by, Dee Rowe, CACM, Contributing Author
Once upon a time, benevolent Prince Sanders was afraid that people would lose their homes because they were unable to pay their mortgages or HOA fees. You see, a nasty respiratory disease was ravaging the kingdom and all surrounding kingdoms. Workers not deemed essential were forced out of work to limit the spread of the disease. The price of essential goods and services skyrocketed. Even once a “return to work” was announced, for many business owners and employees there was no work to return to. The kingdom was in crisis.
Since he was Chairman of the kingdom’s Senate Budget Committee, he and 11 others authored theAmerican Rescue Relief Act, which included a Homeowner Assistance Fund designed to keep those people from losing their homes and keep their public utility services active. The problem was, nobody told the homeowners, or those responsible for the communities they lived in.
Mary was contrary, and could you blame her? She was a single mother with three small mouths to feed. Her ex-husband ran off with Sally years ago and now lived in a cottage by the sea selling seashells. That left Mary to care for the gardens of silver bells, cockleshells, and primroses all in a row. There was a time before the pandemic when her business thrived. Weddings were large, formal affairs, and nobody’s flowers were prettier than Mary’s. Brides paid a pretty penny for her services. But now weddings were smaller and more intimate. Because everybody’s budgets were stretched tight, brides cut expenses wherever they could. That included Mary’s flowers.
With the sun sinking on the horizon, Mary put the gardening tools in the shed and trudged into her small house. The children would be hungry, and someone had to feed them. Opening the nearly bare cupboard, she groaned. Once again, they would be eating beans and rice. As she measured the rice, her hand scraped the bottom of the barrel. Even beans and rice would soon be a luxury. Forcing a brave face, she served the children dinner and busied herself with chores while they ate. She ate their leftovers to make sure they got enough. Her stomach growled and grumbled, but she was used to ignoring that. She’d been doing so for a couple of years, ever since the virus started spreading.
Before she put the little ones to bed, she walked to the end of the driveway to get the day’s mail. Inside the mailbox was another notice from the HOA about her missed payments. Tears welled up in her eyes. How was she supposed to pay when there wasn’t enough to eat, and every penny went toward keeping the bank from taking her home? Now the association was threatening to take her home too. What would they do then? She wasn’t eligible for bankruptcy, because she’d had to file for one after her divorce.
Hands shaking, she placed the notice on the kitchen table and tucked her children into bed, noticing as she did so that all their nightclothes were threadbare and too small. Once she was back in the kitchen, she picked up the notice and read it again. “Due to the non-payment of assessments, your account has been referred to an outside agency for collections. Please contact them at once to avoid foreclosure.”
This time, tears did more than well up, they spilled down her cheeks and left spots on the table. With her head in her hands, she sobbed into the night until she fell asleep right there in the kitchen. Her dreams were troubled and chaotic, with visions of fire-breathing dragons scorching her home and beautiful gardens to the ground.
The next morning, after the children ate their oatmeal and headed off to school, Mary called the collection company the HOA referred her case to. She braced herself for battle, recalling the fire-breathing dragons from last night’s anxiety-fueled dreams. Much to her surprise, that mental armor turned out to be unnecessary.
She spoke with a friendly and helpful representative from Axela Technologies, who was sympathetic when Mary described her financial position. The representative suggested that Mary try applying for something called the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) because an online map showed that her part of the kingdom may have funds available to cover the mortgage, utility costs, and even HOA fees since her hardship was caused by the pandemic and started after January 21, 2020. The helpful rep also arranged it so Mary would not lose her home while waiting for a decision from the HAF. She was so relieved she began to cry over the phone because she felt hope for the first time in years. “You’re my hero”, she told the Axela employee.
As she worked in her gardens that day, Mary wondered why she’d never heard of the HAF before. There were probably others like her; hardworking people who had no savings or credit to see them through when the pandemic shut the kingdom down. People who had spent the years since the return to work trying to find work or customers. People who were desperate to keep the homes that they loved and that kept their families safe and warm. Good people who wanted to pay their HOA fees but had to choose between that and feeding their children.
After waiting as patiently as she could, Mary got an answer from the HAF. Hands trembling, she opened it and read the decision over the phone to that helpful representative from Axela Technologies she had first spoken to. “Your application has been approved.” Once again, she was crying, this time tears of joy.
Later that day, Mary wrote a letter to the board of directors of the HOA thanking them for working with anethical company like Axela Technologies, and not a predatory collection service. That letter was the first communication the board received from her that wasn’t contrary.
For a real-life collection fairy tale like this, contact us at Axela Technologies today. We offer creative solutions, not threats and ultimatums.