Nov 12, 2013 7:19 PM
Ingrid Boak did not realize participation in her homeowner's association was mandatory. It seems like a minor oversight, but it was a mistake that ultimately cost the 75-year-old German immigrant her Lexington home.
The Masterson Station Neighborhood Association sold Boak's house on Winding Oak Trail last month after she failed to pay six years worth of membership fees - or $48 per year.
Now, Boak is packing up a lifetime worth of memories and keepsakes while she prepares to find a new place to live. Meanwhile, she is renting her home from the company that bought the property, for which she paid $125,000 in 2007.
"I'm paying rent on my own house..." she said. "There is something wrong with that system."
The homeowner's association and attorneys sent at least 20 letters, notices and summonses to Boak's home since 2009, but the some of the mail never reached her, according to court documents. Boak, a horse trainer and business owner, is rarely home.
When letters did reach her, Boak says she threw them away because she thought the homeowner's association was a solicitous social group, and the $48-per-year was a fee to use the pool. She paid cash up-front for her house, and no one explained to her that the fee was mandatory, she said.
"I'm very cautious how I spend my money," she said. "If it is frivolous, I don't go for it."
She acknowledges that was a mistake, but she said she can't come to terms with the fact that her home was legally sold without her permission, or even her knowledge. She was first alerted to the sale when a neighbor found a note taped to her door from the buyer, who paid $93,500 for the house at a Master Commissioner's sale.
"I believe that if a house can be sold without me personally getting something in my hand or signing something ... it is almost like communism," Boak said.
Nathan Billings, an attorney for the Masterson Station Neighborhood Association, said the association did not know anyone lived at the house. The court appointed a "warning order attorney," whose job it is to make an effort to track down defendants in debt cases.
The warning order attorney also tried reaching Boak by certified mail, but the letter was returned. Despite a warning from that attorney that Boak "has not been notified of the nature and pendency" of the foreclosure, the case proceeded anyway.
The home was sold and the proceeds were divided up, according to court documents, among the homeowner's association, attorneys, the master commissioner and Boak. Boak received about $88,000 from the sale of her house, about $40,000 less than it was worth.
Routinely, homeowner's associations foreclose on abandoned homes once the owner has moved away or died, and those cases proceed much the same way as Boak's - with numerous letters sent out and no reply.
"Because of her failure to respond, the association had no way of knowing otherwise," Billings said.
However, Billings said he didn't know if anyone from the homeowner's association asked any of Boak's neighbors if she still lived there.
Jeff Jackson, who lives next door to Boak, said no one ever asked him if the home was vacant.
Jackson, a Lexington police officer, said it was common knowledge that Boak lived there, at least among her next-door and across-the-street neighbors.
He said he and others mowed her lawn and kept an eye on her property when she was travelling the country with her racehorses, and Boak would often leave presents and keepsakes for his kids when she was home.
"It's really a shame that such a quiet, sweet lady is getting put out on the street," he said.