Evelyn Lyles no longer faces losing her home to a Gilbert homeowners’ association, but the furor sparked by her case still lingers and her biggest battle may loom ahead.
Lyles signed paperwork this week dismissing the foreclosure, with pro bono help from Mesa attorney David Udall and an anonymous donor who delivered a $1,300 check to HOA lawyer Guy Wolf to settle his legal fees.
That effectively ended a yearlong battle with the Western Skies Estates 4 HOA that began when Lyles fell several months behind on her $40 monthly dues. With legal and late fees, a $393 debt last November became a $2,216 bill and threat of foreclosure. That’s despite paying about $1,800 to the HOA since January.
Lyles contacted Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman and her case was revealed in the Tribune earlier this month, generating an outpouring of media attention and support from friends, neighbors and strangers, and leading others to come forward with their HOA horror stories.
"I’m just thankful for everyone who has helped me," said Lyles, 45, a single mother of three.
Lyles, however, still battles recurrent breast cancer. First diagnosed when she was 27, the cancer has gone into remission for as long as six years, but recently spread to her spine, thorax and sternum.
She was undergoing radiation when her case became public, and began chemotherapy this week. She continues to work full time as a logistics analyst at MD Helicopters in Mesa.
Between Tribune readers, Berman and Udall, Lyles received offers of thousands of dollars. Within hours of her case becoming public, she had an offer to pay off Wolf’s legal bill and asked all others to give to breast cancer research.
Berman said he has checks totaling about $600 from people who want to help Lyles and her children.
"If people just want to give, and that makes them feel better, then fine. Because sure, I could use it," she said. "But I want them to give from their heart, and not be misled. I want them to know (the HOA) has been satisfied. I’m not going to lose my home. That’s taken care of."
Lyles’ story also brought forward other homeowners who had lost their property because of HOA legal fees, rekindling an effort to rein in the groups charged with maintaining lawns, pools and other community property.
"I’ll be working with Rep. (Eddie) Farnsworth to introduce legislation to reduce the powers of homeowners associations to ruin people’s lives," Berman said. "We’re going to try to make them a little more humane."