Couple heads to court in HOA late fee case

PHOENIX - Imagine defending yourself in court, against your Homeowner's Association.

Phoenix couple Ted and Laurie Koch did just that after they say Desert Ridge Community Association (DRCA) unfairly charged them fees they were never told about.

The Kochs say it started when they were living out of state during the summer of 2016. They say they didn't get an invoice to their forwarding address and as a result forgot to pay the twice-a-year assessment of $186 dollars.

Related: Neighbors question high HOA fees

When back in town, Ted says he went in person to settle up the bill and the First Service Residential Management company agreed to waive the $15 late fee. But just in case, Ted says he wrote a check for double the amount.

"Just to make sure we're not late again and if I owe anything else this should cover it," he said.

That didn't happen and Ted's bill was climbing. He says no one bothered to tell him until February 2017. By then he says, even more fees had accumulated and he couldn't get anyone with the management company to respond.

Related: How a HOA late fee turned into thousands

"I mean I do everything in good faith to pay bills and here they are...I'm turned over to an attorney," Ted says.

Since then the Kochs have gone through mediation, had a lien put on their home and are potentially on the hook for thousands of dollars in HOA attorneys fees.

Through it's attorneys, DRCA told me it gives homeowners "a minimum of five written notices which give each member the opportunity to resolve any delinquency before it is turned over to the law firm in accordance with the Desert Ridge collection policy."

Something the HOA attorneys attempted to illustrate during the trial with witness testimony from two employees from First Service Residential management company. 

The first witness, Terrence Smith, serves as the general manager for the DRCA. He testified to the requirements of the community CC&Rs.  Another employee Karen Hale testified to the reasoning behind the fees that the Kochs were charged and that according to the company's records and the CC&Rs, the Kochs were mailed a notice about each one.

Ted was his only witness. He testified that he never received the notices of delinquency and that when he contacted the management company, "no one calls you back."

For something so important, Ted questioned why the HOA in the neighborhood where he has lived and paid for 21 years didn't try harder.

"No phone calls, no emails, no nothing?," he asked.

The judge has not yet issued a ruling.

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