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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