HOAs and Collecting Delinquent Assessments
A homeowners’ association (HOA) has several different roles in dealing with their unit owners, but one of the most difficult is collecting assessments – particularly delinquent assessments. Since most HOAs have limited budgets, owners are usually charged assessment fees in order to help with upkeep of common areas. When an owner falls behind, the HOA has the right to seek prompt payment, using a variety of tools to accomplish its goals.
Litigation Is Not The First Step
In most situations, assessments and the methods the HOA can use to collect them are laid out in the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that every owner accepts when they join the association. They are designed to grant the association enough funds to keep the subdivision’s common areas in good repair – features such as streetlights, swimming pools, or landscaping – but can also help to raise money after emergencies, such as a natural disaster. If they are not promptly collected from owners or rental tenants, the association can act against the tenant first.
The first step is usually a simple demand letter, using the language contained in the relevant statute. The tenant must be told how much they owe (including fines and other costs), and advised of what the association plans to do if payment is not received. The association may offer the tenant a payment plan, but this is not required by Florida law. Another option short of litigation may be taking some of the tenant’s privileges away, such as the right to use recreational facilities, until they pay their obligations.
Tenants vs Unit Owners
If the tenant still does not pay, the next step may be filing suit, and there is more than one way to do so. Florida law allows HOAs to place a lien on a unit parcel “when authorized by the governing documents” of the association. The HOA must wait 45 days before recording that lien, but during that time, eviction proceedings may be initiated against the tenant while still seeking payment from either them or the owner. That said, it is important to keep in mind that the tenant cannot be held liable for any more than the amount of their agreement with the unit owner.
If the tenant chooses to pay the HOA, they are statutorily protected from any retaliatory action the unit owner might choose to take. If they do not, however, the HOA can initiate eviction proceedings against the tenant. If there is no tenant, however, and the unit owner is the delinquent party, lien and foreclosure may be the only remedy. The 45-day waiting period to record the lien can sometimes be a unit owner’s time to change and pay their obligation; however, if not, liens can often be settled within 1 year. The association can recover the amount they need either way.
Call A Tampa Homeowners’ Association Attorney
A homeowners’ association has an obligation to its owners to maintain the common areas of the subdivision, and owners have an obligation to pay assessments where applicable. If one refuses, the HOA has rights, and many options to seek that the money be paid. The Tampa HOA & condo association attorneys at the Seward Law Office have handled many cases of this nature, and are happy to try and assist you. Call our offices today at 813-252-6789 to speak to an attorney.