Delinquent on your homeowner’s dues?

If you think the bank is the only one that can go after your home, think again.

Fall behind on your homeowner’s dues and your homeowners association also can go after you by placing a lien against your home or condo. As a last resort, associations can start foreclosure proceedings.

If you belong to a homeowners or condo association and have dealt with this issue, we’d like to hear about your experience.

We’d also like to hear from association board members who’ve wrestled with this problem.

Please post your comment below. Also, AJC reporter Tammy Joyner is working on a story about this and would love to hear from you. You can contact her at tjoyner@ajc.com or 404 526-5870. Thanks.

17 comments Add your comment

HOAGOV

June 28th, 2010
8:41 pm

HOA foreclosures are discriminatory, because only those with high enough equity will ever return $$$ to the HOA that is in second place. High mortgages must be first paid off by HOA, which it ain’t got money to do so. So, only the “good” people get hurt. It’s unjust!

HOA foreclosures are also punitive and are used to coerce and intimidate owners into paying debts. You can lose all your $200,000 equity in your home for $1,000 to the HOA, and $4,000 to the HOA attorney that doesn’t help the HOA one bit. In this example, that’s equivalent to 200 times the “damages” to the HOA — remember the HOA only gets $1,000. The Supreme Court held that more than 10 times punitive damages in product liability cases was an unconstitutional, cruel and unusual punishment.

And, unlike the mortgage company, the HOA did not advance any hard funds to justify foreclosure. Other debt situations allow for liens, period. But, the HOA supporters have persuaded the state legislators that HOAs must not be allowed to fail, even if that means denials of one’s rights and freedoms as enjoyed by others.

How would you react if a new mortgage agreement required you to pay the lender forever, until you die or move? Well, that’s the survival protection granted to the HOA, no 25 or 20 year termination. Your home is collateral for the survival of the HOA, and that’s why unjust foreclosure rights have been granted to and accepted by HOAs. You, the homeowner, are there to serve the goals and objectives of HOA self-preservation. Pay and pay!

Lillian

June 29th, 2010
1:16 am

I serve on the Board of a small community of 82 fee-simple townhomes we have a 32% delinquency rate. Currently the monthly dues are $110.00. The community does not have any amenities. We would never consider the foreclosure option because we simply do not have the money to purchase the property and with the drop in property values any equity that was in the property is now long gone. We have tried tirelessly using liens as a means to try to preserve the interests of the HOA but that has proven to be futile. Typically what ends up happening is the property goes into foreclosure or the owner files bankruptcy leaving the HOA holding a heavier bag of debt with the cost of the legal fees added to the arrears dues. It’s really a struggle to try to maintain a balance to have enough income to pay for the common fees, the Homeowners that are diligent in paying their dues are left to pay for the ones that do not. It also makes it a hard sell to attract buyers and convince them the monthly dues are worth the purchase. I think during the initial construction of a new community one of the things that should be required is individual water meters, the county should bill each individual for sanitation services similar to single family homes as well as the utility company – Less common expenses =less headaches. It would even be of a greater service for Condo/Townhome communities if the dues were escrowed like taxes. One thing that did help with the collection of past due fees, last year the Board paid to amend the covenants to include water shutoffs for anyone that was 90 days behind. At the end of the day it’s a tuff balancing act to maintain the integrity of the Association to provide essential services.

RobotFrost

June 29th, 2010
1:57 pm

There’s been a lot of noise about this little known power of HOAs since an HOA recently foreclosed on the home of a soldier serving in Iraq over $800 in fees. I have started collecting HOA horror stories here:

http://hoahell.com/2010/05/15/back-from-iraq-frisco-soldier-finds-home-sold-by-hoa/

Harry White

June 29th, 2010
4:14 pm

I must be missing something about these HOA complaints. Did someone force these people to buy into a community with a HOA? Do they not benefit from the services provided by the HOA? Do they expect others in the community to pay for the services being provided to those who are delinquent? I understand many people are experiencing difficult times, but a HOA bill is no different than a bill for rent, a mortgage, groceries, medicine etc. This seems to be more of the growing thinking that someone is obligated to help me, even if I got myself into a mess. Maybe O’Bama will get Congress to pass a law exempting anyone who encounters financial trouble from having to pay HOA fees.

ConcernedFultonMom

June 30th, 2010
9:24 am

I live in a subdivision of single-family homes where due to the fly-by-night “housing investor”, we’ve been left with some foreclosed properties.
We also have a good number of homeowners who “don’t see the need to pay” for the HOA.
I agree with Harry White – no one foreced ANYONE to buy a home in a community with an HOA.
Time and again you have people complaining about paying – but never keeping their end of the bargain by, you know, at least keeping up their home (cutting grass/weeds among other things). All the while they don’t realize that just like a foreclosure – they also help to KILL property values.

Our HOA doesn’t consider the option of foreclosure because we are scraping just to cover our basic costs as an HOA.

What I find laughable is that when I lived out West my HOA dues were $300 per MONTH! The homeowners where I live complain about paying roughly $150 PER YEAR!

ConcernedFultonMom

June 30th, 2010
9:26 am

oh, and when the HOA did any kind of maintenance – if you didn’t pay your assessment outright – they penalized you HEAVILY for taking a “payment plan” option…

people don’t know how good they have it!

southernbelle25

July 1st, 2010
12:13 am

Our HOA had to take steps to protect our neighborhood. We are on one water meter which means that if someone is not paying their dues, the others that are paying are paying for those that are delinquent. We had to start shutting water off at a certain amount. There were a lot of benefits to this. 1. It is easier to collect say $500 versus $5000 (which some people owed). If they file bankruptcy then the HOA is out anything owed prior to it….so you can kiss that money by. With all of the problems today there has to be protection when there are neighborhoods that have shared water and use the funds to keep up the neighborhood (mowing, streets, water, lights). We had a few that filed that were $2k behind (which is 2.5 years of dues) so we lost that money. Recently we had one file but because of the water shut off limit we had shut water off a few months ago and got that money back…but the filed bankruptcy 2 months later. Instead of being 7 months behind they ended up being 2 months behind. Yes we will lose the 2 months worth of dues but had we not had this process we would have been out 7 months of dues. 2. At some point our water would have been turned off (becuase the amount of those paying were not offsetting the debt so there would not have been money at some point to pay bills. Just think if you were a paying homeowner and YOU didn’t have water b/c the HOA ran out of money and it was because of your neighbor. 3. In less than 1 year we were able to get people on payment plans and recover $17k (yes…that much in an economy like this)…it just goes to show you that people just didn’t feel like paying. 4. Had we not recovered that money and secured payment plans to collect the money our dues would have gone up $140/month!!!!! We were able to keep our dues the same for 2010. Now if you look at our neighborhood compared to others like us, we look pretty good and our finances are stable. 5. Another issue with HOA’s having a lot of debt is that some banks (now a days) are not approving financing for people if the HOA is debt. So again those paying their dues could be penalized if they try and sell and they cannot because the purchaser cannot get financing because of delinquencies. We knew that those that were behind would be mad, but those that were paying were mad that our debt was getting out of control. It is easy to blast HOA’s…but those that are on the board are doing it without pay, spending their extra time working to keep the property values up. Instead of complaining about the HOA, volunteer….run for the board…attend meetings. Get a better understanding of what goes on and why. You have a voice. If there is something that concerns you, don’t just go out and blast those that give their unpaid time…contact them and find out why things are being done like they are. Sometimes there are legit reasons for processes. An HOA can be very beneficial to a neighborhood but it takes everyone (not just the board) to work together…not against each other.

southernbelle25

July 1st, 2010
12:16 am

Ohhhh and if residents come to us advising that they are having financial problems, we work with them to put them on a payment plan and we will not shut water off as long as they adhere to the payment plan. Most boards understand, especially in times like these but people cannot assume that they are above paying bills. Communicate, communicate, communicate. If we don’t know, we cannot work with people.

AnotherHOAMember

July 11th, 2010
8:15 am

Well said Southernbelle, I am an HOA President and we operate our board in the same manner in regards to payment plans. We are getting ready to foreclose on a home for not paying HOA Dues ever in the four years she has owned the house. Nothing else has worked, offers for a payment plan are ignored, we have gone as far as blocking her gate access to her house – nothing works. We are volunteers for the board and our job is represent the homeowners and the community. We are not volunteering ourselves and our neighbors to pay this persons water, insurance, landscaping, trash removal, common element insurance and the various other things covered under the HOA Dues.

G Heyward

July 12th, 2010
5:07 am

I don’t know why the State has not tried to resolve this problem, by enacting tougher laws to help protect those homeowners who pay their dues. There should be a GA State department put in place to handle these types of problems (like code enforcement). Without tougher laws and the enforcement of these laws, you will continue to have freeloaders taking advantage of the situation! When there are so many delinquent homeowners, banks tend to not want to write loans in the subdivision. If they do write the loans they are at a higher rate along with higher rates for insurance and credit for ALL. So, the good people are stuck because they can not sell their house because of these irresponsible people, wanting a handout.

M Hyde

July 12th, 2010
10:45 am

This is a great article showing both sides of the homeowners associations issue regarding overdue association fees, however this is only the beginning of what could be covered. Homeowners association dues are quite simple and straightforward. You know what you owe and when, but many of the “protective covenants” are not so straight forward with fines and penalties becoming draconian reaching into the tens of thousands.

We have experience this issue in our subdivision. We have been here over ten years and the first six, we were a real community where the homeowners association was a real benefit to the homeowners. We held quarterly parties and had a surplus to put in a playground at the pool and lights for the tennis courts. Now the board and the management company have become intrusive and hostile towards many residents going way beyond the purpose of protecting homeowners property values. In short, we used to be a community, now many residents feel like we are living in a totalitarian/communistic subdivision

1) The convents have changed without the homeowners approvals.
When fines were first discussed in our community they were voted down, now we have them anyway.

2) The covenants are so broad that they are subjective in nature,
Our covenants state that any change to or property must be pre-approved. I guess we’ll be fined this fall when the leaves change colors. What constitutes “too many weeds”?

3) Erroneous assessments.
We were cited for having a fence we never had.. One resident was fined for re-painting his house the same color as the original

4) People are being harassed over things that are not even in the covenants.
The board attempted to fine one resident, who actually works for the Postal Service, because when he repaired his mailbox it was four inches too high.

5) Fines assessed without first notifying the homeowner. Or fines from issues already resolved.
One resident was fined for an issue that was resolved 4 years ago.

6) Punitive fines without limit
We have fines that after the initial violation increase at a rate of between $10 to $50 per day. When combined without being notified, this can become a real burden to the homeowner.

7) Fines being assessed without explanation.
I once received a fine for over $300 without any explanation of what it was for or when it was assessed. It took me months to get an explanation and to get it removed.

8) Corruption and Hypocrisy when it comes to adhering to the covenants.
We have board members whose terms have expired years ago.

9) No transparency or accountability.
Our board does not adequately account for where the dues are spent including salaries to the board.

There are many many more such incidents that I could go into, none of which adversely affects our property values.

Finally, there is no way to appeal any homeowner association issues other than to the board itself, which is certainly not unbiased, or to go though a long arduous and expensive legal process. It seems further absurd that a homeowner is paying twice to go through such a legal process, once to pay for his side and also though dues and fines to pay for the side of the association itself.

While I understand the value of homeowner associations, there also needs to be laws and processes to protect a homeowner from runaway boards who become intoxicated with power. Right now many of the laws in Georgia take the side of the association but do not protect the rights of the homeowner and taxpayer.

It would be great if the paper were to follow up this story with further investigation into the entire homeowner association issue.

DD

July 13th, 2010
4:08 pm

Our HOA went belly up with the builder. Our subdivision of single family homes has one rather small pool and club house. The neighbors got together and decided to be the HOA, want to raise our assessments and put in the things builder promised but did not do such as playground. Many of us are in hard times and do not have the money to pay anymore. We have agreed to pay for the front entrance maint but do not feel we need to invest in the pool (we never use) or a playground. Times are tough and no one should be forced to pay if the original is defunct especially when the bill of goods was not delivered. Also, many of us are struggling to keep up cause our homes have many building code violations. We still keep the covenants and agree by them. How is any of this right?

HOA Manager

July 18th, 2010
10:55 am

These are all great comments, I work as a manager for multiple HOA’s and the one thing I advise all owners is to read the governing documents. To M. Hyde I say you probably don’t have the full story, most homeowners deny getting letters, multiple letters in fact and when it goes to court and management can show letters to the judge then the HOA wins the case. Homeowners believe if they ignore the HOA there is no retribution but fines are the way to make some people pay attention. Most fines are waived by boards if the homeowner makes the required correction. M. Hyde, are you sure your documents don’t show a fine ability? I would say they do, if not then any lawyer can have that removed for you. Covenants cannot be changed by boards or Management, most require a majority vote of homeowners (not deliquent in dues) to make any changes. Again, read and ask questions of the covenants, ask management to define where the fines are quoted, go to the meetings….this is one thing that really baffles me – why do homeowners not go to their “stockholders” annual meetings???

maxigirl

August 6th, 2010
9:16 pm

It is easy for people to say pay HOA fee’s when they can afford it. But face it, People are struggling all over the country, many due to no fault of their own! hard times have hit Georgia! Homeowners Association need to make adjustments like everybody else have. Take a look around us! Large companies are laying off workers everyday, our schools have had to make adjustments, the Federal government have had to make adjustments our HOA need to make adjustments too. Why is is so hard for people to understand that some homeowners may not be able to afford the fee’s? Everybody is not looking for a free ride! Hard times affect everybody!instead of thinking of ways to force homeowners to pay and threating foreclosures, use that energy to think of ways to decrease the hrardship,maybe by allowing the homeowner to maintain the pool, care for the entry way of the subdivision, cut back on services by cutting the grass every other week instead of weekly, make this a community effort. afterall it’s a community. When a person is not struggling to maintain a household, it is always easy for them to think people who can’t afford to make the payments are not living up to their responsibility. In this economy we all need to be makining adjustmens in our lives. HOA should not have the right to foreclose on a homeowners home period. Businesses, doctors, lawyers and others collect their bills without the right to foreclose, no matter how meritorious or deserving their claim. Associations should not be entitled to special treatment.I think it is time for HOA reform.If the United States governement has provided assistance for struggling homeowners to keep their homes then HOA need to do the same. HOA’s that abuse foreclosures by using bureaucratic propaganda only defy washington’s commitment to continuously improve housing relief efforts and even worst, cause more hardship on families that are struggling. HOA’s that abuse foreclosures are taking on the worst attribute of big-brother government. They sould get out of the business of suing their members and making them homeless. We need balance. And we need to push our legislatures for futher action. I am all for HOA REFORM!

HOA Victim

August 18th, 2010
2:01 pm

With a new political wave gaining ground in this country, it is my hope that more residents will begin the process of abolishing these “control freak” institutions. They really don’t keep property values up; there are too many other factors to consider there. The assessments are more than the product’s value.

We were forced to leave our community due to some pet-related municipal law changes (militant animal rights junk) and rather than walk away from the previous home (which is in an HOA) we tried to short sale our home. Problem is, the bank strung us and those who put their offers on the table along. The bank changed the locks and turned off the utilities. Now the HOA didn’t send us notice of lien or any collection notices for assessments, then tacked a bunch of attorneys fees on top of it. I tried to negotiate, but they kept tacking fees on. Now we’re being sued by the HOA and what began as a 200 dollar problem is now a 1,500 dollar issue to be taken up in court. Good grief! They won’t take responsibility for failing to notify us even though I was willing to settle up the actual assessment fee. Greedy attorneys!

I’ve decided that America can not coexist with HOA’s. It really is that simple. It is time to take them down and rip them apart piece by piece so they can no longer operate as vehicles for control freaks and that nosy busybody neighbor you have living down the street.

As for what will happen to us in court, we’ll see in a few weeks. Apparently, it doesn’t matter how honest you are, someone is going to screw you one way or another. That is today’s America…again, good grief!

Jackie

September 2nd, 2010
5:16 pm

My daughter received a note from her HOA advising her that because some members had not paid their dues for several months, the Power company will be turning the power off for all the street lights in the entire subdivision for the remainder of 2010. Doesn’t the HOA have some responsibility in collecting delinquent fees? If they are not enforcing payments why should anyone pay their dues? My daughter has never been late with her dues and yet her security is being compromised. What incentive does my daughter or anyone else have to pay their 2011 if there are no consequences for not doing so and her street lights are going to be turned off? She could take that money and pay to have lights installed on her property and be much better off.