By Aaron Swimmer, Esq.

Assessments are the lifeblood of the condominium association. Funds collected are used to maintain the property and provide services to the owners.  All owner/members are required to support the community through the payments of assessments. Non-paying members create financial hardship for the association; this can lead to an unfair burden upon other property owners, unpaid bills, decreased services and deferred maintenance. Condominium associations have to take aggressive steps to collect unpaid fees so they can do things like mow the grass, clean the pool, service the elevators and keep the lights on in common areas. If some owners don’t pay, their neighbors have to pay more to make up for it. Increased fees for all can mean more defaulters. It can spin out of control.

Left unchecked, a growth of non-paying members can threaten the survival of the property. Non-paying owners should not be allowed to bring down the property. The rights and responsibilities of the paying members must be maintained by using tools available to enforce payment from the non-paying owners.

Florida Statutes provide the association with tools to collect unpaid maintenance assessments. These tools come in the form of liens and foreclosure. The legal requirements of demand, notification and the lien itself must be strictly followed to preserve the associations right to foreclose. Once the lien is recorded the condo association has up to a year to foreclose. This gives the association and the unit owner a little time to work out a payment plan. If this fails, then the only weapon the association has left is to file a lawsuit to foreclose the lien and ultimately have the property sold at public auction to recover back fees.

When the property goes to auction, the buyer takes it with any mortgage still attached. Since many properties in today’s world are upside down on their mortgage, this may decrease the likelihood that a buyer will purchase at auction. In this case, the association has the ability to take title of the auctioned property in its own name. In this scenario, the association can now rent the property and use the rental proceeds to pay the past and future assessments.

While the association should not turn a blind eye to its owners and their individual situations, running a condominium association is business, not personal. The cold, hard truth is that emotions and personal feelings need to be put aside and decisions should focus on the economics of business. At Swimmer Law Associates, P.A., we have experience in the above described affairs. Feel free to contact us to discuss your association’s special needs.