Soldier in Iraq Loses Paid Off Home Over $800 Debt

MotherJones

Capt. Michael Clauer’s homeowners’ association foreclosed on his family’s $300,000 house and sold it for $3,500.

— By Nick Baumann

Michael Clauer is a captain in the Army Reserve who commanded over 100 soldiers in Iraq. But while he was fighting for his country, a different kind of battle was brewing on the home front. Last September, Michael returned to Frisco, Texas, to find that his homeowners’ association had foreclosed on his $300,000 house—and sold it for $3,500. This story illustrates the type of legal quagmire that can get out of hand while soldiers are serving abroad and their families are dealing with the stress of their deployment. And fixing the mess isn’t easy.

Michael went on active duty in February 2008 and was sent to Iraq. After he shipped out, his wife May slipped into a deep depression, according to court documents. “A lot of people say that the deployment is more stressful on the spouse than the actual person who’s being deployed,” Michael, 37, says in an interview with Mother Jones. May Clauer had two kids to take care of—a ten-year-old and a one-year-old with a serious seizure-related disorder. In addition, she was worried sick about her husband. Michael’s company was doing convoy security in Iraq—an extremely dangerous job. “It was a pretty tough year for the whole company,” he says. “We had IEDs, rocket attacks and mortar attacks, and a few soldiers that were hurt pretty bad and had to be airlifted back to the States.”

Seeking to avoid hearing about the situation in Iraq, May stopped watching the news. She rarely answered the door, and Michael says he couldn’t tell her when he went “outside the wire”—off-base. May also stopped opening the mail. “I guess she was scared that she would hear bad news,” says Michael. That was why she missed multiple notices from the Heritage Lakes Homeowners Association informing her that the family owed $800 in dues—and then subsequent notices stating that the HOA was preparing to foreclose on the debt and seize the home.

In Texas, homeowners’ associations can foreclose on homes without a court order, no matter the size of the debt. In May 2008, the HOA sold the Clauers’ home for a pittance—$3,500—although its appraisal value was $300,000, according to court documents. The buyer then resold the house to a third person. (Select Management Co., the company that manages Heritage Lakes, declined to comment for this story.)

It wasn’t until June 2009 that May realized what had happened. Around that time, the new owner started demanding rent from the Clauers. She told Michael, who was still in Iraq. “At first I didn’t believe it,” he says. “I didn’t understand how someone can take your house and not give you anything for it.” When Texas Gov. Rick Perry visited Iraq in July, Michael says he told him about the problem. According to Michael, Perry called May and put lawyers in touch with the Clauers’ attorney, but couldn’t do much to alleviate the situation. (Perry’s office didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.) In August 2009, the new owner sent the couple an eviction notice, according to court records filed in the case. In Iraq, “the stress level was finally starting to come down,” says Michael, and he was “starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.” He adds, “Then all of a sudden I get hit with this, and I’m trying to get out of there and get home and see what I can do to fight this.”

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Comments
8 Responses to “Soldier in Iraq Loses Paid Off Home Over $800 Debt”
  1. disableddad says:

    OK SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY NOW. JESUS CHRIST IT SEEMS LIKE MONEY HAS BECOME A RELIGION AND WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET IT IS JUSTIFIED.

    YOU PEOPLE THAT SHOW THE SLIGHTEST SYMPATHY OR DON’T HAVE ANY PROBLEMS WITH THIS KIND OF ATTACK OF THE PEOPLE, ARE F’***ED UP.
    FOR ANYONE THAT KNOWS THEIR HISTORY AND THOSE THAT DON’T. LOOK INTO THE FALL OF ROME AROUND 300AD AND ON. YOU’LL SEE ALOT OF SIMILARITIES.

  2. Tiberius says:

    Foreclosure of this poor soldier’s family residence is a perfect example of American home grown terrorism, fueled by human greed and a sad instance of the lack of commitment from the government bureacrats to assist and protect the military families when they need help. This type of moral decay is the underlying cause of America’s financial quagmire and and a dwindling status as a super power.

  3. Private Smith says:

    What is wrong with you people? Do you not realize that a Fascist Coup is underway in America? And you still sit around talking about the right legal techniques to apply? The American people must be the most naive and gullible people on the planet. As if they never heard of Smedley Butler. Betrayed by your own leaders in the most obvious way, no one suspects a thing. This is truly disgusting. It is just a matter of time before the bankers/government own 100% of the property in America, rather than the current 97% that is under Mortgage. And none of you even ask where the bankers got the money to buy all of America from.
    If you don’t figure it out pretty quick, it will be too late. But I guess if you do figure it out, most will “solve” the problem by writing a letter to their congress man.

  4. I would welcome the opportunity to help this family.

    DISGUSTING what happened here and I am EMBARRASSED that we are treating our active duty military personnel and their families this way.

    Did we not learn from the post-Vietnam War era?

    IF anyone knows how we can reach out in some way, please post that info here.

    Heartsick!

    Lisa
    ForeclosureHamlet.org

  5. Lucinda Spence says:

    I’d encourage these people to insist on a criminal investigation. The fact that Select Mgt and/or Heritage Lakes sold the house for a mere $3500 instead of, say, $100,000 (an amount for which it certainly would have been snapped up, considering the appraised value), suggests to me collusion of some sort. I’m curious as to whether there is a personal/business connection between the discount buyer and Select/Heritage. No mortgage holder would approve such a sale unless they knew up front they stood to benefit later on.

  6. Alina says:

    The entire state of Texas from the Governor on down should be ashamed of themselves. This is huge black eye for the Governor who has refused to get invovled.

    Governor Perry,

    This man was sent to one of the most dangerous locaitons on the face of this earth in order to protect and serve his country. Why aren’t you enraged that this injustice has happened? Why aren’t you on the phone to the idiots who never had the decency to speak to his wife in person about the outstanding HOA bill? Why is the attorney who filed a false affidavit in a court of law in the State of Texas allowed to keep his/her license? At the very least, they should be reprimanded and sanctioned.

    Governor, GET INVOVLED. Call your buddy George W. and do something for this man and his family.

    Alina

  7. Stupendous Man - Defender of Liberty - Foe of Tyranny says:

    Absolutely disgusting.

    With a sale price of only 1.115% of the appraised value it would seem that alone is reason to vacate the sale.

    I’m confident there are numerous other grounds for the entire process to be reversed.

    I hope these folks get some good local legal help.

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