Sheriff’s office seizes property of MetroWest man who challenged condo association
Orlando Sentinel
By: Paul Brinkmann
30 May 2018

The Hamptons at Metrowest, a sprawling condo complex with 700 units, is still blighted by moldy wood and faulty stucco years after the association there won a $20 million award in a construction defect lawsuit.   Paul Brinkmann

A legal feud between a MetroWest condo owner and his condo owners’ association escalated over the Memorial Day weekend, as armed deputies entered Howard Fox’s home with a judge’s order to seize all of his belongings.

I’m basically homeless now

“I’m basically homeless now,” said Fox, who is staying with family temporarily. “The house was completely empty, so I couldn’t live there. All that was left was the fridge and the carpet.”

Fox has sued the condo association several times, mostly regarding a history of construction defects at the complex, called the Hamptons at MetroWest. It’s the largest condo complex in Orlando.

The association obtained a judge’s order to confiscate everything in Fox’s condo based on the court awarding the association $104,700 in attorney’s fees. The order itself was sealed.

Fox’s attorney, Mark Lippman, said the property seizure was technically legal, but he called it “dirty play” purely designed to get Fox out of the complex. It also costs money to get what is known as a break order, he said, and Fox’s items probably won’t satisfy the judgment if sold at auction.

“I’ve not seen a collection effort to this degree,” Lippman said. “I’ve gotten break orders in the past, but only after all other avenues had been exhausted.”

The judgment against Fox had been signed in March.

An attorney for the association, Scott Newsom, said the group did what it had to do to enforce the judgment.

“Fox had an opportunity to satisfy the judgment or enter into a payment plan and chose not too,” Newsom said.

Another attorney for the board, Jim Byrd Jr., said the condo association couldn’t comment on the matter any further because it is part of ongoing litigation.

“Mr. Fox owes the Association in excess of $104,000 for legal fees incurred as a result of litigation in which the association has prevailed against Mr. Fox. The Association obtained a final judgment for those amounts against Mr. Fox, and took lawful action to collect on that judgment,” Byrd said in a statement.

Both sides of the dispute have had plenty of legal trouble for years

Both sides of the dispute have had plenty of legal trouble for years. Fox pleaded no contest to brandishing a firearm, a felony, during a confrontation with guests in the complex in 2013.

The condo association has racked up $3.5 million in code violations for shoddy construction, water damage and other problems. Construction crews are working on repairs to the buildings.

Fox has sued the association over the construction defects, and they sued him alleging that he displayed “aggressive harassing” behavior routinely in the complex and allegedly disparaged the complex’s board in a blog.

Fox signed a settlement in 2015 agreeing not to defame the board anymore. It also restricted his ability to file complaints.

Lippman said he thinks the settlement and the break order may have violated Fox’s constitutional rights.

“They spent money on this, rather than on fixing their code violations,” Lippman said.

A spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s office said they couldn’t provide more detail on its actions since the judge sealed the order. She said the agency does not track break orders.

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