PHOENIX - You know the feeling when you get close to paying off a debt? It's great! A huge weight off your shoulders.
Well imagine thinking you're a few payments away, only to find out you owe way more than you thought.
It happened to Anthony Beltran of Chandler.
But this wasn't some random miscalculation on his part.
After fighting his way through bankruptcy, things were starting turn around for him.
But one debt that didn't go away were Homeowner's Association Fees.
He'd been paying it off for about a year and figured he had about $500 left, but wanted to know the exact amount.
Since Beltran received the debt notice from the HOA's attorney, he called them to find out.
He says they wouldn't tell him over the phone but offered to email him the information.
The email showed he owed $942.13
What? He thought he owed half of that!
"So I started digging through all of the files they'd emailed me," said Beltran. "That's when I saw the additional fees and I was dumbfounded."
Nearly half of the bill was for attorney fees.
Anthony couldn't believe it, so he let me know about it.
The ledger shows he was charged $225 in November just after he called the law firm.
That same day, the law firm charged another $112 for "anticipated attorney's fees."
"Maybe they were expecting my phone call," Beltran said.
We tried to get answers from the law firm, instead, they sent Anthony an email saying they wouldn't talk to us.
But they did take off the $112 anticipated attorney's fees from his bill.
Still, Beltran calls the whole experience outrageous.
"I don't believe they should have carte blanche to charge people whatever they feel is appropriate," he said.
But the truth is -- they can.
Law firms collecting debts are entitled to reasonable fees.
The question is, what is reasonable?
It seems lawyers get to determine that for themselves.
But you can try and fight it..
The Arizona Bar Association offers voluntary arbitration for legal fee disputes.
But there are stipulations. Both parties have to agree to do it, the charge must be more than $500 and the award is final and binding. Which means you can't contest it any further.