SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. -- As a single income household, Robert and Kristy Leatham find themselves spending a lot of family time at home.
Kristy is a nursing student and Robert is a law enforcement officer. While they still find time for their two kids, Robert says an ongoing dispute with his homeowners association could cost him his home.
“This is our home. This is where we want to raise our children,” he said. “I don't want to lose it.”
It is common for HOA’s to contract with community management companies to oversee their day-to-day business dealings, like collecting HOA dues.
Earlier this year, the Leatham's management company, a Tempe business called Associated Asset Management, placed a lien on the Leatham's San Tan Valley home after the Leathams fell behind on their HOA dues.
Robert contacted AAM was shocked to learn his $150 in back payments had ballooned to more than $1300.
According to Robert, his balance jumped to more than $1,300 because AAM had tacked on a number of fees including filing fees for the lien and attorney fees for the law firm AAM hired.
Robert says the balance isn't fair at all.
“The law firm and the management company making money off the back of homeowners is ridiculous,” Robert said.
Robert hired his own attorney, Roger Wood, who told 3 On Your Side that he's discovered thousands of liens and lawsuits that he claims were wrongfully filed against Arizona homeowners, like the Leathams.
As a result, Woods recently filed a class action lawsuit against AAM, claiming it, and 26 other management companies, violated fair debt collections practices by charging illegal and exorbitant collection fees.
“That act is set up to help consumers, to help people like my plaintiffs in this case to protect themselves from unjust, unlawful predatory collection practices,” Wood explained.
3 On Your Side contacted AAM which sent us this statement:
"A lawsuit has been filed by three individuals on behalf of a purported class of homeowners seeking relief for various property management company practices. The lawsuit contains numerous factual and legal errors and the claims against AAM have no merit. Further comment cannot be made due to active litigation."
As for the Leathams, they hope their case will help other homeowners in the long run.
“I wish I had a tree in the backyard that I can go pick the money off. I guess they think those money trees are in these neighborhoods because it's ridiculous they're putting us in this situation,” Robert said.