DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (CBS46) -- A Stone Mountain homeowner, Monique McDaniel, says her HOA — The Southland Owners Association — is abusing its power and putting her through blatant financial abuse.
McDaniel says she’s being intimidated into paying a debt, that she says she doesn’t owe, in order to avoid her property being foreclosed upon.
“They still want to hold me responsible for their filing a frivolous lawsuit against me, one that had no merit,” said McDaniel.
McDaniel has lived in her home in The Southlands Subdivision in Stone Mountain, for roughly 23 years, she says she’s paid her nearly $200 bi-annual HOA fees on time.
“They filed a foreclosure of lien against my property in March without giving me notice that they were of the opinion that I owed delinquent homeowner association dues,” McDaniel said. “They had not given me credit for many of my HOA dues I have paid in the last two years.”
In the DeKalb County Superior Court’s mandated mediation meeting held in September, she was able to prove she’s made all payments as due.
“I have copies of each and every check to them that they have timely endorsed,” McDaniel added.
But, instead of dropping the lawsuit, they’re demanding she pay a minimum of $3,000 for their attorney fees and court costs.
“It’s been draining financially, emotionally, psychologically,” said McDaniel.
CBS46’s Melissa Stern reached out to the HOA multiple times via email and phone for comment, but never heard back. She also reached out to their attorney, with Lazega & Johanson, and received the following statement:
The attorneys and paralegals at Lazega & Johanson LLC have represented non-profit community associations in Georgia for three decades. Community associations are in the unique position of operating and maintaining swimming pools, tennis courts, clubhouses, and other neighborhood or building amenities with their only funding being the dues paid by homeowners – who are all members of the association. Our Firm advises Georgia community associations as to a wide range of issues that arise, including contracts, insurance, covenant enforcement and more. We also help these communities collect unpaid, delinquent dues from their homeowners.
Numerous law firms across the country do the same type of work on behalf of non-profit community associations with boards of directors who volunteer their time to operate and maintain the financial health of the association.
Georgia and Federal laws regulate our collection practice. Our firm sends notices to owners/members who do not pay their legally assessed dues and we diligently seek to resolve these delinquent accounts before a lawsuit is filed against a member of a community association. However, if the member continues not to pay their required dues, then the financial stability of the neighborhood can be at risk. Georgia law allows for associations to use the local court systems to collect these past due balances. Georgia law also permits associations to recover from the member the attorney fees the association incurs in these collection actions, because the attorney fees were necessary only because of the member’s refusal to pay their legally required dues.
While we recognize and understand that the litigation process can be upsetting for the delinquent members/owners, these non-profit associations have an obligation to collect the reasonable amounts charged against each home so that they can fulfill their responsibilities to maintain and operate their communities.
Lazega & Johanson, LLC is proud of our practical and realistic approach when helping our community association clients maintain the financial health and operation of their Georgia communities.
McDaniel feels that as a result of their fraudulent lawsuit against her, she’s being intimidated into paying a debt she doesn’t owe.
“I’m still being expected, intimidated into paying attorney fees and court costs in order for them to drop their foreclosure lien lawsuit against me,” added McDaniel.
Had they informed her she was delinquent, she says she could have produced her checks and they wouldn’t be in this situation.
“It’s been devastating,” McDaniel said.