Hillary Lamb has owned her Houston condo since 2005, when her youngest son's father paid for the house in cash in her name. But it's no longer her property.
The more Lamb tried to keep up with the monthly $184 Home Owners Association maintenance fee, the more it seemed to swallow her like quicksand.
"You're trying to get a grip, but you can't grip nothing," Lamb said.
The HOA's payment ledger shows Lamb was trying to pay. In fact, by April of last year, her balance was zero. But she fell behind again.
In September of last year, Lamb got a letter from the Butler/Hailey Law Firm that represents Wildflower Green Homeowners Association. The letter said Lamb’s delinquent payments have caused legal fees to incur. She needs to pay $921 or face foreclosure.
In October, the ledger showed Lamb paid $368, the amount she owed for the two months she fell behind in her HOA fees.
In a November 2010 letter, the law firm warned Lamb to pay the outstanding legal fees or lose her home.
On Dec. 1, Lamb paid $552 to the homeowners' association.
"And a person who worked for the HOA then told her we're square you have now paid all of your dues," Nodler said. "The only thing you owe now are the attorney fees."
But Lamb did not pay those legal fees.
On Dec. 11, the home she once owned was sold at the county foreclosure auction. Nodler said the HOA and its law firm had the legal right to take her home.
It all started when Lamb was late in paying monthly maintenance fees to her homeowners' association.
Lamb's been living paycheck to paycheck. She has worked at Wendy’s for 13 years. Unexpected things, like her 13-year-old son's football injury, have strained her finances.
Losing the home she once owned has left her confused and embarrassed.
"I was embarrassed," Lamb said. "Cause people are going to look at it like she's working and she couldn't even pay her bills, but they’re not knowing the background of the situation."
"Sometimes life gets in the way and people fall behind in their bills," said Greg Nodler, Lamb’s attorney.
"It's just that the law allowed a very bad result, where someone lost a house that she owned outright for less than a $1,000 in legal fees,” Nodler said.
By law, Lamb has 180 days to buy back her house, but she still needs a few thousand dollars to make that happen.