Community association members who pay their assessments late or not at all come up with some very interesting excuses. Here’s half a dozen of the most common and why it’s smart not to use them.
Excuse #1: “You didn’t bill me.”
“I didn’t get an invoice.”
“You didn’t tell me I was behind in my payments.”
Many association-governing documents neither require the association to send invoices nor provide advance notice of payments due or past due. However, associations are required to send the approved budget to each owner annually. When the association approves and sends the budget each year to our members, it contains notice of the amount you must pay annually. If you’re ever unsure about the amount or the due dates, just call the management office.
Excuse #2: “I didn’t get what I paid for.”
“My building hasn’t been painted in five years! I’m not paying another cent until some basic maintenance gets done.”
“The power was out for three days during the storm. I’m withholding a pro-rated amount from my assessment check.”
You have a right to require the association to perform its duties, and various legal channels exist to accomplish this. Withholding assessments is not one of them. Your obligation to pay assessments has nothing to do with the association’s obligations to provide maintenance and service. If you withhold your check or pay a reduced amount, you’ll become delinquent, and that leads to late fees, and actually makes your situation worse.
Excuse #3: “You can’t do that!”
“These people have no right to make me pay for neighborhood upkeep.”
“If they think I’m paying those outrageous late fees and interest, they’re crazy.”
Actually, the association not only has the authority, it has a duty to all owners to collect assessments. This authority is established in the governing documents and the state’s common interest ownership statutes. When you moved into a community association, you agreed to abide by those documents—and that includes paying assessments.
Excuse #4: “I paid in full.”
Sometimes the association receives a check that says, “paid in full” in the memo section—but it isn’t. Or the check will arrive with a letter or note, stating the check is “payment in full,” or it covers all charges through a certain date. Nice try. If you still have an outstanding balance, we’re not going to cash your check. We’re going to return it to you. This will put you further behind in your payments and just cause more late fees.
Excuse #5: “I never use the recreational facilities.”
“I don’t play golf, and it’s an expensive game. I shouldn’t have to pay to maintain the course.”
“I’ve never been in the fitness center, and I don’t plan to ever use it. Why can’t you pro-rate my assessments accordingly?”
Admittedly, recreational facilities are expensive to operate and—for some associations—represent a good chunk of the budget. Nevertheless, most declarations specify that even if you don’t use the association’s amenities you’re still obligated to pay for their upkeep.
Many of our residents moved into this community specifically for the recreational amenities; they’re willing to pay for them because they take full advantage of the opportunities they provide. Even if you’re not using some of the amenities, they make the community more desirable and the homes in the community more valuable. If you’re not using the facilities, perhaps you should consider whether this community is the best fit for you and your needs.
Excuse #6: “The fees are too high.”
Assessments reflect the actual cost of maintaining all common elements in the community. If you owned your home outside the association, you would have to pay individually for all the same expenses your assessments cover—trash removal, water, landscaping and so on. In fact, you’re actually spending less on assessments because the association has bulk buying power, and you’re getting more because the common areas provide amenities that you likely could not afford on your own.
Legitimate Reasons, not Excuses
When association members lose their jobs or become injured or ill, the association board understands that arrangements need to be worked out for paying assessments. If you have a legitimate reason for falling behind and you need to work out a payment plan, please call the manager. The board considers each situation individually, and will to try to accommodate you special circumstances.