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First responder says HOA dispute is keeping her from dream home

TAMPA, Fla. — After months of searching, local firefighter Shantashia Stevenson said she found her dream home in the Townhomes at Wexford community—earlier this year.

“There was one little step. They told me before I could close on the house I had to have an interview with the HOA,” she said, “Previously the townhome had a [HOA] Violation due to the garage, the garage had been converted into a room. After that, the seller was made aware of this, so the seller converted the garage back and then I had the interview.”

But according to her, her dream turned into a nightmare after that interview.

“When I had the interview, I told the HOA president the garage has been converted back and there is no longer a violation. The HOA president said that the flooring in the garage needed to be fixed as well. So, we fixed that as well. So there was no longer a violation,” she said.

According to HOA bylaws for this community, converting your garage isn’t allowed.

HOA by

Shantashia Stevenson

ABC Action News spoke to the woman selling the home, who currently lives in South Carolina. She told ABC Action News she didn’t realize she’d violated the bylaws and quickly converted her garage back.

She said she updated everyone involved on the progress.

Garage Before

Isoraida Lorenzo

Garage After

Isoraida Lorenzo

“Even though there was no more violations ordered a new estoppel letter stating that the garage had been converted. Even though it had been converted back,” said Stevenson.

Both Stevenson and the seller provided copies of those estoppel letters to ABC Action News.

The first one is dated February 13, 2024, before Stevenson said she had her interview.

And it shows there were “no open violations” on the home.

No open violations

Shantashia Stevenson

But the second letter dated March 19, 2024, weeks after Stevenson’s March 2nd interview, lists “garage conversion” as an open violation.

Open Violations

Shantashia Stevenson

Stevenson provided screenshots of a text exchange from Wednesday, March 13th.

Text Exchange

Shantashia Stevenson

Text Exchange

Shantashia Stevenson

Text Exchange

Shantashia Stevenson

In the exchange, she said the HOA president told her she was approved to be a “member of the community.” He added that it was the “seller’s job” to make sure the home “complied with bylaws” before putting it up for sale.

The HOA president also said he was available on “Tuesdays” for an inspection—but added that a scheduling issue with the realtor led to their first inspection being rescheduled.

Stevenson also provided email exchanges from March 27 and April 2nd, that include the HOA president, her realtor’s office, and Professional Bayway Management (PBM)—the group that helps manage the community.

The group goes back and forth about missed inspection dates and miscommunication about rescheduling.

At one point, Stevenson’s realtor called the back-and-forth “nonsense” and said she would share her concerns about the process with the “city.”

Realtor Email

Shantashia Stevenson

The HOA president responds by accusing that realtor of threatening to “defame the board” and moving forward he advises them to communicate with the HOA’s legal counsel.

HOA Email

Shantashia Stevenson

“The title company said that I had to have a letter of approval from the HOA to close on the home,” said Stevenson.

But more than a month after discussions started and despite emailed demands from the seller’s attorney for an inspection—Stevenson said it still hasn’t happened.

It’s a situation that’s left her homeless because she broke her lease thinking she would have closed on the house by now.

“From that point forward, I was left in limbo and without a home and a place to stay,” she said.

ABC Action News spoke to a local attorney, Eric Appleton, who specializes in HOA law. He said an open HOA violation shouldn’t hold up the sale of a home.

“The buyer of the real estate could assume that obligation and close the transaction but it’s not for the homeowner’s association to interfere and block the sale,” he said.

And he added that the HOA could be liable if this sale falls apart.

“The seller may have a cause against that HOA for tortiously interfering with that contract, and the damages in this day and age could be pretty significant,” he said, “I think that is an anomaly. But it does happen with enough regularity where people certainly need to have remedies by going to court and they need to be educated about their rights.

Since that interview, Stevenson has updated ABC Action News to say that she is now looking to buy a home elsewhere because of the stress this situation has caused.

In the meantime, we have called and texted the HOA president several times in the last few weeks—but haven’t gotten any comment.

We have also called and emailed several people with Professional Bayway Management (PBM). In mid-April, ABC Action News was initially told via email that our request for comment would be passed along to the community’s board of directors. But we never heard back.

They didn’t respond to our follow-up requests for comment.

Elizabeth Hartranft was traveling to Tampa and had to leave her Airbnb the same day she arrived after its host denied her service dog. ABC Action News reporter Rochelle Alleyne spoke to experts about the rise of fake service animals and the uncertain rights of people with legitimate service dogs.

Denied: the rise of fake service dogs and the harm it’s doing to those that are ‘legit’

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