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$450 unpaid, home auctioned

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

The homeowners association auctions a couple's East Lake home to recover dues that fell in arrears.

After battling colon cancer for more than a year, Linda Hammer might lose her Boot Ranch home because she did not pay $450 in homeowners association fees.

Last March, the homeowners association filed a foreclosure suit to recoup the unpaid fees by taking her house. Last month, the property was sold at auction.

Now Mrs. Hammer, 58, is battling in court to keep her home. The house is assessed for tax purposes at $154,000, but, based on similar sales, the Property Appraiser's Office estimates it could sell for nearly $205,000. She said she fell behind on bills during her illness but has worked to make sure her mortgage is current. She said she didn't realize she could lose her house by not paying her homeowners association fees.

"I was concentrating on making the house payments and trying to keep the place up," she said. "I really did not understand that this is what was going on."

Some neighbors see the foreclosure as cold and outrageous.

"You just don't do things like that," said Rob Bergquist, who lives down Eagle Trace Boulevard from the Hammers.

They wonder: Couldn't someone have walked over to knock on their neighbors' door to find out what was going on? Couldn't the association simply have filed a lien against the house? Should homeowners associations even have the power to foreclose on homes?

"Nobody cared enough to go down the street to ask questions," said Bob Wilcopolski, who lives around the corner. "We don't have any compassion."

But the association's attorney said the Hammers got plenty of notice about the impending foreclosure sale.

"We just went through the proper procedures," attorney Michael Brudny said. "We didn't hear from them. They didn't follow the proper procedures."