Man turns to ABC13 for help with homeowners association

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Linell Mason's lived in this southwest Houston townhome for 13 years. He's not a huge fan of the owners association.

"It's like every little thing is magnified," Mason said.

But he admits he owes dues and a few years ago got behind on them.

"I didn't have a job and then when I got the job back I started back to paying it," Mason said.

By the time he started paying his balance - it was more around $4,000. Back then, Linell was paying $300 a month - most of that eaten up by his monthly dues and late fees on the balance.

In April, lawyers for the association sent him a demand letter. They wanted Mason to pay $1000 right away and nearly $1300 dollars a month for 3 months to make the balance disappear.

"I told him like, you know, I can't pay that," Mason said. "I had to call somebody, I called all over town to try to get help. And originally I finally got a hold of you."

We got to work - and consulted Ryan Marquez, a consumer law expert at the University of Houston.

"They really need to take that very seriously," Marquez said. "The threats are very real."

He warns owners - HOAs can take your home for unpaid dues. So, if you can't pay right away, try to make a deal.

"Make sure you're being realistic in the terms and if you really can't make what they're offering, you explain that to them and tell them what you can do and maybe they can maximize the amount of time or sometimes they can waive certain penalties," Marquez said.

Linell tried that on his own.

No luck. We made some calls - and attorneys for the association assured us they just wanted to get paid after years of dealing with it. They extended the term from 3 months to 6.

Linell paid the first $1000 right away and promises he won't miss another payment.

We know Linell Mason isn't the only one getting demand letters from an HOA. We asked Ryan Marquez with the University of Houston's Center for Consumer Law for advice on how to handle cases like this.

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Ryan Marquez talks about HOAs and gives advice about what to do if you have a problem with your HOA.

"People have been foreclosed on for as little as $300 in annual assessments, dues and fees," Marquez said.

Marquez says if you get into a situation where you are choosing what to pay and not to pay, homeowner's dues should be at the top of the list. HOAs are one of the few entities in Texas that can actually take your home.

If you do get into a payment plan, be sure to stick to it.
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