Homeowner's Association Dues Increase

December 28, 2011 19:06 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I just learned that the rates for my homeowner’s association dues are going up again. The board members say it’s because other home owners are not paying their dues.  It doesn’t seem fair that I should be held responsible for other people’s failure to meet their financial obligations.  Do I have any recourse in this situation?

Consumer Ed says: 

First, you should refer to the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (“CCR”) or similar documents that generally outline the specific rules of your Homeowners’ Association (“HOA”).  This should have been provided to you when you purchased the property, or you can request it from your HOA board.  These documents will tell you more specifically about the HOA dues, including how much it can be increased, how often, and in what circumstances. Typically, an HOA board has to take some sort of vote in order to raise its members’ dues.  If your HOA rules don’t permit the board to raise dues in emergencies or at their discretion, you might want to contact your HOA to ask about the vote that took place to allow the increase.  If the dues increase was proper under the rules, you’re most likely going to have to pay it.  Even if you feel the increase was improper, you should be cautious about protesting before you know all the facts.  In some circumstances, if you refuse to pay, the association can place a lien on your home, and even foreclose on it.  You should consider inquiring, in writing, as to why the board has not done this with the neighbors who are not currently paying, rather than increasing everyone’s dues.  In any event, you are entitled to a full explanation for the increase, and you should get it in writing.

For more information about your options, you should consult an attorney. An attorney can advise you of your rights and may also be able to help you look at ways to protect yourself in the event of future dues increases (e.g., through homeowner’s insurance policies).

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Do senior citizens have to pay property taxes on their home?

November 2, 2011 19:23 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I was told that if you are a senior citizen you no longer have to pay property taxes on your house.  Is this true?

Consumer Ed says:

There are several homestead exemptions offered by the State of Georgia that apply specifically to senior citizens:

  • Individuals 65 years or older may claim an exemption from all state ad valorem taxes on their primary, legal residence and up to 10 acres of land surrounding the residence. Note: This does not apply to or affect county, municipal or school district taxes.
  • Individuals 65 years or older may claim a $4,000 exemption from all state and county ad valorem taxes if the income of that person and his/her spouse did not exceed $10,000 in the previous year (excluding income from retirement sources, pensions and disability income up to the maximum allowable amount under the Social Security Act, which was $55,742 in 2011).
  • Individuals 62 years or older may claim an additional exemption  for educational purposes if the income of that person and his/her spouse does not exceed $10,000 in the previous year (excluding income from retirement sources, pensions and disability income up to the maximum allowable amount under the Social Security Act).

Homestead exemptions are not automatic. The homeowner must apply for the exemption with the tax commissioner's office, or in some counties, the tax assessor's office. 
 
Some county and municipal governments provide additional senior citizen homestead exemptions. To learn if you qualify, contact your local tax assessor's office.

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Mortgage company not reporting loan payments to credit bureau

August 25, 2011 20:17 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

My mortgage company is not reporting my payments to the credit bureaus.  I always pay on time, and I feel this information would boost my credit score.  Are mortgage companies legally required to report this information to the credit bureaus?

Consumer Ed says:

Although mortgage companies usually report mortgage loans and ongoing payments to one of the major credit bureaus, they are not legally required to do so.

It is possible that your mortgage payment information is not being reported because of a clerical error. If you have not already done so, contact your mortgage lender, explain the situation and request that it furnish your payment information to a credit reporting agency. If your lender refuses to do so, there are some other things you can do to improve your credit score:

  • Review the information on your credit report to make sure there are no errors or collection items that you are unaware of.  You can access your credit report for free by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. If you find  an error on your credit report, contact the credit reporting agency directly to dispute it.
  • Pay your bills on time, as late payments and collection items can send your credit score tumbling down.
  • Having a low debt-to-credit ratio will boost your credit score. So try to pay down credit cards that have balances at or near the credit limit. 
  • You shouldn’t necessarily cancel a credit card when it’s paid off, especially if you have had that credit card account for a long time. Keeping the account open, even if you don’t use the card, could help your score by improving your debt-to-credit limit ratio. In addition, older accounts contribute positively towards your credit score. 


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