For one Florida resident, a fee of less than five dollars almost cost her a condo.
Geeta Ramcharitar owed her condo association a past-due balance of $4.70, according to Florida Today. Not paying the fee ultimately cost her $3,000 after a Florida judge threw out a foreclosure case brought by the condo association and ordered both sides to pay their own attorneys fees, Florida Today reports.
As the housing crisis continues to hit condo owners and condo associations, Ramcharitar's situation – though extreme – may become more common, according to Florida Today. The number of condo associations unable to meet their operating expenses as owners lapse on their fees is growing, according to legal research firm, JDSurpa, forcing condo associations to become more aggressive in collecting fees.
It's not the lowest amount that's been the basis of a foreclosure threat though. This summer, one Massachusetts homeowner received a notice demanding he pay $0.00 to his mortgage lender, or face foreclosure.
The Associated Press reported in 2009 that as the housing crisis pushed condo values into a free fall, some condo and homeowners associations began raising fees and then foreclosing on residents who couldn’t pay.
Some condo associations are taking over units where the owners have defaulted and turned them into rental properties, according The Wall Street Journal. And the associations are backed by the law, The Journal reports; state legislators voted down two recent laws in Nevada that would have put a cap on the amount of fees an association can assess on delinquent borrowers:
“The old rules of engagements have changed,” said Donna Berger of Katzman, Garfinkel & Berger in Fort Lauderdale, who was not involved in Ramcharitar’s case told Florida Today. “What I am saying is, associations should absolutely take advantage of some of the tools at their disposal. The goal is not to be punitive but they have to make an attempt to recoup their losses.”
One condo community in Palm Beach County, Florida is getting creative in recovering the fees it would need to pay its creditors by filing for bankruptcy, according to The Sun Sentinel. John Kinsey, the condo association’s lawyer, said he believes that this condo association bankruptcy may be the first of its kind in the nation. But it could catch on. The condo association emerged from bankruptcy with more than $400,000 more than before it filed, The Sun Sentinel reports.