Soldier, Back From Iraq, Finds Homeowners Association Sold His House

In their lawsuit, the Clauers conceded that the homeowners association sent them four letters between October 2007 and April 2008 notifying them of their delinquent dues. But May Clauer was suffering such "severe depression and anxiety" over her husband's deployment that she didn't read the letters, according to the Clauers' complaint.

The Clauers didn't learn of the foreclosure sale until June, 2009, when the home's new owner sent a letter demanding rent, the complaint said.

"The most important thing that would have solved this problem is if somebody would have communicated with the homeowners association," the Heritage Lake spokesman said.

He said that, in March of 2008, the association even checked a Defense Department online database and requested information about Clauer's military status with the U.S. Army Enlisted Records and Evaluation Center. The center sent them a certificate, dated March 27, 2008, saying that Clauer was "not in the military service of the U.S. Army."

"They did the due dilligence," said Heritage Lake lawyer Patrick Whitaker.

Clauer and his lawyer, Barbara Hale, reply that another record that shows Clauer was, in fact, on duty when the foreclosure happened: his "Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty" lists his service start date as Feb. 15, 2008.

What accounts for the apparent discrepancy is unclear. The Defense Department did not immediately answer a request for comment from

Odom had one possible explanation: Some military records, he said, may list Clauer's start date as the date that he was officially put on the military payroll. But the protections of the SCRA, he said, apply to the date when Clauer officially received his active duty orders, which was Feb. 15, 2008, according to the Clauers' lawsuit.

The home's current owner, Jad I. Aboul-Jibin, initially tried to evict the Clauers.

But now, Roland Love, a lawyer for Aboul-Jibin, said his client would be "happy for Captain Clauer and his family to have the house back."

"Obviously, my client supports the military and wants service members to be protected," he said.

Too Much Power for Texas Homeowners Associations?

If the court decides the home should go back to the Clauers, Love said, Aboul-Jibin would like to be reimbursed by the homeowners association or the people who bought the home at foreclosure and sold it to him for $135,000.

Aboul-Jibin "paid good money for it," Love said.

As the case progresses -- a jury trial is set for January of 2011 -- Clauer said he hopes his story will help force a change in how homeowners associations in Texas are allowed to initiate foreclosures. Few other states, he said, allow associations as much power as Texas does.

"I think that's just morally wrong to do to anybody, regardless of whether they're serving (in the military) or not," he said.

But the Heritage Lake spokesman said that court isn't the appropriate place to determine whether homeowners associations powers are indeed to broad.

"The Texas legislature is the right venue to ask that question," he said.

Some Texas legislators have, in fact, pursued the issue, but with little success. Texas State Rep. Burt Solomons and State Sen. Royce West have repeatedly introduced bills in the Texas legislature to reform state law governing homeowners' association. The bills, thus far, have failed to win legislative approval.

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