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.

Rating Rex’s Self-Management Report Card

Demonstrating all the transparency and humility we have come to expect from our supreme leader, Rex Weddle once again used SCA’s official house organ, the Spirit, to stroke the ego of the Board and GM by giving a glowing Self-management Report  Card. Although Rex didn’t give any letter grades, let’s fact-check his assertions of outstanding performance, and I’ll offer the letter grade I think is warranted:

SCA made the right decision to be self managed.

True. The former Boards’ grade should be a B for taking action based on specific plans and goals to correct deficiencies.
The current Board should get an F for failing to follow through on good work done by prior Boards.

SCA’s management company FSR needed to be replaced, but for more reasons than either Board acknowledges. FSR was double dealing by being both the managing agent and the debt collector following the collapse of the real estate market.

Even with a solid management agreement, previous Boards did not keep FSR from grabbing profits from abusive collection practices. Prior Boards were unaware of the negative impact these abuses had on owners’ property values. Their attention was overly focused on deterioration of property values caused by excessive deferred maintenance of the common areas.

The current Board has also over-emphasized catching up on deferred maintenance, and has not held itself or the GM accountable for other critical areas (customer service, owner relations, transparent communications, fair and open culture, strategic planning, protection of individual property values, and maintenance of high quality amenities and other lifestyle options). Ultimately, this Board has a failing grade because their lack of accountability to owners is supported by paying an attorney to say that the rules don’t apply to them.

According to Rex, a Human Resources model was included as part of the transition.

False. This Board scores an unequivocal F.

Adequate human resource systems are not in place needed to protect SCA from “employer liability”. It is a disgrace that since 2015, the GM has not presented ANY plans or timetables for developing these internal controls or for incorporating essential expert owner oversight. The most important feature of transitioning to self-management is that SCA is now an employer. This failure has already resulted in:

  • excessive management compensation (the GM gets $100,000+ more than the market requires and three other managers annually take in more than a quarter million dollars more than SCA should be paying);
  • lack of performance standards (GM bonuses provided without justification despite massive owner dissatisfaction with her performance);
  • lack of contractual service level expectations (they remain undefined and unmeasured);
  • lack of written terms and conditions controlling GM employment (no management agreement makes her an “at-will employee” who is subject to the SCA Personnel Handbook. Unfortunately for SCA owners, SCA’s attorney has fabricated imaginary“rights” for her that she has asserted against SCA in threats of frivolous litigation and that allow her to act like a “super Board member” rather than as staff).

No 2018 assessment increase.

True, but the grade is still D.

Assessments were increased without clear justification in 2017, and those excess funds have been repeatedly used as validation of the quality of self-management. But, many questions remain unanswered:

  • Why were rates increased in 2017 if $300,000 in budgeted transition costs were saved by reducing the 9 of the 12-month budgeted overlap of the GM and FSR?
  • Why was a 12-month overlap of the GM and FSR budgeted anyway?
  • Why was the entire 2017 rate increase transferred to reserves? If the assessment increase was intended to reserve for walls & fences, what happened to the construction defects settlement for the walls if there was no remediation of the defects?
  • Was the 2017 increase intended to bring up the reserves funding level? If so, that has nothing to do with the difference in operating costs between using a management company and being self managed.
  • Was it for the Liberty Center? If so, why was it not a one-time assessment?

Whatever the reason the 2017 assessments were increased by over 10%, it can’t be ignored while the Board congratulates itself and the GM for not having another assessment increase in 2018.

Per Rex, Tom Nissen’s December Board report comparing SCA to other self-managed HOAs, shows the transition is going well.

False. The grade is D.

Tom should be given credit for researching other HOAs, but should be given no credit for answering the wrong question and deserves no credit for  timeliness and no credit for owner participation.

Tom’s report simply reaffirms that going to self-management was the correct thing to do. It might also support the idea that it was good that the Board adopted a policy to increase the reserves by increasing assessments in 2017. Regardless, neither of these have anything to do with whether the Board and the GM are doing a good job in the transition to self-management.

Showing that SCA’s assessments are relatively low says nothing about cost-effectiveness or about any differences between using a management agent and being self managed. Further, comparing assessments with other HOAs is not really informative unless you eliminate all gated communities from the comparison.

“The Board has made it clear that the complete transition would take a minimum of three years. There is still much to do and more culture change to undergo.” -Rex

True, and yet, the grade is still a big, fat F.

If there is another 1 ½ years to complete the transition, what specifically is planned?

  • Why are there no written plans and timetables?
  • Why is there no transparency and no standards for GM accountability?
  • Why is this Board resisting the necessary culture change by treating owners who are even mildly critical of the Board or GM with such disdain?
  • Why has the Board strenuously rejected developing the committee structure needed to provide expert owner oversight over HR, legal services, insurance and other amenities that has been successful in other self-managed HOAs?
  • What steps has the Board or GM taken to change SCA’s culture to be more inclusive, fair and transparent?
  • What steps has the Board taken to ensure that SCA owners won’t be taken advantage of by unscrupulous agents?

The transition to self-management is very successful in handling deferred maintenance.

True. The grade could be an A, but since there is no transparency, no way of measuring cost effectiveness, and no standard for defining priorities, I can’t be that generous. But remember, no matter how well this portion of property management is done, the grade for it should count only as about 25% of an overall grade for a successful transition to self management, not be given the nearly 100% weight the Board has given it. 

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.