'Mistake' costs family its home at The Springs
A judge refuses to reverse the auction of a home spurred by a debt of $1,200.
Posted December 21 2006
SANFORD -- Because of someone else's mistake, Sharon Rousey lost her Longwood home at a courthouse auction two weeks ago over $1,200 in unpaid homeowners association dues.
On Wednesday, she tried to persuade a judge to give it back. He refused.
That means Rousey, 48, a single mom who is raising two disabled teenagers on a fixed income, must now pack up her belongings and get out.
"Things don't always work out the way you desire," she said after the hearing.
Rousey bought the 2,400-square-foot town house in The Springs, a gated community near Wekiwa Springs State Park, in May 2005.
The home, though, came with a surprise: She would belong to two homeowners associations and, thus, had to pay two sets of dues, one for The Springs and another for Glenwood Village, the town-house neighborhood.
She fell behind on both, according to court records. In addition, she couldn't keep up her mortgage payment and, for a time, the water company cut her off.
One of the homeowners groups sued to foreclose, and when Rousey never appeared and never filed any paperwork, a judge entered a judgment in favor of the association and ordered the house sold at public auction.
In November, Rousey thought she had solved her problems: Goodbye Foreclosure Inc., a Winter Park company that buys distressed properties, agreed to buy her house before the auction. It would pay off her homeowners association dues as well as her mortgage and leave her with about $115,000 in cash.
But company Vice President Aaron Herschberg sent a check to an association -- the wrong one, it turned out -- and assumed the auction would be called off. It wasn't. On Dec. 5, an Apopka company that buys foreclosed property agreed to pay $113,500.
Mark Lippman, Rousey's attorney, estimated the market value of her town house at $275,000 to $300,000.
Still due on the property is a $65,000 mortgage, which the winning bidder must now pay.
Herschberg admitted Wednesday that the whole thing was his fault. "It was my mistake," he said.
Because of that, Rousey's lawyer asked Circuit Judge Alan Dickey to void the auction and give the house back to the family: Rousey and her two daughters, Kristen, 16, and Madison, 13, both of whom are developmentally disabled.
"It was not Mrs. Rousey's mistake," Lippman said. "It was just an office foible."
In fact, Rousey had enough money to stop the sale: $1,200 in back dues owed The Springs Community Association Inc., she testified. And she would have paid it if she had known Herschberg had sent the check to the wrong place, she said.
The judge, though, let the auction stand.
"I can't find any legal basis to set this aside," he said.
Rousey's mistake, Dickey said, was in relying on someone who specializes in buying homes from people facing foreclosure.
"They took advantage," Dickey said. "They found a woman whose house was being foreclosed on and didn't have sense enough to hire a lawyer."
In the end, Rousey won't go penniless. She should walk away with about $108,000 in cash, Lippman said. That's what will be left over from the auction proceeds once The Springs Homeowners Association takes out its share and pays its lawyers.
In addition, the winning bidder, South Investment Properties Inc., won't force the family out of the home until the first week of January, said its attorney, Jeffrey Icardi.
Still, Rousey said Wednesday that she has no idea where she'll move her family, except that they'll stay in Seminole County.
"Wherever they go," she said, smiling at her girls, "I go."