For the last 13 years Hillary Lamb has worked at Wendy's.
"I love to serve people. That's what I do," Hillary said.
The smile on Hillary's face masks a dark secret she doesn't share with customers. She's owned this southwest side condo since 2005. Her youngest son's father paid cash for it and put it in Hillary's name.
But it's not her property anymore. Why?
She was late in paying monthly maintenance fees to her homeowners association.
-- Mom is Living Pay Check to Pay Check --
"I can't describe the feelings," Hillary said.
Losing the home she once owned has left Hillary confused and embarrassed.
"I was embarrassed," Hillary said. "Cause people are going to look at it like she's working and she couldn't even pay her bills, but their not knowing the background of the situation."
Like a lot of folks, Hillary lives pay check to pay check. Unexpected things like her 13-year-old son's football injury causes checkbook chaos.
"Sometimes life gets in the way and people fall behind in their bills," attorney Greg Nodler said.
The more Hillary tried to keep up with the $184 dollar a month 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," Hillary said.
-- A Financial Trail of Tears --
The HOA's payment ledger shows Hillary was trying to pay. In fact, by April of last year, her balance was zero. But Hillary fell behind again.
In September of last year, Hillary got a letter from the Butler/Hailey Law Firm which represents Wildflower Green Homeowners Association. The letter tells Hillary her delinquent payments have caused legal fees to incur. She needs to pay $921 or face foreclosure.
In October, the ledger showed Hillary 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 warns Hillary pay the outstanding legal fees or else.
On Dec. 1, Hillary pays her HOA $552.
"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."
Hillary didn't pay those attorney 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 Hillary's home.
"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.
-- HOA, Legal Team Offer No Response --
Even though they are not accused of doing anything wrong, we wanted to talk to the HOA and its law firm to ask why they chose to take Hillary's home. The HOA and its law firm didn't return our phone calls.
By law, Hillary has 180 days to buy her house back, but she still needs a few thousand dollars to make that happen.
"I pray for people that's what I do," Hillary said.
Now Hillary's the one needing prayers.
>> Watch the video for Randy Wallace's FOX 26 Investigates report (non-mobile)
>> Watch the second video for our FOX in Focus debate: Have HOAs Become Too Powerful? (non-mobile)