By MELODY JAMESON
Sun City Center — Cracking down on its excessively delinquent dues evaders, the Community Association here is turning to extreme measures: foreclosure actions on their homes to settle the debts.
Among approximately 11,000 members of the SCC CA — owners of thousands of homes in various neighborhoods across the 50-year-old retirement community straddling both sides of S.R. 674 – 137 currently are delinquent in paying their $256.00 per person annual membership dues. Among these non-payers are a half dozen who owe more than $2,000 and another 31 who are behind between $1,000 and $2,000, CA President Ed Barnes said this week.
Together, their unpaid debt to the association totals more than $100,000, Barnes said.
Such high dollar delinquencies reflect years of skipping out on a membership obligation codified as a covenant in most property deeds and accepted by new owners, usually immediately following completion of their home purchases at the transaction closings, Barnes noted. It is these three dozen most severely past due debtors who now top the pending foreclosure list, he added.
While CA dues, which entitle every member to full use of the wide range of recreational and club facilities on three major campuses, have been creeping up year by year, Sun City Center’s membership rate still remains far below the fees expected from residents in similar communities, Barnes pointed out. In other communities, he noted, the monthly or quarterly recreational or homeowner association fees for access to fewer features and activities can range from $300 to $500 – annually many times the SCC dues rate.
Those SCC dues support the many facilities and activities available to its residents, the president emphasized. “The CA is responsible for maintaining the campuses and we need to collect the dues owed, including the backlog, to meet the standard expected.”
For years, the CA has dealt with accruing overdue membership balances by placing liens against members’ residential properties in the community for the amount due, Barnes explained. “If the liens were not discharged at some point by homeowners catching up the back due balances, then they (the liens) would have to be paid as part of the final settlements whenever the properties changed hands in resales,” he said.
However, several circumstances including a downturn in the real estate resale market have combined to reduce the effectiveness of liens alone in collecting overdue membership fee debt, Barnes indicated. “We’re now forced to take a more radical approach to collections,” he added.
Consequently, the CA board has developed a specific foreclosure policy and process which is effective immediately, Barnes said. Because the three dozen property owners with the most egregious long term balances outstanding all are CA members and liens filed with Hillsborough County already have attached to their property records, they soon will be receiving formal notices of the potential foreclosure actions, he added.
“We will give them 30 days to pay the back dues amount and only that amount,” the president said. But, he added, if the debt is not settled within the one-month period and the CA must proceed with the foreclosure to collect the debt $1,800 in legal fees is added to the back dues amount, creating a new and higher balance owing in each case. Balances paid after the foreclosure action is filed but before the matter actually is heard in court probably can be settled for a lesser amount in legal fees, Barnes indicated.
The CA already has proceeded with one such legal filing and it has been settled satisfactorily, prior to a court hearing, the president added.
“I regret that we have to be so hardnosed about this in order to collect the fees owed,” Barnes summed up, “but we cannot allow members to blow off their dues obligations for years. That is not fair to the members who meet their obligations, even when it may be difficult to do so. Our new policy is fair and equitable for everyone.”
Copyright 2010 Melody Jameson