Can condo owners refuse to pay special assessment?

Q: Despite the struggling economy, our condo passed a significant special assessment to repair the roof. Many residents cannot afford to pay this. What would happen if a couple of dozen of us refused to pay?

Suzanne

A: When a community association, whether a condominium or homeowners association, does not have enough funds from the regular dues to pay for a necessary repair, it can levy a special assessment.

Special assessments usually occur when there is an unexpected problem or insufficient reserves to cover the cost of a regular renovation, such as replacing the roof.

Special assessments are passed by a vote following the rules set out in the community’s documents and state law. This is another reason to be involved, pay attention to what you get in the mail, and attend board meetings.

Homeowners who live in a community association who do not pay their regular or special assessments can be sued by their association for a money judgment and can even have their home foreclosed, with the proceeds used to pay the debt.

The amount due can be quite a bit more than just the unpaid dues and will include attorney fees, court costs, interest, and administrative expenses. I have seen many cases in which the collection costs far outweigh the unpaid assessments.

Not paying your regular or special assessments is a severe matter and quickly leads to losing your home.

If you receive an invoice you disagree with, immediately contact your property manager to discuss the charge.

If it is not corrected in writing, you should pay the contested balance before continuing to fight the charge. This will stop additional costs from accruing, causing the problem to spiral bigger and bigger.

Once the invoice is paid under protest, you can try to have the charge removed from your account without digging yourself into a hole if you were incorrect.

Send Gary Singer questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter GarySingerLaw.

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