and Video Courtesy of ABC Action News, Tampa
By Sarina Fazan
March 5, 2016
Oleg Stepanov is a husband and father to a 9-year-old
boy and 2-year-old girl. About a year ago, he received a letter that put
him in a state of panic.
"It was scary because I opened a
letter and [it] says they would foreclose on my house if
I did not pay $750," Stepanov said.
Stepanov was not only panicked but confused. He moved to
the Panther Trace subdivision from Canada nearly a year
ago but never got his HOA bill.
"In Canada I got mail forwarding here for a year. But I
did not get that mail, and I still did not receive those
bills," Stepanov said.
He said he tried to pay his $75 fee only to be told
the HOA already handed it over to a lawyer. By that
point, a legal fee had been added to what he owed,
increasing his bill to $750.
Reluctantly, Stepanov settled. He said he had no choice under threat of
foreclosure. He said that he even had to borrow money from neighbors to
pay the bill.
"If I was foreclosed on that would have killed me and my family, like,
where are we supposed to live?" Stepanov said.
Stepanov is not alone.
Action News got involved after another woman sent us
an email pleading for help.
|In it she wrote, "They [McNeil
Management Company] are trying to foreclose on our home over
the $80 annual fee," she wrote.
She claims she somehow missed the payment and when she tried
to pay the HOA she found out it already turned her case over
to a lawyer.
We called that law firm, The Tankel Law Group, and it agreed
But when Action News looked into it further, we found
several people dealing with the same issue. So did Stepanov.
"This year I found it was not only me. I found out
so many of my neighbors are dealing with the same issue. Why are people
not getting their bill?" Stepanov said.
Action News wanted to find out why. So we went to the HOA, McNeil
Management Company. But when we tried to ask questions, the manager shut
us out by shutting the door and refusing to answer any questions.
Action News decided to look up records and found the company is among
the top five in the county when it comes to liens.
It's also much easier for HOA foreclose compared to banks. Associations
can demand payment within 45 days and if not paid can start legal
Owners like Stepanov can't help but wonder if his association is taking
advantage of the less strict laws.
"I pay my electric bill every month. I pay my gas bill every month. Why
can I not get a $75 bill from my management company?" Stepanov said.
Meanwhile, homeowners like Stepanov and the woman who emailed Action
News are so upset they have vowed to push for a different management
To prevent this from happening to you, experts suggest to keep on top of
your HOA. Even if you need to call them frequently. Also, do not ignore
certified letters. They can be a final notice for payment.