For many homeowners in Illinois and around the country, homeowner associations are a good thing. Residents of a neighborhood or condominium complex can pool their money to put toward lawn maintenance, snow plowing, or upkeep of tennis courts or swimming pools — things that residents might not be able to afford if they were seeking the same services for just their own single-family homes.

People who live in homes that are part of an association are responsible for paying dues, usually on a monthly or annual basis, to go toward this maintenance. It usually doesn’t matter if a homeowner doesn’t use the services covered as part of the dues, such as neighborhood parties or swimming pool upkeep; everyone has to contribute a preset amount. People who don’t do so could find liens placed on their homes — and, as one woman found out recently, even be subject to foreclosure.

The 75-year-old woman traveled frequently for work and thus didn’t avail herself of the features her neighborhood association paid for, such as a clubhouse and social activities. She received notices from her homeowner association for several years, but she ignored them. She thought that because she didn’t participate in the activities, she didn’t need to pay.

The association sent her almost 30 notices, all of which were ignored. As a result, the association foreclosed on the woman’s house and sold it when she was out of town. Had the woman known the situation was so dire, she might have contacted an attorney to attempt to stave off foreclosure. Instead, she is now renting the home from its new owner.

Source: Reuters, “Insight: Underfunded U.S. homeowner associations get heavy,” Michelle Conlin, Jan. 8, 2014