Elderly home owner loses home to HOA

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Alfred Thompkins is battling kidney failure, heart disease and high blood pressure. But it's the fight against his Home Owners Association that's taking a toll on the 74 year old.

"It's been traumatic" says Thompkins, who retired to Charlotte after working 50 years in New York.

In 2004, Thompkins paid $154,953.00 for a house on Brightleaf Place. It's part of Davis Lake Community Association.

Thompkins says a couple of years after he moved in, his niece and her son and daughter came to live with him.

Thompkins says he went to register the kids at the club house and pool but was told he couldn't. So he started to withhold home owner dues.

"Why am I paying if my kids can't use the clubhouse" Thompkins says. "That's when I decided to stop paying."

His decision to stop paying dues turned out to be costly. It violated The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions for Davis Lake Community Association.

Did Thompkins know he could lose his house because didn't pay dues?

"No I did not. I did not come down for the closing" Thompkins says.

Chris Osborn, who teaches at Charlotte School of Law, says "typically it's part of the package that's presented at closing on a real estate transaction. If the home or the condominium is subject to the Planned Community Act or the Condominium Act, there are disclosures that talk about the obligations that come along with having a home owners association, particularly a home owners association that is mandatory."

Osborn says "in those disclosures there would be some reference to the fact that there will be dues assessed, those dues will be collected. and if not paid the Association has certain rights and remedies. One of which, is if the home owner's dues go unpaid, a lien can be placed on that property. And like any other lien - like a tax lien, like a judgement from a civil action - the property ultimately can be sold to foreclose on that lien in order to satisfy that debt."

The Davis Lake Community Association declined to talk to WBTV about the case but according to court documents at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, Davis Lake Community Association began legal action.

In April 2011, documents show Davis Lake claimed a lien - which the court granted - because of "past due association assessments."

Thompkins says "I didn't freak out behind the lien placed on the property because Wells Fargo has the first mortgage." Thompkins says he took out a reverse mortgage on the house. So he assumed the house was safe.

Court records show the Davis Lake Community Association filed several documents. There were hearings but Thompkins never showed up or contested the process.

Eventually - according to one document - Davis Lake Community Association has acquired title to and is in possession of the subject property by deed. The Association elected to exercise power conferred upon it by law to foreclose it.

Court records say there was "no valid reason presented at the hearing as to why the Association should not foreclose."

Records show Thompkins' house was put for sale at a public auction in April 2013 at the Mecklenburg County Civil Courts Buildings.

Thompkins says "I did receive a notice from them saying there was an auction and hearing of some sort. I never saw that notice. My niece signed for it."

According to court records, "the last and highest bidder for the said property at the price of $3,913,25."

Court documents say the $3,913.25 is the result of $2,087.40 was "obligations to Home Owners Association." Attorney fees added $1,162.00. Other costs, including court costs and Register of Deeds fees, were part of the total.

The house for which Thompkins saved and paid just under $155,000.00 in cash was no longer his. It was auctioned off for less than $4,000.00.

"Next thing I know a man came to the door and said your house has been sold. You can rent the property from the new owner if you'd like" Thompkins says.

Thompkins called his relatives in New York and asked for help. They began moving his possessions out of the house on Wednesday September 25th.

These days, he's staying at a family friend's house.

"I miss my home because I had the freedom to come and go and do whatever I wanted in my home" Thompkins says, "It was my prized possession. I was very proud of it. It's full of antiques."

Thompkins is holding out hope he will be back in his house.

He says he contacted Wells Fargo - the bank that has the reverse mortgage. According to Thompkins, Wells Fargo said "they {home owners association} couldn't do that."

Thompkins says "obviously Wells Fargo is not aware of the power that these HOA's have in grabbing properties from people. I've never experienced anything like this before in my life."

He has until Friday to remove all of his possessions from the house.

Thompkins says the representative at Wells Fargo told him he should be able to get back in his house by Saturday.

But is he prepared for the worst case scenario?

"I think about it constantly" Thompkins says.

Copyright 2013 WBTV. All rights reserved.