Q: My husband and I, like so many people, are suffering financial hardships. We live in a condo and are current with our mortgage but won't continue to be current if we pay our condo fees and a special assessment. We have good credit and want to keep it but we can't borrow any more money now. What could happen if we don't pay the fees and assessment?
A: Community associations have some of the strongest tools available to any organization that is owed money. Florida Statute 718.121 describes these powers including the right of an association to place a lien on your unit after taking some preliminary steps.
Most associations have very specific procedures in place to use when an owner becomes delinquent. Boards have recognized their responsibility to create these procedures when delinquencies started to become an issue. After all, their primary responsibility is to protect and preserve the assets of the association and if they are not vigilant in the collection of fees and assessments, they could be accused of not fulfilling their obligations.
The actual procedure should definitely be exactly the same for each resident of an association who becomes delinquent. Favoritism should not become an issue.
Associations usually begin the process with up to three collection letters within the first 60 days of delinquency. Then they turn the account over to an attorney to file a lien against the unit. Attorneys are usually asked to wait 30 to 90 days and then to foreclose.
The foreclosure process would be the same as any foreclosure including defaulting on mortgage payments. If the unit is collateral for the mortgage, the bank will enter the process and there will be legal expenses for everyone. Some of these liens do result in the association taking title to the unit and evicting the tenant.
The impact of a lien or foreclosure on your credit score would not be good. Your good credit would be lost. It would probably be useful for you to seek the advise of an attorney if you are truly at the end of your rope in your ability to pay bills.
Attorney Sylvia Heldreth is a certified specialist in real estate law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar St., in Cape Coral.
This article is not intended as specific legal advice to anyone and is based upon facts that change from time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.