Court Finds Condo Association Attorneys’ Fees to be Unreasonable Where COA Referred Debtor to its Attorneys Instead of Dealing with the Debtor’s Concerns Directly

Court Finds Condo Association Attorneys’ Fees to be Unreasonable Where COA Referred Debtor to its Attorneys Instead of Dealing with the Debtor’s Concerns Directly

This matter is before the Court on the objection filed by Condominium Association (the “Association”) to confirmation of the chapter 13 plan filed by the Debtor. Per its ruling at the evidentiary hearing on April 25, 2017, the Court is considering the Debtor’s response to the Association’s objection also as an objection to the Association’s proof of claim and is ruling thereon as well in this Memorandum Opinion.

Prior to October 15, 2013, the Debtor incurred an arrearage to the Association with respect to condominium assessments and attorneys’ fees. On October 16, 2013, the State Circuit Court entered an agreed order for possession under which the Debtor was to pay $6,852.39 to the Association (the “Agreed Order”). The Association and the Debtor agreed that the Debtor could maintain possession of her condominium unit in exchange for a $2,000 up-front payment and payments of $150 per month in addition to her regular monthly assessment of $171.26—for a total of $321.26 per month—until the amount due pursuant to the Agreed Order was satisfied.

Subsequent to the entry of the Agreed Order, there were issues with the Debtor’s checking account which caused COA payments to be returned.   Problems arose regarding the Debtor’s payments to the Association from August 10, 2015 to January 8, 2016. Six automated clearing house (ACH) payment transfers that were made from the Debtor’s bank account during this time were either declined for insufficient funds or otherwise returned. Accordingly, the Association charged five NSF fees to the Debtor’s account, each for $29.50. Only one payment of $171.26 made during this period via check posted successfully, on September 18, 2015, to the Debtor’s account.

The Association sued in State Court to evict the Debtor. In response, the Debtor filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition, and the eviction was stayed.

The Association objected to the Debtor’s Chapter 13 plan since it did not pay the claim in full. The Debtor objected to the Association’s claim on the bases of failure to properly credit payments received and  excessive attorney’s fees.

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