Sage Hill residents fight ‘alarming’ association fee collection

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Sage Hill residents fight back against association after legal fees demanded
People in the community of Sage Hill are gathering signatures in order to have their current residents association board removed. The move comes after people found letters from a law firm taped to their door demanding hundreds of dollars in association and legal fees. Tracy Nagai reports. – Jun 24, 2022

Homeowners in the northwest Calgary community of Sage Hill are fighting back after they found letters taped to their doors demanding hundreds of dollars in association and legal fees.

“I feel like it was uncalled for,” Sage Hill resident Nicole MacCallum said. “To be threatened, to be taken to court and lose your home, people don’t need that after COVID-19.”

She is among dozens of other residents that said they found the letters from Bridgeland Law taped to their door last week and initially thought it was fake.

“At first I thought it was a scam, I was really angry at the wording and it seemed very forceful,” MacCallum said. “It took a bunch of us three or four days to figure it out that it wasn’t a scam.”

MacCallum said her association fee costs $105 annually and admits signs are up in the area reminding people that they’re due, but MacCallum said she never received a notice to her home.

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“I’ve never received a bill. Honestly I’ve gone on their webpage to see how to pay and all they want is a void cheque,” MacCallum said. “Nobody has keys to my bank account and there needs to be other options to pay.”

In the letter, Bridgeland Law demanded $395 in association and administrative fees along with more than $650 in legal fees.

“If you ignore this demand and deliver an uncertified cheque, or attempt to make a payment of a lesser amount, this will lead to further legal fees being incurred for which you will be responsible,” Richard John with Bridgeland Law said in the letter.

The letter also states that people can use Canada Post Express Post to mail to an address on Macleod Trail in southeast Calgary or place their payment in a sealed envelope and slide it under the door in the “secure office space.”

“We are continuing a more strict COVID(-19) protocol in my office because of issues related to my staff, so we are working remotely,” John said in a phone interview with Global News last week.

“It is a secure office and there is someone there to receive (the payments) and gather them for us.”

READ MORE: 30% of Calgary community associations questioning their survival throughout the pandemic

However, Bridgeland Law’s methods are also not sitting well with the area’s city councillor.

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“Many Sage Hill homeowners have recently reached out to my office to share their concerns with a demand letter taped to their doors from Bridgeland Law on behalf of the Sage Hill Residents Association (SHRA),” Ward 2 councillor Jennifer Wyness said in a social media post.

In a statement to affected Sage Hill residents, Wyness outlined several of her concerns.

“During a sensitive time of fraudulent scams occurring across our city, a multi-paged letter taped to a door demanding payment would be a cause for concern for many,” she said. “The letter’s content struck me as alarming, with the second method of payment to be “slid under the door” of the law office.

Wyness said her office reached out to Bridgeland Law and was told by John that people needed to read the letter, educate themselves about the process, then reach out to (the) law firm and negotiate a settlement.

“My fees are actually lower,” John said. “In the interest of resolving files with owners who come to the table with a willingness to clear their arrears, we are prepared to negotiate our fees.”

Sage Hill Residents Association fees

According to John, 1,700 people in Sage Hill must pay the annual fee in order to maintain common spaces in the community at a level over and above the standard service provided by the City of Calgary, including stormwater ponds, road boulevards, road medians, landscaping maintenance of linear parks and maintenance of pathways and playgrounds whenever they’re created within a linear park.

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“What it is, is it’s the responsibility of doing the work that was historically done by the City of Calgary,” John explained.

“The developers, as part of their development, are asked to create this system to incorporate the residents association.”

Last week, John said only 500 of the 1,700 homeowners had paid their fees and he had been tasked by the SHRA to collect fees from 360 homeowners who had not paid their bills for multiple years.

“Every year there is an invoice sent out,” John explained. “I have communicated verbally with the existing property manager and the prior property manager to confirm that invoices were sent out for the period of 2021 and 2022.”

However the president of the Sage Hill Community Association said only a small portion of the area is actually being maintained by the SHRA.

“Residents association fees only look after about eight small parcels of land which include three linear pathways,” said Ross Utigard. “They only maintain eight to ten per cent of one out of five subdivisions in the entire community of Sage Hill.”

“The Residents Association maintains six developer features… everything else is (the) City Of Calgary,” he said.

Wyness believes the breakdown in communication between the SHRA and its community members speaks to deeper issues.

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“The threat of court action taped to peoples’ doors that hadn’t even been signed off by a judge was an intimidation factor, and I think it could have been handled better,” Wyness said. “A registered letter could have easily avoided this.

“This isn’t the first time it’s happened to a community in Calgary, and so it begs the question of how are we ensuring that when we build communities, we’re building them in a way that this situation doesn’t happen again?”

Sage Hill Residents Association petition 

MacCallum said since she received the letter from Bridgeland Law she was able to settle her fees with John reducing the legal and administration fees by 50 per cent.

“I’m forced to settle and I’m happy to get it off my shoulders, but now we’re going to focus on dealing with the people that instigated this,” MacCallum said.

“Right now we have about 200 (signatures) and once we start going door to door, we hope to get more. That way we can force an AGM and have our voices heard.”

MacCallum said community members hope to gather the signatures they need by early July and then are looking to have the current SHRA board members removed.

“A bunch of us have banded together now to stand up for our rights,” she said.

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“I think that if we’re going to be paying these (fees), we should be more involved and see where the money is going and try to have more things that make a community a community,” she said.

Global News reached out to the SHRA about the collection fees and was told matters were being handled by the law firm.

“The owners have been made aware of their obligation as per the encumbrance registered on their title,” said Tom Young with C-Era Property Management Company. “They are invited to respond to and negotiate with Bridgeland Law to conclude the matter.”

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