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Homeowners’ Associations

Q:I got behind in paying my dues to the homeowners’ association where I live. Now they are threatening to foreclose on my house. Does the law protect me from this?

A:Many subdivisions have homeowners’ associations. Among other things, these organizations collect dues to pay for management of common areas and set the rules for property use and upkeep that association members must follow. Homeowners’ associations generally have the authority to enforce association rules and property covenants, including the power to foreclose on a property.

Last year, the Legislature passed SB 507, the Texas Residential Property Owners Protection Act, which gives homeowners new protections when dealing with property owners’ associations. This law applies to all residential subdivisions where the property owners’ association has the power to collect fees or dues and where most or all of the property owners in the subdivision are required to join the organization. The law does not apply to condominium developments. Under SB 507, a property owners’ association may not foreclose on a lien when the debt owed consists solely of fines assessed by the association or attorney’s fees associated with those fines. If an association does foreclose on a property for other reasons and sells it at auction, the former owner will have 180 days to reclaim the property.

To do this, the former owner must repay all of the outstanding property assessments, foreclosure costs, interest and other fees owed to the association, minus the amount the association received from the foreclosure sale. The former owner must also pay the new owner the purchase price of the property and the taxes, interest and fees paid by the new owner after the foreclosure.
After an auction sale, the new owner may not resell the property until the 180-day period has expired.

Q:The homeowners’ association wants to restrict my right to use the neighborhood pool. Can they do this?

A:Homeowners’ associa-tions generally have the power to enforce their rules. However, under SB 507, the association must now give written notice before suspending a homeowner’s right to use common areas, assessing charges for property damage or assessing a fine for violation of association rules. In most circumstances, the owner will have the right to request a hearing on the issue and must be given a reasonable amount of time to fix the violation. If the association sues a homeowner and foreclosure is not involved, either side may request mediation of the dispute.

Q:I’ve tried without success to work with my homeowners’ association to resolve our differences. They won’t even let me look at the minutes from the last association board meeting, when my problem was discussed. Can the Attorney General help me?

A:Most homeowners’ associations are required to follow the rules and procedures laid out in the Public Information Act and the Open Meetings Act. Under SB 507, these associations will also be required to make their books and records, including financial records, reasonably available to members. In addition, each association must now file a management certificate with the county.

While we do enforce the terms of the Public Information Act, the administrative policies and procedures of property owners’ associations are not subject to review by my office. Therefore, you should consult a private attorney about your situation. The Open Meetings Act is enforced by the district attorneys of the state. Questions or concerns about the conduct of an association meeting should be addressed to your local prosecutor.