Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Iraq Soldier's Home Ownership Returned

We have an update on Capt Michael Clauer, the Frisco soldier that lost his house while deployed in Iraq. His HOA foreclosed and sold the $300k plus house to collect less than $1000 in dues. This was a somewhat complicated case and we’re happy to report that a deal has been reached to return the house to the Clauers. Details of the agreement have been sealed.

This case has renewed the debate over how much power a home owners association should wield. Perhaps a HOA should be limited to obtaining a lien on the property rather than forcing a sale without going to court. I’m not personally familiar with the Clauers or the HOA involved, so I’ll just offer a few brief independent observations on this particular case (see our previous story for additional background info). First, Ms Clauer must accept some responsibility. She didn’t open the certified letters from the HOA due to depression. Having a son in the Marines in Afghanistan, I can identify and sympathize; however, Ms Clauer must have opened and paid some bills such as the utilities.

That said, I believe this could also have been avoided if the HOA used a bit of common sense. While they were within the letter of the law, the morals and ethics of selling someone’s home to collect this small amount is certainly questionable, particularly in light of the fact that the officers, presumably the Clauer’s neighbors, didn’t even bother to pay them a visit. As a former officer of a HOA, I found that very few homeowners responded to notices that were mailed, but when we dropped by to respectfully talk over the situation, they almost always were more than willing to comply. In some cases, it was simply a misunderstanding. In others, the homeowner had simply neglected the issue or had a temporary setback such as a lost job, some medical etc, in which case we would work with them or give them more time. We also acknowledge that all HOA's do not operate in the same manner. Many are run by a select few individuals who attempt to impose their agenda on everyone else.

In this case, it appears that each side probably shares at least some portion of the blame for not resolving the issue in the earlier stages, but we don't have enough info to speculate on the extent with any accuracy. We can say that we are very happy that the home’s ownership was returned to Capt Clauer's family. We would also like to extend our appreciation for his service to our country.

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