Homeowners furious over fee increase

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By Cheryl Getuiza and Valerie Boey
Published November 11, 2009

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - When Tom Beard learned that the Tivoli Village homeowners association wanted to increase his fees for the second time in as many years, he organized a petition signed by residents who refused to pay the increase.


"It really angers me. I'm very frustrated. I'm in the same financial situation as a lot of other people in this subdivision and my wife and I have sucked it up. We don't drive nice cars, we don't go on vacation," Beard said.

Residents here currently pay nearly $2,500 dollars a year in homeowners fees. The increase would add another $375. HOA members say they are $250,000 in the hole and can't pay their bills. Fifty percent of the units are delinquent in their fees, and another 20 percent are in foreclosure.


"The reality of it is, in order for the association to support itself, the dues would have to go up, whether we still own lots in the community or not," said HOA president and developer Kyle Sanders.

Sanders said they're willing to work with the homeowners, but Beard and many others say its too late. "They've gone to the lowest common denominator; whatever the easiest thing to do, that's what they've done," added Beard.

Beard said homeowners will pay their 2009 dues, in good faith. As for their 2010 increased dues? They refuse to cough up the cash, even if it means getting liens on their homes. This issue may even go to court.


"It's a breach of contract from their end, not living to the agreements we set ahead of time. The issue is much bigger. We're all choosing to make a sacrifice for the greater good of our community," said Beard.

Attorney Matt Firestone specializes in Homeowners Association cases. "With the economy worsening more and more people cannot afford to pay their homeowners association," said Firestone.

He has some advice for residents if they're not happy with fee increases. "If the homeowners think the association is not being run properly they can try to get a recall."

He also suggested residents look for ways to cut costs in the neighborhood. "You really need to get more involved because as an owner you're entitled to the financial information the association keeps."

And if you live in a condominium, you even have a right to dissolve the association. "There is a statute that agrees with the condo accordingly, but you have to have a high percentage of owners that agree."

At Tivoli Village, the developer still acts as the head of the homeowners association. He plans to approve the 15 percent increase and will place a lien on homeowner who don't pay, but residents like Beard say they're ready to fight for their rights.

"We're all willing to risk liens on our property and we're all going to be forced to get an attorney," Beard added.

The increased dues are to begin January 2010.