Q: Our condo recently passed a special assessment to make us pay for some improvements to the pool area that are a waste of money. What happens if I refuse to pay since I disagree with how the money will be used? — Alfie
A: Community associations, including homeowners, condominium, and cooperative associations, have the power to pass “special assessments” to pay for projects outside of the regular annual budget.
These assessments must be voted on according to the law and community rules and, when properly passed, are binding on all of the owners in the neighborhood.
Like your regular maintenance dues, there are consequences to not paying the assessment, including fines and even foreclosure.
Worse still, the offending homeowner will have to repay the community for its collection costs, including administrative and legal fees and costs. These additional costs add up quickly and often surpass the unpaid assessment.
Association law is complex, and each community’s governing documents are different. If enough of your neighbors disagree with the special assessment, or you think the association did not follow the rules in passing it, you should speak with an attorney experienced in this area of law.
However, if you think it was levied correctly but disagree with the purpose, you should pay the assessment to avoid the negative and often severe consequences of non-payment.
While I understand how distasteful paying for something you disagree with can be, it adds insult to injury if you have to repay the association’s attorneys to avoid being foreclosed.
Community association living is not for everyone. Like everything else, it has positives and negatives. Homeowners lose some individual control but can band together with their neighbors to afford nice amenities and staff to take care of the community.
If paying for improvements you disagree with really bothers you, you always have the option of selling your apartment and moving to somewhere more of your liking.
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.