Thursday, January 30, 2014

Real estate Q&A: Must owner pay attorney
fees on late HOA payment?
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Jan. 30, 2014 – Question: Last year, we missed paying our quarterly association dues because of illness. Several weeks later, we received a letter from the association’s attorney. I spoke to the president, and he just rudely told me we needed to pay. So I sent a check to the management company for the dues and late fee – but not the attorney fees demanded in the letter. We just got another letter threatening a lien and foreclosure if we don’t pay the full amount. What can I do? – Elaine

Answer: Attorney fees charged in the collection of overdue assessments can be passed on to the homeowner. When you sent in your partial payment, it probably was applied to the attorney and late fees before it was applied toward your dues. This means you paid only part of the quarterly bill. Now you are incurring more fees as your association attempts to collect what is still outstanding.

The best thing to do is to pay in full to stop further damage, and then try to get your association to refund the amounts that you do not think you owe. This shows you are not just trying to avoid paying. In the future, if you will be late with your dues, try to call and let the association know the situation. You might be able to work something out in advance and avoid having to deal with this headache.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He is the chairperson of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern University Paralegal Studies program.

The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Copyright © 2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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