The house that took over a life

Six years ago today my fiance Bruce died, leaving me to deal with an underwater house that has consumed many of my waking hours to this day.

The story of this house, the source of so much aggravation, is the poster child for how homeowners and HOAs have been victimized by banks, debt collectors, managers and attorneys in the aftermath of the housing market crash a decade ago.

Long story short starts with the banks

  • Housing market crashed.
  • Bruce died at the bottom of the market.
  • He left a trust with one asset – an underwater house.
  • The banks would not refinance it nor approve any short sale.
First plot twist

In the vast majority of the legal battles over an HOA foreclosure, the homeowner is gone before the fight.  The homeowner doesn’t fight if the delinquent debtor was a deadbeat, debilitated by debt, or died.

I am not a deadbeat, or even the debtor, nor debilitated nor dead.

I am a fiduciary, fighting for the rights of Bruce’s trust.

Back to the bank….
  • After B of A botched several sales, I refused to keep paying maintenance costs, such as HOA assessments and utilities.
  • B of A took possession but would not take title and did not foreclose nor accept a deed in lieu offer from me.
  • Nationstar took over servicing from B of A, but Nationstar’s investor also refused to close any deal no matter how good the offer was.
Enter SCA agents to try to beat the bank
  • Story continues for a couple of years.with SCA agents starting and stopping, scheduling and then withdrawing a threatened  foreclosure for delinquent assessments
  • B of A tendered the super-priority portion of delinquent SCA assessments, but SCA’s agents (FSR and Red Rock Financial Services) refused to accept less than their version of full payment – very similar to the $55,000 Citibank settlement Rex reported out from the December 7 Board meeting.
  • After SCA’s agents cancelled the foreclosure sale multiple times, they sold it in 2014 to a Realtor for 18% of its value, $63,100 without ANY notice to me, my agent, or the bank. This Realtor worked in the Berkshire-Hathaway office where my listing agent worked.
Unbeknownst to the SCA Board, its agents were secretly working for themselves
  • SCA’s agents told the Ombudsman that the sale was cancelled, but then secretly held the sale anyway and did not EVER report to the Ombudsman that a foreclosure sale had occurred.
  • After the surprise sale in 2014, SCA agents credited SCA with only $2,700 of the $63,100 sale proceeds as payment in full, and SCA agents unlawfully kept the $60,400 balance.
  • FSR did not ever report in HOA records that the house was sold to the Realtor, or that the Realtor ever paid any assessment enhancement fees or new owner fees.
  • HOA records (created by FSR) are in direct conflict with recorded documents and show that a dentist took possession after the foreclosure, not the Realtor named on the foreclosure deed created by FSR.
  • There are two recorded title changes in the county records that do not exist in SCA’s records for which FSR has some explaining to do.

SCA is in, but can’t win

Three lawsuits to quiet title from 2015 to the present have thousands of pages of documents filed.

SCA is in the middle of this complex litigation even though there is nothing SCA can win and where there is nothing to lose but attorney fees.

Lawsuit 1

The dentist who currently has possession of Bruce’s house sued SCA and B of A for quiet title in 2015.

Records conflict about when the dentist took possession of Bruce’s house. It was either in 2014 after SCA agents foreclosed (which is what SCA records say), or he took possession in 2015 when he recorded a fraudulent quit claim deed (which is what County records say).

The court issued a judgment of default against B of A who did not respond to the summons. SCA was still in the lawsuit because the dentist inexplicably never served SCA a notice to appear.

Lawsuit 2

In 2016 Nationstar sued the Realtor who held the foreclosure deed, but then found out about lawsuit 1.

Nationstar took B of A’s place in the lawsuit. even though neither bank is owed any money from the mortgage.

Lawsuit 3

On behalf of Bruce’s trust, I sued all parties in 2017 to claim the title should be returned to Bruce’s trust because the foreclosure sale was conducted unlawfully in SCA’s name by SCA agents.

The dispute over the title to Bruce’s house is between me, the dentist, and the bank.

SCA has no financial interest in the title and was already paid in full for delinquent assessments in 2014.

Why is SCA being sued for its agents’misconduct?

SCA’s former agents foreclosed under SCA’s  statutory authority.

SCA is responsible for its agents, and the SCA Board is responsible for ensuring that its agents act lawfully.

SCA Board President Rex and SCA’s current agents refused to negotiate or do anything whatsoever to attempt resolution without litigation.

SCA could have gotten out of the litigation without cost by simply stating that the Board did not authorize SCA’ former agents to conduct the foreclosure sale unlawfully and affirming that no current or former Board member profited from the non-compliant sale.

How does this all relate to the big picture of protecting homeowners from being forced to pay for agents’ misconduct?

What happened to Bruce’s house has happened a thousand times in Nevada in the last decade.

After getting rid of FSR, SCA jumped from the frying pan into the fire and hired Alessi & Koenig in 2015 to be SCA’s debt collector attorneys without noticing that they had been sued in 500 of 800 HOA foreclosures they conducted between 2011-2015.

The situation worsened when Alessi & Koenig hid their assets from creditors, dissolved their corporation and morphed into HOA Lawyers Group. SCA continued to use HOA Lawyers Group after they were put on notice of the fraudulent scheme.

The downward spiral in how SCA handles debt collections continues to this day by contracting with the Clarkson Law Group despite their unethical practices designed to prevent these problems from being disclosed to the membership.

A 2017 UNLV/Association of Realtors study showed that HOA foreclosures have cost the real estate market $1 billion due to the approximately 700 cases they identified  Clark and Washoe Counties alone between 2013 and early 2016.

HOA Boards statewide have been duped (like SCA Board has been) into facilitating this major rip-off contrary to the financial interests of the associations and their members.

Next time:

The high price of protection
Analysis of the UNLV study estimating $1 billion property value loss due to HOA foreclosures in Clark and Washoe Counties alone.

Is SCA Board retaining lawful control of the budget?

Just saying that the Board acted “on the advice of counsel” doesn’t cut it

If the Board learned and followed these simple legal requirements, the GM and the attorney would be prevented from taking control of our budget and spending our money for something other than our benefit:

NRS 116.31151 (1)(a) requires the Board to prepare and distribute to owners a “budget for the daily operations of the association” which per CC&Rs 8.1(d) is deemed ratified “Unless 90% of all Owners reject the budget…”
The budget is distributed as required and is always ratified. No surprise. Hard to imagine 90% of all owners being mobilized to object to any budget the Board puts forward, but at least everybody knows what expenditures the Board has approved. 

NRS 116A.620 (1)(i) requires any management agreement to define spending limits for the GM.
Here’s the start of the slippery slope toward abdicationSCA Board and GM did not execute a management agreement nor have spending limits for the GM been defined. Pretty easy to rob Peter to pay Paul and then blame Peter for the missing money.

Per SCA bylaws 3.20, the SCA Board is prohibited from delegating policy control over the budget or, for that matter, deciding the amount of assessments, or deciding who can open bank accounts or sign checks or enforce the governing documents.
Here’s where SCA is really careening down that slippery slope. SCA is unprotected by not the Board not defining GM spending limits or service-level expectations in the legally-mandated terms of a management agreement.
Of course, without an agreement, the GM is not legally protected either. She is just an “at-will” employee, meaning she can be fired for any reason or no reason, just not a discriminatory reason. Her terms & conditions of employment are defined in the SCA Personnel Handbook and nowhere else.
But, don’t feel sorry for her. Not only does the Board coddle her, the SCA attorney has
 magically , albeit unethically, created “rights” for the GM that do not exist in black letter law and which are in direct conflict to the interests of the membership.

SCA bylaws 4.6 requires two Board members must sign all checks for any amount, and bylaws 3.25 requires that directors act on an informed basis while carrying out this duty, i.e., sign a check only if it is for something that has been approved in the budget.
Two Board members do sign all checks, but they may as well let the GM use a rubber stamp.

SCA Board Policy Manual 4.10 limits authority to request legal opinions to the Board as a whole or, in narrowly defined circumstances, to the President for the purpose of “…assessing the legal risks on actions under consideration…”. This provision specifically limits the GM’s authority to “…contact legal counsel regarding NRS 116 or other compliance issues…” not to act only “on the advice of counsel”. The SCA-Clarkson Law Group legal services agreement ONLY allows the attorney to provide legal opinions in response to specific Board requests. The attorney has NO decision-making authority over SCA policies.
Previous Boards had enough common sense to govern SCA without having to spend four times the budget to get the attorney to bless every action before it’s taken.
But then, Clarkson is a bully who has, using tactics bordering on elder abuse, and in clear violation of his professional standards of conduct, convinced the Board that it is a violation of their fiduciary duty to act without consulting him even in areas outside his firm’s practice specialty.
As a result, the President and the GM blithely use the attorney far in excess of what is legally permissible for self-serving purposes and in defiance of all common sense.

In conclusion…

The GM’s takeover of the SCA budget is happening on a grand scale because the attorney has blessed it (thereby being unjustly enriched), and the Board (who thereby gets to stay in power) self-righteously allows such foolishness as:

  • Spending an unbudgeted $85,000 for a CPA to do the Election Committee’s normal job to mess up the recall election was allowed by the GM solely “upon the advice of counsel”, but absent the inconvenience of legal Board action.
  • Six months spending for legal services was approved in the budget to cap at $45,000, but four times that amount, $185,000, was spent by the GM without any formal Board action to approve it and without conforming to the laws governing civil actions (NRS 116.31088), or sanctions for violations of governing documents (NRS 116.31085, CC&Rs 7.4) or limits on authority of the Board (NRS 116.3103, NRS 116.31036, NRS 116.31084) or owners rights (NRS 116.1104, NRS 116.31083, NRS 116.31175), or good faith  (NRS 116.1113, NRS 116.1112), and prohibition against harassment and retaliation (NRS 116.31183, NRS 116.31184).

I’m as amazed as you are at their gall.

Who benefits from spending SCA homeowners’ money?

Assessments levied against the unit owners’ property can only be used for the sole and exclusive benefit of the membership of the Association, e.g., maintenance of the common areas, actions to protect the property values of all our homes, preserving amenities and high quality lifestyle.

It is not ever acceptable for the Board, the GM or the attorney to put their personal, financial or political interests ahead of the interests of owners AKA “the common good“.

Therefore, allowing SCA management or agents to spend owners’ money for highly controversial and unbudgeted purposes that provide no benefit to SCA membership should not be tolerated.

Board decisions must always be evaluated against the standard of “Who benefits by it?
If the answer is anybody or anything other than “the common good“, don’t do it.

Here are some examples where no benefit accrued to “the common good“, but they did it anyway.

  • The SCA membership lost when the Board vindictively evicted the Foundation Assisting Seniors after the GM failed to mediate a mutually-acceptable solution to CSG’s problems, blamed the Foundation President, and made up a silly story to justify forcing members to pay more after damaging a valued community resource.
  • Paying $85,000 for a CPA to conduct the recall election in a manner designed to keep the current Board majority from being recalled for cause provided no benefit to the association. It was more than a waste of owners’ money to keep those Board members in power. It allowed the attorney and the GM to keep their over-compensated jobs, too.
  • Paying untold thousands of dollars to make repeated threats of frivolous litigation of defamation against a Board member and unlawful orders for her to  cease & desist making inquiries regarding GM compensation clearly wasted owners’ money. It’s easy to see how using the attorney this way was protecting the GM and her fat paycheck. But, it’s impossible to see how such extreme action was protecting the association.
  • There is no benefit to the association for the Board to unlawfully remove an elected Board member on the false charge that she is making a profit from her Board position. It is simply a power trip and a nasty way of showing 2,000 voters that their votes don’t matter.

December 7 Board meeting: Part 4 Penny wise, pound foolish

SCA agreed to pay $55,000 to settle dispute over $4,400 delinquent dues

In his President’s report, Rex reported the Release and Settlement of A-14-702071-C.  SCA agreed to pay Citi Mortgage  $55,000 as full and final settlement of all claims in a case where the homeowner defaulted and so the fight was between SCA and a bank. This is an example of how the Board is very wasteful by not avoiding problems or solving them when they are small. The excessive use of attorneys is a core failing of this Board under Rex.

Rex stated that Citi insisted on confidentiality and so he could not comment further. I seriously doubt that because what I’m going to tell you is in the public record. I happen to be familiar with this case from before I went on the Board. I learned nothing about it as a Board member because I was forced to recuse myself from ANY SCA collection matter “so as to prevent even the appearance of impropriety” regardless of whether it had any bearing on my quiet title case whatsoever.

Long story short.

In 2014, SCA’s agent RRFS refused to accept Citi ’s tender of the $825 super-priority portion of SCA’s lien for delinquent assessments claiming it was less than the full super-priority amount due. After four years of nonpayment of assessments ($275/quarter x 16 quarters = $4,400), RRFS claimed Citi owed $17,591.81. Citi paid it under protest, and RRFS cancelled the SCA foreclosure sale. Citi filed to get $16,766.81 back from RRFS that the NV Supreme Court said it was unlawful to force Citi to pay more than $825, the amount that has “super-priority” over the bank’s loan.

The Court ruled in Citi ’s favor against SCA, a year ago, stating:

…(SCA’s) position ignores the question presented in this action, whether a homeowners’ association can force a first-security lienholder, or agent acting on its behalf, to satisfy the entirety of its lien, rather than pay the super-priority piece to protect its secured interest. The Court concludes it cannot.

Even though this overcharging was done by SCA’s former agent’s, SCA was on the hook for it since RRFS was acting on SCA’s behalf. I don’t know why SCA even stayed in the fight. Why didn’t they make RRFS pay it and get out of the litigation years ago? Anyway, SCA deposited $5,000 with the court last December toward the $16,766.81 the Court ordered SCA to pay Citi . Then,  Citi demanded $51,000+ in attorney fees and court costs.

Bottom line:

SCA owners are on the hook for $55,000 to settle with a bank over the misdeeds SCA’s former agent in collecting delinquent assessments of less than $5,000.

  • Wouldn’t writing off $3,575 in delinquent assessments have made more sense?
  • Or even better, shouldn’t SCA handle assessment collection in house rather than being on the hook for the wrongdoing of unscrupulous attorneys and debt collectors?
  • Can you see any risk SCA homeowners face by my telling you about all this?
  • Can you see any way I would profit by sharing this information with owners?

I guess you can see that the real risk is to the attorney’s profits. That’s why attorney Clarkson (SCA’s current legal counsel and debt collector) insisted that I be forced to recuse myself from all SCA collection issues even if they are not remotely connected to my quiet title action. 

Cost of collections and fraud by SCA agents are other reasons SCA needs to be (better) self-managed.

Here is another reason SCA needed to go to self-management that Tom didn’t mention and probably isn’t even aware of. FSR was actually unfairly profiting from failing to pay SCA asset enhancement fees and new owner set up fees when there was a foreclosure. This happened twice with my late fiance’s house so it’s a better than even bet that this scam was done when other houses were snatched for a few dollars of delinquent assessments.

October Financial Report

This issue is also connected to a good reason why SCA needs to be self-managed, but also needs to have better control over its agents and managers.

The CFO reported that the revenue from Asset Enhancement Fees are $103,268 over budget. SCA gets 1/3 of 1% of the sale price when a home is sold, and other fees associated with home sales are up a similar amount. This is due to an increase in the number of sales reported to SCA which is, in small part, due to SCA’s former agents not crediting SCA with these fees upon sale of foreclosed properties. Title to my late fiance’s house was transferred three times in country property records, and FSR twice failed to record that SCA was paid any of those fees as if two of those three sales never happened. Those two incidences can’t be the only times that SCA was shorted fees due to us.

I mention this not just because it’s something nobody else would notice, but SCA’s way of handling collections is flawed and when I offered evidence of it, I was seriously and wrongfully attacked. I reported this problem to Lori Martin and Rex Weddle before I decided to run for the Board and they refused to even talk to me about it, let alone assess the degree of loss to SCA. I included it in my court filings in the quiet title case, and our current attorney (who is also SCA’s debt collector) used it as a bogus justification for kicking me off the Board (putting matters before the Board from which I could make a profit) rather than looking at how SCA was getting ripped off by our agents who are supposed to be fiduciaries.

CFO Jim also reported that there are 45 cases in collections with $77,000 outstanding. This is a small amount, a fraction of the nearly $9 million in annual assessment revenue, but it is a completely unsatisfactory level of accounting and reporting to prevent problems. This level of Board control/owner oversight is insufficient to prevent possible mismanagement, theft or fraud by SCA agents.

Turning collections over to attorneys when there is only a budgeted projection of having to write off $12,000 in 2018 is a gross waste of money. It is truly fighting fire with Napalm, and then making owners pay for all the collateral damage.