Question: Our mother has been struggling with dementia that has worsened over the last year. We recently moved her from her Mesa home to an assisted living facility in Gilbert. The Mesa home is both a physical disaster (with numerous repairs necessary) and an HOA paperwork disaster. The HOA dues total more than $3,000, and have not been paid by my mother for over a year. In addition, there are numerous unpaid HOA fines of more than $2,000 for overnight parking in the street and for not making repairs to the exterior of the home. The HOA’s management company has told us that there will be a foreclosure lawsuit filed shortly for the delinquent HOA dues of $3,000. The home is free and clear and worth $185,000. My sister and I are both elderly ourselves, and both of us live on fixed retirement income. What can we do to not lose the home to foreclosure?

Answer: First, you have to stop the filing of any foreclosure lawsuit. If you and your sister can pay some of the HOA delinquent dues of $3,000, the HOA may agree to not file a foreclosure lawsuit if you and your sister agree to a payment schedule. Otherwise, if a foreclosure lawsuit is filed by the HOA for the $3,000 delinquent HOA dues, there will be title report costs, court costs, attorneys’ fees, etc. that you and your sister will have to pay to stop the foreclosure lawsuit in addition to the $3,000 delinquent HOA dues. Second, the unpaid $2,000 in fines that the HOA has imposed cannot be the subject of a foreclosure lawsuit, and can only be a lien payable upon sale of your mother’s home. Thus, the unpaid $2,000 in fines are not a major problem at this time. Third, if you don’t have the money to “fix up” your mother’s home, you should immediately list the home with a broker to sell the home as a “fixer upper.” You should also confirm that the homeowner’s insurance has not been canceled for lack of payment. Although property taxes may be owed, that foreclosure process requires a lawsuit and is a lengthy one. Finally, you did not say whether your mother has an estate plan, including a durable power of attorney which could give you or your sister the authority to act on your mother’s behalf. Bottom line: You should see an attorney as soon as possible who specializes in elder law and who may recommend bankruptcy for your mother.

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