Absent couple a headache for Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority
May 16, 2014
Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority Director Tom McCabe said it's the type of situation his department comes across every four or five years. But this one is particularly unique.
Kevin McClure and his wife have met Aspen's housing-lottery requirements and are in line for a Category 4, three-bedroom unit at Little Ajax Condominiums. The problem is the current owners — whom the housing authority has asked to sell the unit — are nowhere to be found, and the McClures have been left waiting for months.
The owners in question at 605 W. Hopkins Ave., Trevor Nelson, of South Africa, and his wife, Rose-Marie Nelson, agreed to sell their unit in January. But they have been in sporadic communication with the housing authority since, and McCabe said that it appears they have no intention of addressing the issue.
"Some of these things are messy in ways you wouldn't expect them to be messy," McCabe said, adding that it's possible the issue will play out in court.
"Logical behavior would say, 'Well, this is easy. I'm going to lose a little bit of money, but I'm still going to walk away with some money in my wallet.' And most people do that," he said.
In addition to being about $4,000 behind in homeowners' association dues, the Nelsons have four unreleased federal tax liens on file, according to the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder's Office. In 2010, an $83,000 lien was recorded against both Trevor and Rose-Marie Nelson. That same year, a $2,400 lien was filed against Trevor Nelson. Another $12,800 is listed for the couple in 2013, and in January 2014, the federal government recorded one in Trevor Nelson's name at $4,989.
The Nelsons could not be reached, and the McClures declined comment for this article.
Patsy Kurkulis, who lives with her husband and two children at Little Ajax, said she hasn't seen the Nelsons since January, and before that, she would see them maybe once a month. Instead, Kurkulis and other neighbors have run into unapproved renters living in the Nelsons' unit. In the summer of 2013, Kurkulis said there was an Aspen Music School student living in the unit with family members.
"It was so strange," Kurkulis said, adding that she spoke with Rose-Marie Nelson on the phone shortly after. "She was infuriated and (said), 'We're renting it out to a music school student, and if we do that, we don't need anybody's permission.'"
Homeowners' association Treasurer and Housing Authority board member Ron Erickson said the Nelsons rented their unit to two or three different people over a period of six months. He said owners are within their right to rent out their space, but the Nelsons didn't seek housing authority or association approval.
"The association finally said, 'Look, if you're not going to follow the rules, then we're not going to allow you to rent. And if you don't live here, maybe you ought to sell your unit and let somebody who does live and work in the community have it,'" Erickson said.
After last summer, the association filed a formal complaint with the housing authority, detailing the Nelsons' lack of occupancy, unauthorized renters, unpaid dues and a foreclosure notice that had surfaced. The association attempted to get the Nelsons on a payment plan and set up a hearing, but it didn't resolve the situation. So the housing authority took over, and the Nelsons eventually announced their intention to sell, though communication has broken down since.
What is typically a 45-day process has turned into nearly five months. Erickson recently was told that the Nelsons are not in town, nobody knows where they are and they're unreachable. Both McCabe and Erickson said that they feel for the McClures, who might eventually end up renting the unit until the title has been cleared.
"Here's a person that's abusing the system," Erickson said of the Nelsons. "And we're doing everything we can — from a homeowners' association's point of view and from (a housing authority) point of view — to correct it, and it's not working out as well as we would've liked, and it's unfortunate. We're all sorry to see that the people who have a legitimate right to get that unit are being prevented from doing so."
McCabe said a court battle could cause some delays for the McClures, which his office would like to avoid.
"We want to see if there's a different way to solve the problem without just going to the mat," McCabe said.