Past due association fees are usually paid out of the seller's proceeds at closing. The failure to collect the fees could be covered by your title insurance policy. However, if you did not receive title insurance your are probably stuck with having to pay the fees. If you are unsure of your rights and responsibilities as an HOA member, you should consult an experienced real estate lawyer in your area.
Disclaimer: This answer is provided for informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Actual legal advice can only be provided after completing a comprehensive consultation in which all of the relevant facts are discussed and reviewed.
If you bought it in a foreclosure sale, then yes, you are responsible for the previous unpaid assessments of any previous owner, unless you bought it from the association, which has a duty to pay all the past due assessments when they take title.
If you purchased from an individual, you should have had an estoppel letter issued on your behalf by a title company to identify the unpaid assessments so they could be paid at closing.
This communication is not intended to create an attorney/client relationship. It is always recommended you consult an attorney in person to discuss your case. The Law Offices of Stage & Associates practices state-wide and represents homeowners and community associations. Please visit our website at www.stagelaw.com.
As a unit owner, you are entitled to see the books and records of the association, including a record of all assessments and payments. If you purchased the unit at a standard closing, the closing agent should have obtained an estoppel statement from the association detailing all amounts due and that should have been paid at closing by the closing agent. If for some reason that was omitted, you may have recourse against the title agent. If you bought at a foreclosure auction, you have no one to have recourse against. All unpaid assessments are the responsibility of the current owner (you), and you may at least in theory have recourse against prior owner(s) who did not pay.
Please note that the above is not intended as legal advice, it is for educational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is created or is intended to be created hereby. You should contact a local attorney to discuss and to obtain legal advice.