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Sinking Yard: A Fort Worth Homeowner's Fight With The HOA

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - "I'm constantly believing that my house is going any minute."

It's a fear homeowner Cathy Hernandez worries about these days. Her yard is teetering on a seemingly unstable slope that ends in the creek behind her home in Riverbend Estates in Fort Worth.

And, she said no one, not the HOA nor the city is helping her.

Standing under an umbrella in her yard, she fears every raindrop. "My heart sinks," she said. "Is my house gonna go?"

Hernandez moved into her neighborhood seven years ago. "This was the third home I walked into and the fell in love with it the second I walked in," she told Consumer Justice.

When she walked into the yard, she decided to make it her home.

"You couldn't see any other homes, it was filled with vegetation, you couldn't see the water but you knew it was there."

But a year ago, her dream home turned into a case of a disappearing backyard. She came back from a business trip to find the yard gone.

"I didn't see any bushes, I mean everything was gone," she said.

Cathy Hernandez took these photos of her backyard before and after it started to slide to a creek below. (Photo Credit: Cathy Hernandez)

Channel experts told Hernandez that the problem was the water rushing through a underground culvert that drains the runoff into the channel.
The water pushes water into the soft soil on her embankment. Every time, after heavy rains, the water comes out with force. "It shoots out of here as fast as 100 firehouses," she told us pointing to the culvert.

This image shows the culvert across the channel from

Cathy said her yard has eroded almost 20 feet. "I am constantly believing that my house is going any minute," she said.

She told CBS 11 News that at first, everyone seemed concerned. The City of Fort Worth sent engineers to inspect her backyard in April 2016. Members of the HOA visited her property. Hernandez even offered to fix the problem herself if only the HOA would let the contractors off the hook against future lawsuits. "I sent multiple emails saying 'look just indemnify them and I will pay for it,' " she said.

But the HOA refused, telling her it was the government's responsibility.

But Consumer Justice obtained a document from the city that shows the HOA bears responsibility. The agreement was signed between the HOA and the City of Fort Worth in 1989.

It states the owner, the HOA, is responsible for "bed, banks and any other part of the drainage channel." It must maintain all "public and private drainage facilities on the property." And, it (HOA) must also have an "insurance policy covering all risks."

But Hernandez said when she told the HOA about the exhibit, all communication stopped. "There was no more support," she said.

Consumer Justice also found a clause in the exhibit that says the City of Fort Worth can do something if the HOA fails to maintain the facilities according to city standards, the city can fix the problem and get reimbursed for repairs

The city of Fort Worth tells Consumer Justice that it is not the drain failing, rather, it is the embankment that is failing, which the city says is owned by the HOA. The City also told us that it sent a letter to the HOA to rectify the situation on September 30, 2016.

That was more than five months ago.

CBS 11 contacted the homeowner's association and their attorney multiple times. The attorney emailed, saying: "the HOA is unable to respond to our inquiry" because Hernandez' lawyer has threatened a lawsuit.

Here's the full statement: "Unfortunately, before you contacted me, on several occasions, an attorney for Ms. Hernandez threatened to sue the HOA on behalf of Ms. Hernandez. For example, he stated, "If your client wants a lawsuit and bankruptcy, that is exactly what it is going to get." I trust you understand that while it is under the cloud of such harsh threats, the HOA is unable to respond to your inquiry."

The HOA has not yet provided a copy of the insurance policy or even tell CBS 11 if they have one.

Meanwhile Hernandez is caught in the middle, with a disappearing yard and possibly her home.

She said that after Consumer Justice started asking questions, the water level in the culvert has risen higher than usual. Engineers told her that the at this lever or higher, the water from the runoff won't hit the soft spots on her embankment with as much force, hopefully slowing the erosion.

Regardless of the water in the channel, Hernandez believes the slope failure on her yard needs to be fixed.

"I have no other choice this is my home," she said.

What Should You Do?

If you are having trouble with your Homeowner's Association, experts explain as a member of the HOA, you can see the books and records of the Association. You can also review contracts, bank records and vendor information. And, if the HOA refuses, you can get a court order to see them under Texas law. Also, always pay your dues on time because the HOAs can foreclose on your property if you don't.


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