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Phoenix Landmark condo owners fight $15,000-plus HOA assessments — and win

The bill arrived unexpectedly by email in May. It was from her Landmark Towers condominium homeowners association. The midtown Phoenix tower's air-conditioning needed a major fix, and her share to pay for it was $18,000. Francine Hardaway said she "freaked out." "I was horrified and frightened," said Hardaway, founder of Phoenix-based Stealthmode Partners. "When I bought my condo in 2011, it was at the height of the recession. I bought it for cash thinking that if everything went to hell in a handbasket, I could live there." She rents out the condo in the iconic 17-story tower and doesn't own another home. After getting the email, she immediately called a friend who lives and owns a condo in Landmark. He told her they were all upset and asked her to come to the tower to talk. "I thought I might lose my safety-net home," Hardaway said. "I lost my retirement in the last housing crash and recession. I paid $58,000 cash for my Landmark condo, and it's about all I have to retire to." She banded together with a handful of other Landmark condo owners angry and confused about the unexpected $5 million charge. They all thought fixes to the high rise's air-conditioning system already had been paid for and were almost done, using about $6 million received in a construction-defect lawsuit settlement in 2013. The HOA assessment for a new HVAC system would have cost each of them at least $15,000 per condo. Many other owners in the 236-condo high-rise said the same thing as Hardaway: They could not afford the assessment, and it could cost them their home. The group immediately started talking to other Landmark condo owners, sending out emails to their neighbors and going door to door. They only had a few weeks until the assessment went to a vote. They also repeatedly reached out to Landmark's HOA board to get an explanation about the charge. "Talks went nowhere," Hardaway said. Foreclosure possibility looms When people buy a condo or a house that's part of an HOA, they agree to abide by a lengthy set of rules known as the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, or CC&Rs. Along with monthly or quarterly assessments, the CC&Rs also allow an association to levy a special assessment for major, unexpected repairs, if a certain number of residents approve. If homeowners don't pay their dues for more than a year, or rack up a debt of $1,200 in missed regular or special assessments, an HOA can foreclose. HOAs foreclosed on a record number of homes in Maricopa County last year, and are on pace to match the record again this year. “I talked to several Landmark homeowners, many who are young and were concerned because they couldn’t afford to pay the assessment,” said Banner, who sold one of his condos since the fight over the special assessment began. “They were afraid the HOA would foreclose on them.”
source: / story/news/local/arizona-investigations/2017/11/13/phoenix-landmark-condo-owners-win-fight-15000-hoa-assessments/830512001/
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