Colorado

Dec 10, 2013 7:01 PM by Andy Koen

News 5 Guardians: HOA forecloses on home

PEYTON - Christopher Wright was stunned by what he read in the mail.

"I got a notice that my house had been sold over 30 days ago," he said in disbelief. "My $350,000 mortgage was sold for $10,900 dollars."

It wasn't the bank who foreclosed, but rather his homeowners association Woodmen Hills Filing Number 11 Design Review Council.

"I don't think anyone in America would think that the HOA had the power to take your home away from you," Wright said.

He knew there was an outstanding fine he didn't pay for leaving the kids bikes outside, but Wright says he had no idea things would turn out like this.

"I'm pretty frustrated and overwhelmed with it."

The HOA's attorney gave us a different story. Hal Kyles of the law firm Orten, Cavanagh and Holmes said his office first opened a collection file against Chris and Amanda Wright in January of 2010.

He says the real reason behind the foreclosure is that the Wrights didn't pay $900 worth of HOA dues over four years.

"This doesn't have anything to do with bicycles left by the garage," Kyles explained. "This has to do with failure to make the assessment obligation, which all the owners in the community are required to make."

In fact, the Wrights were served with paperwork in March notifying them of the court proceedings, but never showed up to fight it.

"At no time does my record reflect that they've ever picked up the phone, wrote a letter to my office to try and resolve this dispute," Kyles said.

The Wrights aren't alone. News 5 Investigates found court cases involving 13 different Homeowners Associations in El Paso County that all foreclosed on properties this year. And foreclosure is just one method of debt collection used by HOAs.

Woodmen Hills Filing 11, which has 853 member homes, filed 225 liens, sued 126 times and started foreclosures on at least four other properties.

In three of those cases, the foreclosure was stopped when the homeowners settled the debt. The fourth case was dismissed by the court.

Those numbers surprised State Representative Angela Williams of Denver.

"That does seem like an unusually large amount for an HOA that has about 1,000 homes," she said.

Williams sponsored legislation designed to curb the number of HOA foreclosures by giving homeowners more time to pay debt to their associations. The law, which takes affect January 1, 2014, will give delinquent homeowners the ability to spread payments over a 6 month period.

"What we wanted to do was create an environment that would mirror the Colorado debt collections process," Williams explained.

HOA debt grows quickly because state law allows for late charges and attorneys fees to be tacked on. Kyles said the Wrights' original debt of $900 grew by $10,000 because of, "late fees, interest and I'm not cheap."

Despite his mistakes, Christopher Wright says he wants to tell his story to shine a light on the legal maneuvers used by Woodmen Hills Filing 11.

"I just hope that this gets to the hearts and ears of this particular filing. They need to know what this HOA is doing."

Since contacting News 5 Investigates, the Wrights have hired an attorney and are trying to buy back their home through a settlement with Woodmen Hills Filing 11.

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