When Michael Clauer was deployed to Iraq in February 2008, his wife, May, became depressed and fell behind on dues totaling $977 to the Heritage Lakes Homeowners Association (HOA) where the couple lived. In an effort to collect unpaid dues, the HOA sent multiple notices by certified mail demanding they make the payment or face foreclosure on their home. After all of the HOA’s letters to the Clauers went unanswered, the association foreclosed on the Clauers’ home, and then sold it at auction for $3,201 to one Mark DiSanti. In May 2009, DiSanti sold the house to Jad Aboul-Jibin for $135,000.
In Texas, homeowners associations can foreclose on homes without a court order, therefore the Clauers were given no notice of the foreclosure proceedings.
The first inkling of the foreclosure and subsequent sale came in June 2009, when May received and opened a letter from the new owner requesting rent payment.
Still in Iraq, Captain Clauer found himself fighting two battles: one to protect his homeland and the other to protect his home.
The Clauers filed a lawsuit to get their home back, claiming they were protected from foreclosure by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which protects those on active duty from certain financial and legal obligations, including foreclosure, without a court proceeding.
The HOA argued that SCRA did not apply in this case because Captain Clauer had no ownership interest in the home, as it was owned by May Clauer and her parents.
The HOA made good faith efforts to contact the Clauers on numerous occasions to collect unpaid dues, to no avail; therefore, on behalf of and in fairness to neighbors who paid dues, the HOA claimed legal right and responsibility to seek remedy through foreclosure. On a conciliatory note, the HOA said they wanted the Clauers to get their home back, but no longer owned the home.
As for the current owner defendant, he claimed that he was an innocent purchaser in this matter and the rightful owner. Nevertheless, he said he would have given the property back to the Clauers, but only after he was reimbursed for the purchase price he paid.
The federal judge ordered the parties to figure it out for themselves. They settled out of court. While terms of the settlement are confidential, the Clauers did get their home back.