Jupiter homeowner faces foreclosure for flying U.S. flag

Article Courtesy of the Sun Sentinel
By Peter Franceschina 
Posted September 11 2003 

Defiant flag flier George Andres once again is facing the prospect of losing his Jupiter home after a Palm Beach County judge ruled Wednesday that his homeowners association could go forward with a foreclosure sale next month to collect legal fees.

Andres, a Marine veteran, said he was worried about losing his home, but he vowed to appeal the latest ruling in a legal saga that has spanned more than two years.

"We are going to fight," Andres said.

It is the second time in recent months that Andres' home has moved toward the auction block. He was granted a reprieve in May when Circuit Judge Edward Fine agreed to reconsider his order authorizing the foreclosure.

The Florida Attorney General's Office stepped in and argued that Andres' home was constitutionally protected under the state's homestead law from foreclosure by a homeowners association attempting to collect a legal debt.

Andres' homeowners association prohibits flagpoles, and Andres has a 12-foot flagpole in his front yard. Another judge ruled that Andres didn't have a right to put up the flagpole, and the association filed a lien on the property to collect roughly $21,000 in attorneys' fees and legal costs expended in winning the case.

Fine rejected the argument from the Attorney General's Office and issued a ruling Wednesday that found the association's right to file a lien against the property was established in 1982, when its covenants and bylaws were recorded in land records, six years before Andres purchased his home.

West Palm Beach attorney Steven Selz, who represents the homeowners association, said the ruling makes sense.

"There has to be a way to give the association a right to enforce its claims on the property," he said.

Boca Raton attorney Barry Silver, who represents Andres, said he would file an appeal. Mediation has failed, while the attorneys' fees continue to pile up for both sides.

"They find George to be very intransigent because he has the right to fly the flag, and they think he is stubborn because he fights for that right," Silver said.

Selz said he hopes Andres decides to reach a settlement rather than face losing his home, which is scheduled to be auctioned on Oct. 9.

Andres said previous settlement offers required more of a compromise than he was willing to make.

"They said remove the flag and the flagpole, and that is not a compromise," Andres said. " I'm 66, and I don't have much left anyhow. We have to go ahead and fight."

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