How HOAs Collect Delinquent Assessments
In Florida and the other states that use them, homeowners’ associations (HOAs) have the right to collect assessments from owners for unexpected expenses. While owners may complain, the right to do this is contained in both Florida law, and in most HOAs’ conditions, covenants & restrictions (CC&Rs), which must be approved before purchasing land in the association. Still, some may actively try to avoid paying, and if this happens in your HOA, there are several options the board may take in order to force payment.
A Standardized Procedure
If an HOA member does not pay an assessment within the established time period, the board can take civil action against them, though since 2021, Florida law has required that they provide notice to the homeowner before doing so. A Notice of Late Assessment must be served on the delinquent owner, giving them 30 days to pay off late assessments and other fees without tacking on attorney’s fees. (If no notice is given, the HOA is barred from collecting on the debt in most situations.) State law does allow the collection of interest and fees, though the interest rate is fixed at 18 percent and fees are also standardized.
This procedure must be followed to the letter, because a failure to do so may open the HOA board up to accusations of unequal enforcement. In other words, if the board acts in a certain manner with one delinquent owner, it must act in the same way with another owner in the same financial position. If the board shows favoritism, it may open up the possibility of a defense for the delinquent owner that can help them avoid payment in its entirety.
If notice is provided, procedure is followed, and yet no payment is forthcoming, the association then has the right to place a lien on the homeowner’s property after 45 days (and notice of intent to do so, which can include a recounting of the amount due, plus fines if they are over $1,000). However, they must affirmatively ‘perfect’ it by recording a notice of the lien in the county’s land records. When this happens, anyone searching the title to the property will see the HOA’s lien, which must be paid before the land can be sold or the mortgage can be refinanced.
In most situations, a Florida HOA lien will ‘relate back’ to the date of the community’s declaration, and while it will take priority over many other liens, federal tax liens and sometimes, mortgage liens will receive higher priority as a general rule. If the assessment still is not paid by the time the lien is perfected, the association can begin foreclosure proceedings after 45 days if no other complications exist – but one hopes that the assessment will be paid long before this point.
Contact A Tampa HOA Attorney
Assessments are a part of life in an HOA, but some owners either cannot or will not pay them. If you are a member of the board, know that the association has options under Florida law to deal with the problem. Contacting a Tampa HOA attorney from the Seward Law Office may be the first step in getting the issue handled. Attorney Alicia Seward and the Seward Law Office have experience in these matters and are ready to work for you. Call our office at 813-252-6789 to schedule a consultation.