Residents in one southwest Miami-Dade community will have a chance to sign a petition aimed at stopping what some have called an astronomical increase in monthly association fees.
Signatures are being collected at Water Oaks Park, located at 9100 Hammocks Boulevard, until sunset to ask for a new meeting to be held with the purpose of voiding the 2022 budget for the Hammocks Community Association.
“They had no discussion. They planned to just spring this on us suddenly,” neighbor Christina Tyrell said.
Tyrell was one of hundreds of Hammocks community neighbors who showed up to push back against a major hike in HOA fees.
“What if we can’t pay? A lot of people are on a fixed income,” Tyrell said. “They’re retired people. We’re going through a terrible economic situation with the budget.”
“They’re basically pricing people out of their homes,” said resident Alan Chevel.
Chevel and his Cedar Landing neighbors are bracing for a major monthly hike in their HOA fees.
“We have a budget and if I cannot pay it, I might lose my house,” said Sara Faroy, another Cedar Landing resident.
Their subdivision is in the Hammocks. And starting March 1, the Hammocks Community Association will be increasing their monthly fees by about 300% from what they’ve been paying.
"This is more or less a working-class environment,” Chevel said. “People making ends meet. And to do something like that, to strap all the residents here. It’s not only unfair, it's unscrupulous.”
The amount does depend on which part of the Hammocks you live in. For Cedar Landing residents, for example, they’ve been paying $84 a month. Starting March 1, that will increase to $340 a month.
“They didn’t raise the association fees for seven years, so they’re basically catching up to where they should have already been,” said Hilton Napoleon, who represents the Hammocks Community Association.
“The increase, number one, is to make sure the association is maintained,” Napoleon said. "People were complaining about the maintenance of the association.”
He says that includes everything from landscaping and tree maintenance to maintaining all of the recreational facilities on the 3500-acre property.
He says the Hammocks directly manages about 18 of its 44 sub-associations. So communities like Cedar Landings, he says, saw both the neighborhood and mast assessments increase.
“You can’t get a sub-association and a master-association for $80 a month, that’s not feasible. They had to increase it,” Napoleon said.
Yudany Fernandez, who also represents the Hammocks Community Association, also sent NBC 6 a statement regarding the fee hike.
"Assessments are the only source of income for the community, and as living expenses increase, so do assessments," Fernandez said in a statement in part. "Additionally, the high number of delinquent owners compounded with the increase cost of living, resulted in this increase. Unfortunately after reviewing the cost of services required to maintain the association, the Board of Directors had no choice but to make this challenging decision in order to meet the obligations of the community."
There’s still a trust issue for some in this community. It comes after residents say they weren’t allowed to vote in the board elections earlier this year.
“The election monitor wrote in his report that it was chaos outside, so much so, that people were banging on the door and making threats,” Napoleon said. "And that point in time, the board made a tough decision to halt the election process and count the ballots that were already cast.”
Napoleon says residents were encouraged to vote by mail because of the pandemic. He says COVID protocols caused the in-person voting to move slowly that night and says some residents showed up with the intent to protest.
Sign up for our Breaking newsletter to get the most urgent news stories in your inbox.