Janice Fontell

Have you heard the one about homeowner associations being democracy “up close and personal”?  The story goes that members are expected to participate in meetings, voice their opinions and to be part of the “community” which includes being financially responsible for common expenses.  So it only stands to reason that one should be entitled to an explanation of any increases.  But what happens when a member asks a simple question about a dues increase?

On this show we will start at that point – a very small dues increase and when an explanation was asked for the name calling, finger pointing and suppressing information started.  When a simple answer to a simple question is not forthcoming and creates such acrimony, something is wrong.  So when a situation doesn’t pass the smell test it is prudent to dig a little deeper especially when your most valuable asset, your home, is at stake.

But that is easier said then done.

On the Commons with us this week we are joined by Janice Fontell.  Janice is an accountant by trade and she bought into the notion of “carefree living” that her condo promised.  She paid her dues and minded her own business.  Join us as we follow her incredible journey into homeownership, her awakening and subsequent education into what HOA living really is all about.  But that is only the beginning because she found herself learning all about the law and her way around court where she ultimately prevailed – in part 1.  You will want to hear this part of her story.  There is another case pending and we hope to catch up with Janice later on.

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5 thoughts on “Janice Fontell”

    1. With deep sadness I must report that my efforts to advocate on behalf of and protect the property, financial and legal rights of homeowners residing in homeowner and condominium associations have been thwarted by judicial railroading and foul play.

      In Janice Fontell v. Torin K. Andrews, Andrews and Lawrence Law Group, L.L.C., National Recovery and Investigations, L.L.C., and Debt Assistance Group, L.L.C. MD Circuit Court Case No. 371070-V and MD Court of Special Appeals in Case No. 00180 September Term, 2014, Judges Mary Beth McCormick and Peter B. Krauser “drew a line in the sand”, stubbornly refused to enforce Maryland rules governing civil and appellate procedures to protect the private, professional, legal and professional interests of Torin K. Andrews, an attorney who along with his law firm, Andrews and Lawrence Law Group and collection agency, Debt Assistance Group, L.L.C. have been engaged in unlawful collection actions that include illegally obtaining copies of homeowners’ credit reports from Experian on behalf of their approximately 100 homeowner and condominium association clients. These abusive collection practices and illegal credit inquiries were procured without the homeowners’ prior knowledge, consent, written permission and disclosure in their Associations’ declarations, covenants and bylaws, shared with their association clients’ board members, and obtained without a permissible purpose under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”).

      During the course of litigation Mr. Andrews and his legal counsel repeatedly argued the credit inquiries were permissible under the FCRA 15 U.S.C. Section 1681b § 604(3) (A) and FCRA 15 U.S.C. Section 1681b § 604(3) (F).

      In opposition I argued that the credit inquiries were impermissible and illegal under the Fair Credit Reporting Act because:

      1) Homeowner and condominium associations do not meet the statutory definition of a “creditor” under the FCRA and Equal Credit Opportunity Act 15 U.S.C. Section 1691a § 702 (e), which defines “creditor” as “any person who regularly extends, renews, or continues credit; any person who regularly arranges for the extension, renewal, or continuation of credit; or any assignee of an original creditor who participates in the decision to extend, renew, or continue credit”.

      2) Assessments owed to homeowner and condominium associations do not meet the statutory definition of “credit” under the FCRA and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act 15 U.S.C. Section 1691a § 702 (d), which states the term ““credit” means the right granted by a creditor to a debtor to defer payment of debt or to incur debts and defer its payment or to purchase property or services and defer payment therefor”.

      3) Homeowners’ accounts with their homeowner and condominium associations do not meet the statutory definition of an “account” as defined by the FCRA and Electronic Fund Transfer Act. The FCRA 15 U.S.C. Section 1681a § 603(r) (4), which states the terms ““account” and “electronic fund transfer” have the same meanings as in Section 903 of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act”. The Electronic Fund Transfer Act 15 U.S.C. Section1693a § 903 (2) defines the term ““account” as “a demand deposit, savings deposit, or other asset account (other than an occasional or incidental credit balance in an open end credit plan as defined in Section 1602 (i) of this title), as described in regulations of the Bureau, established primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, but such term does not include an account held by a financial institution pursuant to a bona fide trust agreement”.

      4) On May 27, 2010 in the matter of Norbeck Grove Community Association, Inc. v. Janice R. Fontell District Court of Montgomery County Maryland Case No. 060100236532008, the Andrews and Lawrence Law Group obtained a money judgment me, which was later overturned on appeal. However, five (5) days later, on June 1, 2010, Mr. Andrews and his related companies illegally obtained copies of my credit report twice from Experian before the expiration of the ten (10) days automatic stay of enforcement period governed by MD Rule 3-632 (a). They knew or should have known they were prohibited from taking any action to enforce or collect the money judgment during the ten (10) days automatic stay of enforcement period from May 27th – June 6th, 2010.

      5) The illegal credit inquiries violated MD Rule 3-633 which governs the process by which a judgment creditor may enforce a money judgment and obtain discovery to locate assets belonging to a judgment debtor. Once the ten (10) days automatic stay of enforcement period had expired, Mr. Andrews and the Andrews and Lawrence Law Group were required to obtain a COURT ORDER seeking my participation in an oral examination before a Maryland District Court Judge or a designated Examiner in order locate my bank accounts, employment, personal property, and real estate. The oral examination is required to aid their discovery of my assets in order to enforce and collect the money judgment. Mr. Andrews and the Andrews and Lawrence Law Group never requested nor obtained the required court order.

      On December 16, 2013 I requested leave to file a second amended complaint in order to add my claim that the credit inquiries violated the FCRA. In open court Mary Beth McCormick instructed me to file a written motion, which I did on December 18, 2013. Legal counsel for Mr. Andrews, Andrews and Lawrence Law Group, National Recovery and Investigations, and Debt Assistance Group did not oppose or object to my request.

      In my motion for leave to file second amended complaint I cited the controlling and relevant MD Rule 2-341 (a) which states “a party may file an amendment to a pleading without leave of court by the date set forth in a scheduling order or, if there is no scheduling order, no later than 30 days before a scheduled trial date”. The Scheduling Order did not set a deadline to file amended pleadings, the Court did not impose a deadline to file amended pleadings during the pretrial conference conducted on October 31, 2013 and the request was made twice on December 16th & 18th , 2013, within thirty (30) days prior to the January 21, 2014 trial date.

      I also cited another controlling legal authority – Prudential Securities, Inc. v. E-Net, Inc., 140 Md. App. 194, 230-34 (2001) that advised MD courts to be “mindful of language in appellate cases suggesting that virtually all amendments must be allowed – even late blooming amendments — absent a showing of actual prejudice by the party against whom the amended pleading is offered”.
      Without an accompanying memorandum citing any findings of fact, controlling or relevant MD Rules and/or other legal authorities, on January 29, 2014 Judge McCormick arbitrarily denied my unopposed motion for leave to amend my complaint, which under MD Rules of Civil Procedure did not require court permission.

      In accordance with MD Rule 2-534, ten (10) days later on February 6, 2014, I filed a motion for reconsideration of her January 29, 2014 court, which was arbitrarily denied by Judge McCormick on March 6, 2014 without an accompanying memorandum citing any findings of fact, controlling or relevant MD Rules and/or other legal authorities.

      On April 4, 2014, less than 30 days later, I filed a timely notice of appeal in accordance with MD Rule 8-202(a), which states “except as otherwise provided in this Rule or by law, the notice of appeal shall be filed within 30 days after entry of the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken”.

      On June 11, 2014 Judge Peter B. Krauser arbitrarily dismissed my appeal by misrepresenting the court record with his preparation of a chronology of court filings that deliberately omitted and ignored the January 29, 2014 and March 6, 2014 court orders, which gave rise to my entitlement to appellate review of Judge McCormick’s denial of my request to amend my complaint under MD Rule 8-202(a). Instead Judge Krauser issued the dismissal based upon an earlier and unrelated motion that was not subject to my appeal.

      On June 23, 2014 I filed a timely motion for reconsideration because Judge Krauser’s dismissal order referenced the wrong lower court order that I had timely appealed – the March 6, 2014 court order denying my request to amend my complaint.

      On October 14, 2014 the MD Court of Special Appeals arbitrarily denied my motion for reconsideration without comment because in the end, Judge Krauser, Judge McCormick, Mr. Andrews and his legal counsel knew that if allowed to amend my complaint I would have prevailed on my FCRA claims. I had submitted clear and convincing evidence such as Mr. Andrews’ deposition testimony, copies of the money judgment dated May 27, 2010, my redacted credit report documenting the actual June 1, 2010 dates for the illegal credit inquires, and the publications titled “In the 40Years of Experience with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. An FTC Staff Report with Summary of Interpretations” published by the Federal Trade Commission found at pp. 47-48 http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fcrajump.shtm, http://www.ftc.gov/os/2011/07/110720fcrareport.pdf” and “Post-Judgment Collection. How to Collect Your Judgment in the District Court of Maryland” published by the District Court of Maryland, which proves by the preponderance of evidence that the defendants did not have a permissible purpose under the FCRA and MD rules to obtain and share copies of my credit report from Experian.

      The arbitrary and unfair dismissal of my appeal demonstrates Judge Krauser’s willingness to deprive me of my constitutional right to due process and a fair, impartial, unbiased and full appellate hearing of my claims. It also illustrates the complicity of certain judges such as Judges Krauser and McCormick, who will doggedly refuse to enforce and follow MD rules of civil and appellate procedures in order to protect and shield homeowner and condominium associations and their management agents and attorneys from legal accountability, personal responsibility and financial liability for their systemic and egregious violations of federal and state debt collection, consumer protection and credit reporting laws.

      Lastly, it also shows the hostility and biases these judges harbor towards me as a pro se and self-represented litigant and advocate for homeowners’ property, privacy and legal rights. To this end they will abuse their judicial power, distort and misrepresent the court record and blatantly lie in retaliation for my public disclosures of the systemic and widespread illegal, criminal and abusive collection practices of homeowner and condominium associations and their management agents and attorneys, including, but not limited to:

      • Collecting assessments that are not owed, past due, delinquent or in default.
      • Submit false testimony, false affidavits and false evidence under oath during administrative and court proceedings.
      • Filing time-barred lawsuits.
      • Filing time-barred liens against homeowners’ homes.
      • Unlicensed debt collection activities.
      • Unlicensed and unauthorized practice of law.
      • Obtaining copies of homeowners’ credit reports without a permissible purpose under the FCRA and/or state laws and without their advance knowledge, consent and written permission.
      • Collecting excessive late fees for the same missed payment and fees for unlicensed collection and/or legal services.
      • Communicating their collection actions against homeowners with third parties who do not have a legal right to receive this information.

      I have sacrificed a great deal for my advocacy but I will not be bullied into silence. “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” Please help me spread the word about this injustice.

  1. Wow! I am so impressed with Janice Fontell’s drive and determination as well as knowledge. It is so wonderful to hear of a homeowner that prevailed and showed the court system that not all homeowners are “asleep at the wheel” and downright stupid. Is it an assumption that because we were ignorant enough to buy into an HOA that we are also too ignorant to defend ourselves? Ms. Fontell has blazed a trail for all of us abused homeowners.

    I hope she will pursue the legislators with the same precise determination because she is excellent at presenting her information with the supporting documentation and applicable statutes. She is one person I believe the legislators would sit up and listen to.

    I can hardly wait to hear the rest of her story.

    Thank you for having her as a guest, Shu! This is why your show is so important. Even when I can’t listen when it airs I always find time at some point to listen to the podcast. So deeply grateful for your efforts to educate others!

    1. With deep sadness I must report that my efforts to advocate on behalf of and protect the property, financial and legal rights of homeowners residing in homeowner and condominium associations have been thwarted by judicial railroading and foul play.

      In Janice Fontell v. Torin K. Andrews, Andrews and Lawrence Law Group, L.L.C., National Recovery and Investigations, L.L.C., and Debt Assistance Group, L.L.C. MD Circuit Court Case No. 371070-V and MD Court of Special Appeals in Case No. 00180 September Term, 2014, Judges Mary Beth McCormick and Peter B. Krauser “drew a line in the sand”, stubbornly refused to enforce Maryland rules governing civil and appellate procedures to protect the private, professional, legal and professional interests of Torin K. Andrews, an attorney who along with his law firm, Andrews and Lawrence Law Group and collection agency, Debt Assistance Group, L.L.C. have been engaged in unlawful collection actions that include illegally obtaining copies of homeowners’ credit reports from Experian on behalf of their approximately 100 homeowner and condominium association clients. These abusive collection practices and illegal credit inquiries were procured without the homeowners’ prior knowledge, consent, written permission and disclosure in their Associations’ declarations, covenants and bylaws, shared with their association clients’ board members, and obtained without a permissible purpose under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”).

      During the course of litigation Mr. Andrews and his legal counsel repeatedly argued the credit inquiries were permissible under the FCRA 15 U.S.C. Section 1681b § 604(3) (A) and FCRA 15 U.S.C. Section 1681b § 604(3) (F).

      In opposition I argued that the credit inquiries were impermissible and illegal under the Fair Credit Reporting Act because:

      1) Homeowner and condominium associations do not meet the statutory definition of a “creditor” under the FCRA and Equal Credit Opportunity Act 15 U.S.C. Section 1691a § 702 (e), which defines “creditor” as “any person who regularly extends, renews, or continues credit; any person who regularly arranges for the extension, renewal, or continuation of credit; or any assignee of an original creditor who participates in the decision to extend, renew, or continue credit”.

      2) Assessments owed to homeowner and condominium associations do not meet the statutory definition of “credit” under the FCRA and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act 15 U.S.C. Section 1691a § 702 (d), which states the term ““credit” means the right granted by a creditor to a debtor to defer payment of debt or to incur debts and defer its payment or to purchase property or services and defer payment therefor”.

      3) Homeowners’ accounts with their homeowner and condominium associations do not meet the statutory definition of an “account” as defined by the FCRA and Electronic Fund Transfer Act. The FCRA 15 U.S.C. Section 1681a § 603(r) (4), which states the terms ““account” and “electronic fund transfer” have the same meanings as in Section 903 of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act”. The Electronic Fund Transfer Act 15 U.S.C. Section1693a § 903 (2) defines the term ““account” as “a demand deposit, savings deposit, or other asset account (other than an occasional or incidental credit balance in an open end credit plan as defined in Section 1602 (i) of this title), as described in regulations of the Bureau, established primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, but such term does not include an account held by a financial institution pursuant to a bona fide trust agreement”.

      4) On May 27, 2010 in the matter of Norbeck Grove Community Association, Inc. v. Janice R. Fontell District Court of Montgomery County Maryland Case No. 060100236532008, the Andrews and Lawrence Law Group obtained a money judgment me, which was later overturned on appeal. However, five (5) days later, on June 1, 2010, Mr. Andrews and his related companies illegally obtained copies of my credit report twice from Experian before the expiration of the ten (10) days automatic stay of enforcement period governed by MD Rule 3-632 (a). They knew or should have known they were prohibited from taking any action to enforce or collect the money judgment during the ten (10) days automatic stay of enforcement period from May 27th – June 6th, 2010.

      5) The illegal credit inquiries violated MD Rule 3-633 which governs the process by which a judgment creditor may enforce a money judgment and obtain discovery to locate assets belonging to a judgment debtor. Once the ten (10) days automatic stay of enforcement period had expired, Mr. Andrews and the Andrews and Lawrence Law Group were required to obtain a COURT ORDER seeking my participation in an oral examination before a Maryland District Court Judge or a designated Examiner in order locate my bank accounts, employment, personal property, and real estate. The oral examination is required to aid their discovery of my assets in order to enforce and collect the money judgment. Mr. Andrews and the Andrews and Lawrence Law Group never requested nor obtained the required court order.

      On December 16, 2013 I requested leave to file a second amended complaint in order to add my claim that the credit inquiries violated the FCRA. In open court Mary Beth McCormick instructed me to file a written motion, which I did on December 18, 2013. Legal counsel for Mr. Andrews, Andrews and Lawrence Law Group, National Recovery and Investigations, and Debt Assistance Group did not oppose or object to my request.

      In my motion for leave to file second amended complaint I cited the controlling and relevant MD Rule 2-341 (a) which states “a party may file an amendment to a pleading without leave of court by the date set forth in a scheduling order or, if there is no scheduling order, no later than 30 days before a scheduled trial date”. The Scheduling Order did not set a deadline to file amended pleadings, the Court did not impose a deadline to file amended pleadings during the pretrial conference conducted on October 31, 2013 and the request was made twice on December 16th & 18th , 2013, within thirty (30) days prior to the January 21, 2014 trial date.

      I also cited another controlling legal authority – Prudential Securities, Inc. v. E-Net, Inc., 140 Md. App. 194, 230-34 (2001) that advised MD courts to be “mindful of language in appellate cases suggesting that virtually all amendments must be allowed – even late blooming amendments — absent a showing of actual prejudice by the party against whom the amended pleading is offered”.
      Without an accompanying memorandum citing any findings of fact, controlling or relevant MD Rules and/or other legal authorities, on January 29, 2014 Judge McCormick arbitrarily denied my unopposed motion for leave to amend my complaint, which under MD Rules of Civil Procedure did not require court permission.

      In accordance with MD Rule 2-534, ten (10) days later on February 6, 2014, I filed a motion for reconsideration of her January 29, 2014 court, which was arbitrarily denied by Judge McCormick on March 6, 2014 without an accompanying memorandum citing any findings of fact, controlling or relevant MD Rules and/or other legal authorities.

      On April 4, 2014, less than 30 days later, I filed a timely notice of appeal in accordance with MD Rule 8-202(a), which states “except as otherwise provided in this Rule or by law, the notice of appeal shall be filed within 30 days after entry of the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken”.

      On June 11, 2014 Judge Peter B. Krauser arbitrarily dismissed my appeal by misrepresenting the court record with his preparation of a chronology of court filings that deliberately omitted and ignored the January 29, 2014 and March 6, 2014 court orders, which gave rise to my entitlement to appellate review of Judge McCormick’s denial of my request to amend my complaint under MD Rule 8-202(a). Instead Judge Krauser issued the dismissal based upon an earlier and unrelated motion that was not subject to my appeal.

      On June 23, 2014 I filed a timely motion for reconsideration because Judge Krauser’s dismissal order referenced the wrong lower court order that I had timely appealed – the March 6, 2014 court order denying my request to amend my complaint.

      On October 14, 2014 the MD Court of Special Appeals arbitrarily denied my motion for reconsideration without comment because in the end, Judge Krauser, Judge McCormick, Mr. Andrews and his legal counsel knew that if allowed to amend my complaint I would have prevailed on my FCRA claims. I had submitted clear and convincing evidence such as Mr. Andrews’ deposition testimony, copies of the money judgment dated May 27, 2010, my redacted credit report documenting the actual June 1, 2010 dates for the illegal credit inquires, and the publications titled “In the 40Years of Experience with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. An FTC Staff Report with Summary of Interpretations” published by the Federal Trade Commission found at pp. 47-48 http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fcrajump.shtm, http://www.ftc.gov/os/2011/07/110720fcrareport.pdf” and “Post-Judgment Collection. How to Collect Your Judgment in the District Court of Maryland” published by the District Court of Maryland, which proves by the preponderance of evidence that the defendants did not have a permissible purpose under the FCRA and MD rules to obtain and share copies of my credit report from Experian.

      The arbitrary and unfair dismissal of my appeal demonstrates Judge Krauser’s willingness to deprive me of my constitutional right to due process and a fair, impartial, unbiased and full appellate hearing of my claims. It also illustrates the complicity of certain judges such as Judges Krauser and McCormick, who will doggedly refuse to enforce and follow MD rules of civil and appellate procedures in order to protect and shield homeowner and condominium associations and their management agents and attorneys from legal accountability, personal responsibility and financial liability for their systemic and egregious violations of federal and state debt collection, consumer protection and credit reporting laws.

      Lastly, it also shows the hostility and biases these judges harbor towards me as a pro se and self-represented litigant and advocate for homeowners’ property, privacy and legal rights. To this end they will abuse their judicial power, distort and misrepresent the court record and blatantly lie in retaliation for my public disclosures of the systemic and widespread illegal, criminal and abusive collection practices of homeowner and condominium associations and their management agents and attorneys, including, but not limited to:

      • Collecting assessments that are not owed, past due, delinquent or in default.
      • Submit false testimony, false affidavits and false evidence under oath during administrative and court proceedings.
      • Filing time-barred lawsuits.
      • Filing time-barred liens against homeowners’ homes.
      • Unlicensed debt collection activities.
      • Unlicensed and unauthorized practice of law.
      • Obtaining copies of homeowners’ credit reports without a permissible purpose under the FCRA and/or state laws and without their advance knowledge, consent and written permission.
      • Collecting excessive late fees for the same missed payment and fees for unlicensed collection and/or legal services.
      • Communicating their collection actions against homeowners with third parties who do not have a legal right to receive this information.

      I have sacrificed a great deal for my advocacy but I will not be bullied into silence. “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” Please help me spread the word about this injustice.

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