The timely collection of fees and assessments is the lifeblood of any HOA, condominium association, co-operative, or timeshare. However, unit owners are not always able to pay their fees and assessments on time. Depending on the state you live in and the penalties for late payments ascribed in the governing documents, delinquency is handled in one a few different methods. This article describes some of the best practices common interest community associations can use to keep their delinquencies to a minimum and their collection efforts on track to keep the revenue flowing while the delinquency is remedied.
Most HOAs have rules about when payments are late and what steps the association should take to collect delinquent funds. Consult with your association’s governance documents to see how delinquencies are handled at your HOA. If the documents are silent or the penalties are not strong enough to encourage compliance, it may be time for new rules and a document revision to help ensure that there are adequate penalties and remedies in place for late payments. Generally speaking, a fine ($25 or so) is imposed for payments that are 10 days or more in arrears. Additionally, there are collection efforts at 30, 60, and/or 90 day intervals when payments are missed.
At 30 days, a letter of demand is usually issued. This letter details the delinquency, reaffirms the fine that went out 10 days after the payment was missed and details what further collection activities await if the payment is not made in timely fashion. At 60 days, the matter is generally turned over to the association’s attorney or collection agent for legal proceedings. The legal costs are generally paid by the association and assessed to the delinquent unit owner as outlined in the association’s governing documents. The simple desire to avoid all of these additional costs is usually enough incentive for the unit owner to make good on the debt at this time. The addition of the attorney’s fees on top of the unpaid common fees and fine really drive up the debt. It is not uncommon for these fees to top $500 or more depending on the part of the country you live.
Finally, if the delinquent unit owner is unable or unwilling to pay the delinquent fees, the association can begin foreclosure proceedings against the unit owner. Again, laws vary from state to state but, generally speaking, delinquency can be remedied via foreclosure action, although unit owners have very specific rights from state to state. That is why it is best for associations to work closely with legal counsel during this phase of collection procedures. Laws also vary from state to state about the right of priority (who gets paid first) when foreclosure occurs as there are usually multiple claimants in the foreclosure proceeding. It is a drastic and final measure for just this reason.
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