The Inlet House condo complex in Fort Pierce, Fla., was once the kind of place the 55-and-older set aspired to. It was affordable. The pool and clubhouse were tidy, the lawns freshly snipped. Residents, push-carts in tow, walked to the beach, the bank, the beauty parlor, the cinema and the supermarket. In post-crash America, this was a dreamy little spot. Especially on a fixed income.
But that was Inlet House before the rats started chewing through the toilet seats in vacant units and sewage started seeping from the ceiling. Before condos that were worth $79,000 four years ago sold for as little as $3,000. And before the homeowners' association levied $6,000 assessments on everyone -- and then foreclosed on seniors who couldn't pay the association bill, even if they didn't owe the bank a dime.
Normally, it's the bankers who go after delinquent homeowners. But in communities governed by the mighty homeowners' association, as the sour economy leaves more people unable to pay their fees, it's neighbor versus neighbor.