Homeowners association members who pay their assessments late or not at all come up with some very interesting excuses. Here’s half a dozen of the most common excuses your HOA board might hear and why it’s smart to address them.
Excuse #1: “I didn’t get what I paid for.”
“My building hasn’t been painted in five years! I’m not paying another cent until some basic maintenance gets done.”
“The power was out for three days during the storm. I’m withholding a pro-rated amount from my assessment check.”
Residents have a right to require the homeowners association to perform its duties, and various legal channels exist to accomplish this, but withholding assessments is not one of them. Inform residents their obligation to pay assessments has nothing to do with the association’s obligations to provide maintenance and service. If they withhold their check or pay a reduced amount, they will become delinquent, which leads to late fees, and actually makes their situation worse.
Excuse #2: “You didn’t bill me.”
“I didn’t get an invoice.”
“You didn’t tell me I was behind in my payments.”
Many homeowners association governing documents neither require the association to send invoices or provide advance notice of payments due or past due. However, associations are required to send the approved budget to each owner. When the association approves and sends the budget each year to its members, it contains notice of the amount residents must pay annually. If they’re ever unsure about the amount or the due dates, direct them to contact the management office.
Excuse #3: “You can’t do that!”
“These people have no right to make me pay for neighborhood upkeep.”
“If they think I’m paying those outrageous late fees and interest, they’re crazy.”
The homeowners association not only has the authority, it has a duty to all owners to collect assessments. This authority is established in the governing documents and the state’s common interest ownership statutes. When residents move into a community association, they agree to abide by those documents—and that includes paying assessments. If they fail to pay assessments there are different collection methods that can be used.
Excuse #4: “I never use the recreational facilities.”
“I don’t play golf, and it’s an expensive game. I shouldn’t have to pay to maintain the course.”
“I’ve never been in the fitness center, and I don’t plan to ever use it. Why can’t you pro-rate my assessments accordingly?”
Admittedly, recreational facilities are expensive to operate and for some homeowners associations represent a good chunk of the budget. Nevertheless, most declarations specify that even if residents don’t use the association’s amenities they’re still obligated to pay for the upkeep.
Many residents move into communities specifically for the recreational amenities; they’re willing to pay for them because they take full advantage of the opportunities they provide. Make sure residents know upfront that even if they’re not using some of the amenities, they make the community more desirable and the homes in the community more valuable. If they are not using the facilities, perhaps they should consider whether the community is the best fit for them and their needs.
Excuse #5: “I paid in full.”
Sometimes the homeowners association receives a check that says “paid in full” in the memo section—but it isn’t; or the check will arrive with a letter or note, stating the check is “payment in full,” or it covers all charges through a certain date. Nice try. If residents still have an outstanding balance, the check will usually not be cashed, and the association is going to return it. Make sure residents know this will put them further behind in their payments and just cause more late fees.
Excuse #6: “The fees are too high.”
Assessments reflect the actual cost of maintaining all common elements in the homeowners association. Educate residents by making the comparison to home ownership outside of the association. If they owned their home outside the association, they would have to pay individually for all the same expenses their assessments may cover—trash removal, water, landscaping, and so on. In fact, they’re actually spending less on assessments because the association has bulk buying power, and they’re getting more because the common areas provide amenities that they likely could not afford on their own.
Legitimate Reasons, not Excuses
When homeowners association members lose their jobs or become injured or ill, the association board understands that arrangements need to be worked out for paying assessments. If residents have a legitimate reason for falling behind and need to work out a payment plan, let them know your HOA board is reasonable and will help work out an appropriate plan. The board considers each situation individually, and will to try to accommodate special circumstances.