Surprise! Oh By the Way There’s a Lien on Your Condo Because We Lost Your Address – Now Pay Up or Else!
I was bewildered a few weeks ago when my condo association’s Property Manger from The Continental Group (formerly Sterling Management, now First Service Residential) emailed me this response on how my new prospective renter’s application was coming along:
“You may want to look into your payments. It looks like you have a credit balance with the HOA but [your Building] has placed a lien on your unit and is currently at the attorney. This would need to be straightened out prior to approval [of the current prospective tenant's application].” Followed by “Until the delinquency is resolved the Board is reluctant to approve the application, which is their right pursuant to the declaration” and “Remember, the Board has two weeks to approve your tenant upon receipt …”
What? Surely there must be some mistake, I thought. How could there be a lien on my property when I’ve been making monthly payments for years? And more importantly, how could THIS be the first I’m hearing about it?
Now, I’m looking at a scanned copy of a lien letter -sent to the property itself, not to my address – three months ago. It lists over a thousand dollars in attorney’s fees, administrative fees, and other charges. I immediately paid the difference in what looks to have been an HOA price increase, but am disputing the rest of the charges, which could have been avoided with proper record keeping or even just a simple email or phone call from the property manager. And I am losing a thousand dollars each month my renter can not move in.
Three years ago, Sterling Management, which later became the Continental Group, had my correct address on file. I know this because I gave it to them, both in person and over the phone. And I know this because I received proxies, newsletters, and other mailings from the HOA, and the property manager is responsible for sending those mailings. But the property management company failed to maintain up-to-date records, and at some point they lost my proper mailing address.
HOA rates increased, but I kept paying the same amount. Extra fees were charged, but I kept paying the same amount. My account was allegedly “delinquent” but I kept paying the same amount.
Then demand letters were sent, reportedly ( although I never saw them). More fees were charged (never saw a breakdown of those charges either). Certified mail was sent to “me” under my maiden name of ten years ago but was returned to the Continental Group or the attorney or whoever sent it as “undeliverable.” All unbeknownst to me as I blindly kept paying the same amount.
I thought no news was good news. It’s wasn’t unusual for me to not hear anything about an HOA account, because I was making monthly payments. And not to mention, I was in fairly regular communication with the on-site Continental Group property manager and my former neighbors, some of them board members for our building’s HOA. The HOA had approved new renters before they were allowed to rent just six months ago, and the on-site property manager had coordinated it. No one had mentioned a problem then.
The property manager should have said something. Apparently,, six months ago the Continental Group’s on-site property manager mailed letters to the same location from which he sent them, to a person with whom he was personally coordinating a new prospective tenant’s application with, and whom he knew did not reside at his location or the location both from and to which he was mailing the demand letters. To break this down in plain English, I imagine the guy sitting in his office, licking a stamp for a letter that would end up stuffed in a mailbox within his line of sight. And while he’s printing out the label for the envelope to mail that letter, he’s meeting with the people who will soon live at the address on that envelope’s label. And he’s emailing the owner of that address on the label, who he knows doesn’t live there, but whose name is on the envelope to be mailed anyway. Did I mention the condo he’s mailing it to is visible from his office window?
Is it too much to ask of a property manager to be able to put two and two together? If it that’s too hard, is it too much to ask that the Company to automate that information and check it for errors every once in a while?
The property manager has still failed to provide a detailed breakdown of the alleged ” delinquent charges.” He refused to provide copies of any of the previously “sent” statements or demand letters. He refused to give me the contact information for the HOA Board president. He refused to provide the attorney proxies from 2010 and 2011 which were mailed to my current address and sent back and which will prove I provided them my address. The property manager refused to answer a question about when the continental group changed its own mailing information, because that too would prove they had my address ( they had to notify us by mail where to start sending our money when they moved). He refused to explain how it was that he re-acquired my correct address again the month after the lien was placed (I didn’t give it to him then). In fact, he is now refusing to cooperate at all, and has referred me to the attorney who referred me to him to provide this information in the first place.
The continental Group changed their name this week to First Service Residential. Their call center also refused to provide any account details about the account I’ve been making payments to but which is allegedly “delinquent.”
I am considering what the best course of action should be. Do I pay the mystery “administrative” and attorney and other fees totaling almost 2k that are being demanded, just so that I can get my renter approved? Do i pay for my own lawyer and drag this thing out? Is this extortion or just poor management? From now on, I guess I need to call every couple of months to ask, “so, do you guys still have my address on file?”