We bought our house back in 2012 during the recession. At our closing there were no covenants or HOA. Our Agent and Closing Attorney noted that in our closing documents.In 2016 The Builder had a property management group take over. We knew nothing about it until this year when we got a $2570 bill from them saying we owed back until 2012. They are rude and hang up on us when we call and they won't tell people where the money goes. We are constantly being threatened and harassed by these people!
When you bought your property, there either was and HOA and restrictive covenants or there was not. Most likely, there were both and the agent and closing attorney didn't advise you, either out of ignorance or intentionally. Whatever they told you, you are deemed to legally know of the HOA based on what is recorded on the deed records of the county. If you bought an owner's title insurance policy at closing, you will want to pull that policy to see if it lists as an exception on Schedule B any covenants for an HOA. Also look to see if there was a PUD Rider attached to your security deed that you signed.
Assuming there were covenants and an HOA shown on the deed records, the HOA could have been inactive, but that doesn't mean it did not exist or did not have authority to demand assessments from you. To find out more about where you stand, you start by having the deed records checked. Once that is done and if an HOA is found, you need to deal with them on past due assessments. Were the properly levied and assessed? Were proper notices communicated to you as a member of the HOA. Is the HOA in good standing with the Secretary of State? There is a four year statute of limitations on HOA assessments, so if the assessments demanded go back more than four years, you have a valid defense to the older assessments.
In short, check all your closing documents and have the deed records checked to determine the applicable facts. Then you can get an evaluation of any liability you have to respond to the HOA.
This answer is for general purposes only, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship.
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