They did not necessarily "break" the bankruptcy laws, and there is no criminal issue. The filing of a bankruptcy case, under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code, triggers an injunction against the continuance of any action by any creditor against the debtor or the debtor’s property. Creditor actions taken after the stay is in place are generally void or voidable. Any action the creditor takes in violation of the stay has no legal effect. Therefore, the filing of the lien and assessment of collection fees arising out of a pre-petition obligation are voidable. There may be penalties for doing so if you can show that the Association filed the lien despite knowledge of the bankruptcy filing - but penalties are available only for willful violation of the stay. If the Association had actual notice of the bankruptcy filing before liening the property, contact an attorney. If not, proceed as below...
Provide the Association with documentation of the date of your bankruptcy petition filing and a copy of your discharge order, and request that they remove the lien and drop the collection fees. Let them do the work for now. Any action taken to collect the debt after you provide this information violates the permanent injunction and you should seek legal assistance - plenty of attorneys in your area will gladly assist you in recovering penalties from the Association.
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Once you file a case with the bankruptcy court, the Automatic Stay arises and protects you. A simple letter to the HOA and/or its attorney should resolve this issue. The pre-petition debts were discharged. Any claim that began after you filed may still be owed.
This is a civil issue and not a criminal issue. See a consumer law attorney.
Mr. Goldstein is a Virginia-licensed attorney only. The information is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. Answering this question does not in any way constitute legal representation. Contacting Mitchell Goldstein or the Goldstein Law Group does not constitute legal representation, nor is any information you provide protected by attorney-client privilege until otherwise advised.
Just a quick comment. If the lien is set aside, a bankruptcy may wipe out the pre-petition arrears because they will be unsecured like most of your other debts. The Bankruptcy Code, however, makes it clear in Section 523(a)(16) that homeowner’s assessments coming due after the date of the filing of the petition commencing the bankruptcy case are not discharged in the bankruptcy. Homeowner's assessments in this bucket remain the personal debts of the debtor who holds title to the property and for which the debtor is responsible. This problem comes up frequently and many people are caught unawares, so I felt it worth a mention. Best of luck.
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If I am reading your question correctly, you are stating that you prepaid your current years dues in December of last year. This sounds like a billing screw up. If you already paid the dues, no lien should have arisen. A visit with the HOA's lawyer, showing them proof of payment that no dues due when they filed the lien, and a copy of your bankruptcy petition and bankruptcy discharge should get their counsel to advise them to release the lien. Failing that, if the dues were actually paid, and not applied to a prior year that may have been in arrears, you should visit with your prior bankruptcy counsel to see if this is a discharge violation that you could bring to the attention of the bankruptcy court in a contempt action. Otherwise, hire a real estate lawyer to sue to quiet title.
I am providing this general reaction to your question for discussion and informational purposes only. My answer could change depending on the specific facts of your situation. This answer is not intended to be legal advice and providing this answer or your reading it does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and me. I create such relationships only when there is a signed attorney fee contract between my client and me.