HOA places lien on neighbor's home - what happens next?

Question for the board’s legal minds, since IANAL and am curious what happens now.

A little backstory: I live in a suburban neighborhood with an active (some would say draconian) HOA. A small group of neighbors decided to challenge them by ignoring deed restrictions on fencing and parking, and claiming the HOA had no legal basis to enforce the covenants. The HOA decided to take them one-by-one and picked one member of the “group-of-seven” to sue first. The court ruled against the homeowner and part of the judgement was that our suburban anarchist pay the substantial legal fees incurred by the HOA. He’s either refused or unable, and the HOA is placing a lien on his property for the full amount (I don’t know exactly, but have been told it was well into 5 digits). As you might imagine, the other members of his band lost interest in a hurry and cleaned up their property. :stuck_out_tongue:

So to my question: What exactly does the lien mean? Can an HOA foreclose on a house? Or is it something that will only come up if he tries to sell?

AFAIU, only when he sells. But it will really screw him when he does. It also may affect his credit rating. And of course home equity loans or second mortgage are not available to him either.

Another complication is that the judgement may have included interest on the amount owed the HOA accruing. Then the longer he waits to pay it, the more the lien is worth.

Oh forgot to mention - some states have an automatic interest accrual on a judgement lien. CA, for example, has it at 10%. That can bite quite hard.

I’d be interested in knowing - was the HOA being draconian? Or was the refusal on the part of the super seven “fair”?

And did you play any role in any of this?

The lien means that the property can’t be sold unless the debt is paid.

The HOA can ALSO request a “sheriff sale”, or similar, depending on the law your state… thats like foreclose. Given there’s a high interest rate on the current debt, there’s no rush.

The specifics will depend on your local statues. It is possible for an HOA to foreclose on the house according to nolo.com:

I’d say the HOA was in the right. The deed restrictions are very clear that no RV or boat, etc. may be parked where it can be “seen from the street”. One of the violators not only had his RV visible, but had poured a substantial driveway for it. It was beyond “visible” and well into “conspicuous”. We have a variety of green areas and small parks interspersed in our 'burb, and another violator had extended his fence into the public-owned area because he was annoyed at the foot traffic near his property. I don’t know exactly which house, though (I haven’t hiked all the green areas, so I haven’t seen this one).

I’m not an officer, and had no role in these decisions. I was affected in a small way, as the attorneys advised them to stringently enforce rules on all residents (to avoid any appearance of favoritism). This resulted in the “seen from the street” being interpreted as “not visible in any way from any vantage point” and resulted in a polite letter to me about my RV, since part of it could be seen from certain angles. I learned to pick my battles a long time ago, and chose to respond with an apology (for any annoyed neighbors) and move both our RV and our boat to storage buildings. I groused a bit about the extra $150/month, but I signed the covenant documents and the words are pretty clear.

I’m the current president of our HOA (the position is picked by who says “NOT ME” the slowest). We’ve never put liens, but sent out the threatening letters explaining clearly that we can and will do it, that they will lose in court, and they will have to pay court costs. Never fails!
FTR, the only time these letters have been sent were to collect dues that were over a year late. Any other problems, settle it yourself.
As already explained, if we went through with it, they couldn’t sell the house without paying up. I believe if it’s over a certain amount, there are repo actions that we could take.
An HOA isn’t a made up group. It has a charter that is recognized by the local government and it does have some authority. I think people get in trouble because they feel an HOA is just a bunch of nosey people getting up in your business (which they often are, but the law backs them up).

As filmore mentioned, HOAs can foreclose on their liens (state laws may vary, IANYL, etc). If they’re actually looking to collect, rather than to (in essence) forcibly evict an irksome member of the community, though, it’s likely to be a Pyrrhic victory–their lien will be subordinate to whatever financing was on the house prior to their placing the lien, as well as any liens for unpaid taxes (which are pretty much always first in priority by statute). So they’ll only be able to collect after any mortgages are paid off at the Sheriff’s Sale or equivalent. They may (state law here varies quite a bit) be able to chase after the individual homeowner(s) with a deficiency judgment, though.

As for me–whenever I get a house, may the good Lord save me from an HOA. :rolleyes:

My first house was in a HOA. It was a nice wooded lakeside community and most of the neighbors were great people but there was a group that wanted to turn things into a country club, with a corresponding increase in dues of course. There was a lot of turmoil over that. I miss the area but don’t miss the HOA. Now I just have to answer to the county, state, and federal governments. :rolleyes:

I doubt I would live under a HOA again, I think you should be able to do what you want with your property (within general community standards of course.) I don’t need a bunch of rules on boats or trucks or whether I can display a sign, or whether I can have more than one outbuilding or paint my house green.

Incidentally, HOAs are not necessarily the unbridled evil we tend to paint them as. If used properly, they can be an excellent tool to help improve a struggling neighborhood from the ground up. E.g., I’ve got a friend here who lives in this really weird neighborhood–you’ve got nice, well-maintained, middle class houses, and then you have white-trash falling down toys and trash littering the yard shitholes all next to each other on the same street. If I lived there, I’d seriously consider looking into trying to form an HOA to put pressure on the folks that bring down the area to shape up or ship out.

I think the answer’s been answered so I’ll go off on a tangent in sharing my HOA experiences. My childhood HOA growing started small and progressively increased their power and thank god I went off to college when I did. They were banning basketball hoops on streets, christmas lights past the new year, dog poop fines, trick-or-treat mandates and curfews (must at least put out a bowl, but close up shop by 10pm). I don’t think anything was ever enforced because we kept my basketball hoop up for a good 5 years past the ruling but it seemed petty and arbitrary.

The 2nd HOA is my current HOA and it’s exactly what an HOA should be. $50/year for leaf removal, biannual yard sale, and the president plows the sidewalks with his snowblower.

I don’t see how this would be possible: in my view either an HOA would have to be formed when the subdivision was created or you would need unanimous consent by all homeowners to form it later–and those who have trashy houses would not agree.

Yeah, I don’t know how the law works from the top of my head–I know one was formed in my parents’ town, in another part of town where it was needed, but I don’t know the mechanics of it.

I’m not making a value judgement on the lien, but…

Nitpick: what you are trying to describe is “clear title.” The debt isn’t required to be paid, just not present at close of a loan or sale. The lien could be cancelled by the imposing party or wiped out by a court action.

The Clerk of Court does not make an evaluation of the validity, she just accepts the papers. It’s not unheard of for a lien to be filed with the intention of fraud, for pressure on the owner, or due to mistaken identity. Paying the amount claimed isn’t the only way of discharging the apparent obligation.

(Emphasis added.)

Popular, from what I understand, with the sovereign citizen types.

I, of course, don’t know the specifics, but if the court issued a judgment against the “suburban anarchist”, that may be something different from an HOA lien. Whatever the rights the HOA has to impose and enforce a lien under the HOA declaration and state law, if there is a court judgment, the question is likely a state law question of what of anyone who has won a judgment may do to enforce the judgment.

In New York (and I assume other states) a court judgment becomes a lien against all real estate owned by the judgment debtor (i.e. the guy the judgment is against). Among the tools the judgment creditor (i.e. whoever won the judgment) may use to enforce the judgment is to foreclose the lien against the judgment debtor’s real estate (as well as attaching bank accounts, garnishing wages, etc.).