Dozens of strangers Tuesday came to the aid of a Gilbert woman facing foreclosure over homeowners association dues, offering cash and free legal representation.
Evelyn Lyles’ battle with her homeowners association, coupled with her battle with terminal breast cancer, touched a nerve among Valley residents who first heard about her story in Tuesday’s Tribune.
“I’m just livid about it,” said Sandy Stack, a Chandler woman who called offering to help Lyles pay the bill. “This is just absolutely crazy. . . . It’s just not right.”
By day’s end, a steady stream of e-mailers and callers to the Tribune, talk radio and Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman had pledged their money, while longtime Mesa lawyer David Udall had pledged his legal expertise.
“I appreciate all of this,” Lyles said. “But what I really want is the homeowners association to drop this . . . because they never should have started this in the beginning.”
That didn’t look likely late Tuesday.
Guy Wolf, attorney for the association, was unavailable for comment, but Berman said Udall was unable to persuade the Ahwatukee Foothills-based lawyer to drop his fees.
Berman said he would gather donations and deliver a cashier’s check to Wolf for Lyles’ $1,046 outstanding balance.
“Her home is safe,” he said. “By Friday, I should have a basketful of money.”
Lyles, 44, said those who want to help should donate to two breast cancer charities: The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation or the City of Hope National Medical Center.
A single mother of three, Lyles fell behind in her bills last summer, including $40 monthly dues to the Western Skies Estates 4 homeowners association.
But her nearly $400 balance last November quickly ballooned with late and legal fees into a $2,216 bill. Lyles paid the association roughly $1,800 since January but received a foreclosure notice last month as she began more radiation therapy to treat her spreading cancer.
Lyles’ homeowners association is not the same as the Western Skies Estates association, a nearby development whose property manager received nasty calls Tuesday from readers and radio listeners, and concern from its own residents. Tuesday’s Tribune story inadvertently omitted the “4” in the HOA name.
“Kinney Management Services does not manage the homeowner association in which Ms. Evelyn Lyles resides as has been widely reported by Valley media outlets,” Trish Kinney said in a statement. “As a high-risk breast cancer survivor, I can relate to Ms. Lyles’ situation and am grateful to see the Valley community show such support for the Lyles family during this difficult time.”
Many callers offered to pay Lyles’ entire bill. A Tempe business owner who wanted to remain anonymous said he also would pay her association dues for the next year. Others said they wanted to chip in what they could.
“I’m so appalled by this, I can hardly even talk about it,” one caller said. “I can’t give her much, but I think if everybody did, it would help her out a lot.”
Homeowners associations came under harsh criticism, even by those who have no quarrel with their own.
“I thought anybody fighting breast cancer shouldn’t have to fight all this other stuff, too,” said Jan Solandros of Chandler. “We live in an HOA, and they really need to start relaxing some of their rules.”
In an interview last week, Wolf said some homeowners associations are not large enough to absorb delinquent dues and still maintain the property. Homeowners who regularly pay their dues expect the pool to be clean and the grounds to be landscaped, he said.
Legislation to limit the power of the associations, sponsored last year by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, would require that associations wait at least seven years before seizing a home for unpaid dues. He is expected to introduce a similar bill when the Legislature convenes in January.