"My husband lost his job and we couldn't afford the mortgage so we put our house for a short sale," explained Sheri Leider.
But the home didn't sell quickly, and the Leiders lost it when they failed to pay what started as $800 worth of homeowner's association dues for 2008.
"It was $800 and they kept adding fees," said Sheri.
The Leider's debt to the HOA grew to more than $3,000 after late fees and attorney fees. The Brier Creek Country Club HOA moved forward with a lien on the home and also foreclosure. To stop it, the Leiders made a partial payment.
"I had to pay this guy $400 in cash for him to continue for two more months," said Leider.
But with no further payment, the HOA foreclosed in early 2009.
"The HOA just threw me out of my house," said Leider. "It was absolutely humiliating."
The Brier Creek HOA now owns the Leider's home and has it up for sale. And, what the 15 hundred residents of the Brier Creek Country Club might not know is that for the last 18 months, they've been footing the bill as the HOA pays to insure the home and maintain it.
"We have to protect the dwelling and you have to keep it up for values in the community. That's the obligation to the whole community," said Vince Matal of Talis Management, which manages the HOA for the Brier Creek Country Club.
Matal said foreclosure was the last resort.
"No one wants to do this at all. There is a great deal of empathy," he said. "It's sad, it really is. But the association has an obligation to all its members to run in a fiscally responsible manner as part of that responsibility and letting people not pay and not perfecting a lien is irresponsible."
But is it fiscally responsible, when the Leider's debt to the HOA started at just $800? And when Matel admits the HOA now has invested more than $7,000 in attorney fees, insurance and maintenance on a home that still sits vacant.
"Yes there may be costs, but it’s something that has to be done to insure the entity survives and provides the services the members expect," Matal explained.
Matal showed ABC11 documents where he said the HOA tried to work with the Leider's by offering a payment plan. It also extended the foreclosure process several times. But ultimately when the Leider's didn't pay what they owed, the HOA had to move forward with foreclosure.
"But bottom line is if you don't do this, what's the obligation on the part of the rest of the owners to keep their part up?" said Matal.
Now, the Leider's hope their story pushes stronger state regulations of HOAs when it comes to foreclosing on struggling homeowners.
"The shocking part of this is this can happen to anyone," said Leider. "You think you owe this little amount of money. You're behind on your bills, and you have this bill that's not particularly a big bill and you're saying 'Well, I know it will get taken care of. It kinda goes in the stack of bills, and the next thing you know you're getting served with a summons. They're going to take my house away, and you go 'They can't take my house away,' but they can in North Carolina," said Leider.
HOAs are legally allowed to foreclose on homes when residents fail to pay dues. In fact, the Leider's HOA owns another home in the neighborhood after foreclosing on it too.
So what about the Leider's bank - the one that gave them a mortgage to buy the home in the first place? They still owe Bank of America $500,000. While the HOA foreclosed, Bank of America says it is now in the process of foreclosing on the property.
While the HOA has the deed, the bank is still owed the balance of the original loan and has a lien on the home - preventing it from being sold until it is paid off.