What Are Special Assessments?
One of the major duties for homeowners’ associations (HOAs) and condominium boards is to maintain an appropriate reserve fund in order to replace and maintain common items and areas. However, if something happens where major repairs or replacements are needed, the association may simply not have the funds on hand to make the changes. When this occurs, the HOA or condo board is allowed to collect what is known as a special assessment. It is crucial that both members of the board and the residents of the community are aware of when a special assessment is permissible, lest complaints or even lawsuits come out of the process.
What and When
Every HOA and condo board levy assessments; it is part of the contract signed by every owner and renter. They can be collected monthly, quarterly, or even annually, depending on the structure of the association’s governing documents, but they are mandatory. Normally, these standard assessments are enough to maintain the premises and perform minor repairs – some associations are even able to establish a reserve fund, so that they can hopefully avoid special assessments. However, sometimes life simply happens, and the HOA or condo board may not have the money on hand to make serious repairs.
Special assessments are intended to help alleviate the cost of major changes or repairs. Hurricane-related repairs are some of the most common reasons for special assessments, though there are several other examples. Resurfacing private roads, addition of tennis courts or community pools, or roof or siding replacements are some of the less disaster-oriented reasons why an HOA or a condo board may feel a special assessment is necessary. However, they cannot simply be requested without any notice or discussion.
Procedure Must Be Followed
There are very specific procedures that must be followed in order for a board to be allowed to levy a special assessment. Generally, special assessments can only be requested in order to pay for a proper “common expense” – generally, any expense that is designated as common by either the statute or the governing documents of your association. However, the actual rules for adopting a special assessment will vary from association to association; the majority of HOAs and condo boards will have procedures related to special assessments in their governing documents.
If the special assessment is permissible under your HOA’s or condo board’s governing documents, the members of the community must contribute. While in rare instances, a tenant may withhold rent from a landlord if they believe the landlord to be delinquent in some respect, there is no situation under Florida law where a homeowner or condo owner may withhold assessments even if they believe that the HOA or condo board is in the wrong. It is possible for a homeowner to file a complaint or even a lawsuit if they believe that the board’s assessment is unreasonably or unjustifiably high, but HOAs and condo boards do generally have fairly broad discretion in terms of what amounts may be required.
Contact A Tampa HOA Attorney
Neither HOAs nor condo boards nor home or condo owners enjoy having to deal with assessments, but they are an integral cornerstone of running a successful association, and can be fairly without incident if proper procedure is observed. If you have questions or concerns about special assessments in your HOA or condominium board, contacting a Tampa HOA & condo association attorney from the Seward Law Office may be a good first step toward getting them answered. Contact our offices today at 813-252-6789 to schedule a consultation.