When most people move into a managed community, they accept the fact that they will need to pay a fee each month for the homeowners association to take care of things like lawn care, leaf removal, rule enforcement and pool maintenance. The preference for this type of living situation is evident in the prominence of managed properties popping up around Florida and the rest of the country. Equifax.com reports that the number of HOA communities has risen from just under 50,000 in 1980 to over 300,000 in 2010. These neighborhoods also account for 80 percent of all new construction in the United States. With the high likelihood that Florida residents will live in a managed community at some point in their lives, it is important for them to realize that neglecting to pay their monthly fees can lead to serious consequences.
Many people experience a job loss, medical emergency or family disaster at some time during their life that makes paying bills difficult. When this happens, one of the first payments to be pushed aside is often the HOA fees. While this may seem like a move with few consequences, the truth is actually the opposite. When residents neglect to pay their association fees, consequences can begin almost immediately. Each state has individual laws concerning the punishments that can be inflicted, but most allow HOAs to place a lien on the homeowner's mortgage in the amount of the fees owed.
Liens are a claim or hold that is placed on a property when money is owed. By placing the lien, the homeowners association is able to have collateral in case the balance is never fulfilled. If dues are not paid and the payments remain delinquent, judgements can be made to allow the homeowners agency to place a lien on the home. The consequences of this action can be devastating for the resident.
After a designated amount of time, this lien can give the HOA the right to foreclose on the home. While this type of lien used to be junior to other more serious liens, such as tax liens, some states are raising the status of the HOA's power in what is being termed "super liens." Florida has recently joined this list of states, giving the property's HOA management seniority over mortgage and tax companies.
If you have found yourself a victim of HOA liens, contact an attorney for help. With appropriate guidance, you may be able to fight the homeowners association and retain ownership of your home.