Written by attorney Barbara Billiot Stage

Misconceptions about Association Liens & Foreclosures

Condo associations (COA) and HOAs rely on assessments to pay for the expenses of the association. Rarely does an association have income from any other source then the assessments it collects from members. There are a number of misconceptions about the duty to pay assessments and the power of the associations to lien and foreclose. Here are some of the most frequent ones I encounter: 1 .If a bank or any other entity has foreclosed, the association cannot. This is completely FALSE. The association can foreclose much more quickly than a bank or mortgage company because they are the original creditor and have not sold off the debt or transferred it to a third party. 2. If a member does not like the way the association is being run or they are not using the money to keep the property up, payment can be withheld. This is completely FALSE. There is no defense to not paying assessments in the State of Florida. The judges do not want to hear it and by law, they cannot consider it. They will listen to arguments if you did pay your assessments and the association has bad accounting habits or refused your payment, but to not pay at all will cost you your home. Trying to fight them is very expensive. 3. If the assessments are paid they cannot take the home for the attorneys' fees, interest and late fees. This is completely FALSE. By statute the payments are applied to all fees and costs first and assessments last, so unless you pay these, you will lose your home. Your best option when running into trouble with a past due assessment issue is to either negotiate a payment plan or overpay the amount of the demand rather than trying to get a payoff from the attorney who will bill you for every communication.

There are some good defenses to invalid assessments, such as lack of notice, failure to allow members to vote if the governing documents require a vote, and a few others, but it's not worth risking your home by withholding assessments to fight this. Pay the assessments and then fight back.

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