the picture. By the time I was in my mid 20’s my credit was ruined and I was dodging calls and letters from collection agencies. I was depressed, broke, frustrated and yet somehow, still functional.
Fast forward to today and I am a different man. I say that because I am a married man. My wife changed my life by helping me remedy my debt and learn to manage my finances.
When I look at the delinquency report I see three types of people.
~ People who misplaced a letter or forgot to make a payment.
~ People who are juggling debt and trying to figure out how long they can delay one bill while they pay another.
~People who are in serious trouble but not sure who to turn to or if anyone even cares anymore.
I noticed months ago that many people seemed to be playing a game of “wait and pay”. When an assessment was due they would hold off and pay only after receiving several late fees and finally a letter warning that a lien was going to be filed on their home. I directed Hawthorne to lower our lien threshold to $160.40 for the single-family homes and $281.60 for the townhomes. The idea was simple, send a message to pay us first and let the cable guy wait. Allowing our members to get further into debt than those numbers (2 late notices) was not only hurting the HOA, it hurts the member. If we allow our members debt to go higher, we will risk a member getting thousands of dollars behind before we rein them in. Add on attorney fees and foreclosure is practically eminent.
I also froze several foreclosures early on, giving people an opportunity to establish longer payment plans than usual in an effort to protect homeowners. I say “I” did these things because I want people to know that I am willing to take responsibility for my actions. My actions are of course approved by the board but in this case I made the changes and then informed the board of the actions and explained why I believed it was the best move.
The reason I am taking the time to explain this is because we as a board have effectively managed to kill the big stupid machine as of today. In the past our debt collection, lien, and foreclosure process was very automatic, anonymous, and faceless. Miss a payment, get a late fee, miss the deadline, get a late fee, then get a letter of lien, then get a lien placed on your home ($300-$400 in attorney fees), then that expires and we move to foreclose. Clean, sterile, cold, efficient.
As of today the process will change in the following way: The board of directors will be notified when a letter of lien is sent out. At that point a board member will make an effort to meet with the member and communicate options for correcting the delinquent account. We can’t get rid of your debt or lower your assessments, but we can push back the lien and save you hundreds of dollars. If we have to send your account to lien, we will look you in the eye and explain to you the reason. If it comes to foreclosure, I will personally meet with you to ensure we have given you every possible opportunity to avoid that headache. We don’t have to do this, and nobody on the board wants to intrude into anyone’s life. There will be times when we will have to meet with close friends, but we are not a faceless corporation, we are your neighbors.
We can’t solve everyone’s money problems. The realities of the world and the economy guarantee that not everyone will be able to hold onto their homes. We can take the mindless machine out of the equation and try to help our neighbors get back on their feet.
In the coming weeks we will be working to develop a standard policy for handling these matters so that we can treat everyone fairly and evenly.
I would also ask that anyone who is facing difficulties please contact us earlier rather than later. There is no shame in planning ahead when you need help.
President – Almond Glen Owners Association, INC.