Condominium Assessment Liens in Florida-Part 1: Authority to Lien
The lien authority of associations is normally limited to money due for assessment charges to the owners to cover the community common expenses. This four-part blog will discuss the condominium association’s right to lien, perfecting the condominium association lien, and collection practices for condominium associations. Part I will discuss the condominium association’s authority for asserting liens.
The most common condominium lien arises out of the non-payment of the normal unit owner assessments. The annual assessment on which a lien is predicated must be approved by the association. Assessments are approved by an association’s board of directors which is typically done when the association sets its budget for the upcoming year. See 718.112(2)(e). To provide certainty as to the amounts due and installment due dates, the association should have a motion to accept and adopt the budget, then a separate motion to approve the assessments and payment schedule for the unit owners. Additionally, the proper allocation of assessments among condominium units is a recurring issue. Section 718.115(2) states that assessments for common expenses must be made in proportion to the owner’s interest in the common elements and as stated in the community declarations. Some associations provide a “coupon book” to the unit owners on assessments, but there is no requirement that such a book be provided. It is up to each unit owner to know and understand how much the assessment for the upcoming year will be. Most associations will provide this information to the unit owners in the event of a change in the amount.
Another mechanism that results in amounts due to the association is a special assessment. Under 718.103 (24) a “special assessment” means any assessment levied against a unit owner other than the assessment required by a budget adopted annually. Special assessments are a source of frequent controversy and dispute. There are usually strict procedures for passing and adopting special assessments. For example, condominium associations must provide to the owners a specific notice 14 days in advance of the association’s board of directors’ meeting at which a special assessment is to be considered. Section 718.112(2)(e)—(2)(f). The notice must specify the purpose of the assessment. A special assessment that is passed without the notice or procedural steps being taken is subject to challenge.
Boards that are notoriously poor at communicating information to unit owners may also experience difficulty with special assessments. Although owners are generally aware of and are charged with constructive knowledge of annual assessment levies, an owner who is not attentive to association business may not comprehend that a special assessment has been passed and is due. An association may be better served to have its counsel review the special assessment documentation, including notices of meetings, meeting minutes, and the notice of the special assessment. This will ensure compliance with the applicable statutes and governing documents.
Condominium association board members and managers should understand the legal basis for imposition of assessment liens when properly governing the community. Part II of this blog post will discuss how the association perfects its lien rights.
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