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Q&A: Billing Mess

Q. In February 2017, I was double-billed first quarter. I paid in full first quarter by check using the coupon book provided; the check cleared my bank but they said I did not pay. They billed me for February, March, and April and fees were to be sent to Phoenix under a new management name. I called, but they said I cannot call them but only write. So I wrote to them twice and got no reply.

During this same time period, my in-house water bill exceeded well over the usual amount. I called and wrote to the water company and the HOA on the same letter, so that both parties would receive the same information. The water company responded and said it found out that someone had tampered with the water meter governing the irrigation. The HOA said it does not do the irrigation, but the yearly budget shows that it has. 

I never once said I would not pay—I just wanted a corrected coupon book. To this day, I have been sued, and forced to either pay attorney’s fees or have my home sold at auction.

 —Extricating Myself from This Dilemma

A. “Unlike a bank foreclosure,” says attorney Donna Berger of Becker & Poliakoff, which has offices throughout Florida, “there are very few defenses to an association’s foreclosure action, but proof of payment is a solid defense. If an association or management company has failed to properly credit an owner’s account for sums paid timely, then that mistake may be raised as a defense to the foreclosure action. Unfortunately, once a file is transferred to an attorney’s office, attorney’s fees and costs will be added to the ledger along with any interest and late fees which have been accruing. It is advisable to respond immediately to a late notice, and certainly continuing to pay is the only course of action an owner can follow to avoid foreclosure. Whenever there are monetary disputes, the ‘delinquent’ owner must realize that paying some but not all of the amounts being demanded will only result in the file moving forward to foreclosure. It is important to speak to an attorney to understand one’s rights and the best course of action to stop the clock on the foreclosure action and to resolve the error that was made.”

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