NEW: Will a $25 late fee cost a West Palm Beach man his $340,000 home?

Updated Feb 14, 2018
Retired New York state trooper David Silva says he shouldn’t have had to pay the late fee. But because he didn’t, he could lose his West Palm home. (Tony Doris / The Palm Beach Post)

David Silva didn’t believe he deserved the $25 late fee when his condo switched property managers and his $282 maintenance check for June 2015 wasn’t deposited. He still doesn’t.

He paid the maintenance bill when he found out that August it was overdue. But by this year, the late fee and the ones that came after it, which he wouldn’t pay, had metastasized into $50,000 of additional late fees, interest and attorney charges for a two-day trial. A county judge’s Feb. 5 ruling puts the retired New York state trooper in jeopardy of losing his $340,000 townhome to the Ventura Greens at Emerald Dunes Condominium Association through foreclosure, if he doesn’t pay in full.

“I am disappointed in the judge’s decision,” said Silva. “I believe that this case, looked at with another set of eyes, would have resulted in a different decision. It is a sad day in America when the American dream becomes the American nightmare….”

The association’s attorney, Jeannette Bellon, said Silva’s fate was sealed because he could not document he issued the check. The association even waived one month’s late fee but Silva refused to pay any, arguing that the entire matter arose because of a change in property managers, of which he was not aware. But he was notified multiple times, Bellon argued in court.

“The rules are the rules in this case,” she said. “I’m a condo association owner myself, so I think people just need to be aware what their condo declaration states, what the rules and regulations state and what your duties and obligations are. The defendant was a former board member. He was aware of the rules. He just decided not to follow them and at the end of the day, he never gave proof he made payment.”

Aggravating the dispute was the fact that Silva and association President Vic Bally couldn’t stand each other, both affirmed in court. Bally once accused Silva of assault and it took a videotape of the incident to acquit Silva. The two tended to videotape each other to keep a legal record of their encounters, according to court testimony.

Silva wasn’t the only one who had trouble with Bally. The association has been through at least eight management companies in its 11 years. A few managers sent the association letters saying they were quitting because of the difficulty of working with Bally.

Silva testified that he believed he had made his June 2015 maintenance payment electronically to the management association, as he always had. He went on vacation and didn’t learn until several weeks after returning that the association had changed management companies again and the payment hadn’t gone through. And because it didn’t go through there was no record he sent it, he said.

He made up the maintenance in August but insisted he shouldn’t be assessed late fees.

But on Feb. 5, Judge Robert Panse ruled that under Ventura Greens’ Declaration of Condominium, the association properly assessed him and Bally hadn’t selectively enforced the rules. The judge noted that Silva previously lost a case before the county Office of Equal Opportunity that alleged Bally discriminated against him on the basis of Silva’s Hispanic race.

Panse’s ruling indicated the judge didn’t understand the details of his case and misinterpreted the condo rules, Silva said.

At Silva’s request, his attorney, Richard Glenn, is preparing for a rehearing before the judge that he conceded he likely would lose. If so, he’ll appeal to the circuit court. A failed appeal, he acknowledged, could raise Silva’s bill “probably another $20 grand.”

“It’s still hard for me to believe this really happens for a $25 late fee,” Glenn said.