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Barney Fife Board Members

Pete skipped a payment to his homeowners association in December. It was turned over to an attorney before 30 days had passed. Now a $200 debt has turned into a $3,500 debt.

QUESTION: Pete in Minneapolis skipped a payment to their homeowners association in December. It was turned over to an attorney before 30 days had passed. The law firm has been extremely aggressive in collecting this debt, and now a $200 debt has turned into a $3,500 debt. Dave advises Pete to get an attorney.

ANSWER: It sounds like you need a lawyer. It’s probably about four months too late. The problem is this: Legally, they’ve got you. The other problem is that the homeowners associations and the management companies with some of them have just become Gestapo. I’m in a bunch of different homeowners associations, and some of them are run very well. Some of the management companies do a good job. But there are a number of them that really do need to get a life. They don’t have anything to do, and all they do is screw with the homeowners that they’re supposed to serve all the time. It’s really gotten to where Barney Fife gets in charge of the neighborhood, and my God, what a bunch of drama. I’ve got a few of those. I stay out of it, but I observe it, and it’s just unbelievable. And that’s what you’ve got here. You’ve got a management company that just went bananas, and then they’ve hired a law firm that thinks they’re going to get away with these exorbitant fees. Thirty-five hundred dollars’ worth of legal fees on a $250 charge… I don’t think a judge in the world is going to go along with that.

You’ve got the money in the account for the payments you haven’t paid. You owe $258 plus you owe for a few other things, and you owe some late fees. You probably do owe some reasonable legal fees. We’re talking about less than $500 in outstanding, so they’re adding $3,000 in legal fees. That’s ridiculous. I would sue the law firm. I would get an attorney and sue the law firm. You should’ve done that probably four or five months ago before it went to lien. And I’d go ahead and sue the management company while you’re at it and the homeowners association. Let’s just run all your neighbors’ bills up for legal fees to defend the fact that they have hired a Gestapo management company and legal firm.

It is valid for a homeowners association to collect the fees that are owed, and they should. A lot of homeowners associations don’t do a good job of collecting the fees, so they do need to lean on you and collect their money. The other neighbors deserve that. I’m not saying that’s Gestapo, but when something’s not late more than one month and you take it to legal and when you add $3,000 in legal bills to a $500 bill, that’s not collecting the fee anymore. Now that’s trying to make money and trying to rip people off. That’s where you get an attorney, and I would go ahead and sue all three entities while you’re at it. Find out who the board of directors is and sue each one of them individually, too, so that the next time they get ready to renew the management company with this, they get a new management company. As soon as a couple of those little old ladies who think they’re Barney Fife sitting on that board get sued, they’re going to rethink how they do life. That’s what’s going on. This is a bunch of freaking gossips who think they can get away with murder. Sometimes, what you’ve got to do is double up your fists and punch them. That’s really where you are. You need an attorney. And you don’t need a nice attorney, either. You need one who’s pissed off when you meet with him and just stays that way until he gets this solved. You probably need to file charges at the board for the exorbitant legal fees with your local bar as well.