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Written by: Charles Kovaleski

Even condominium owners who are current with their payments can be affected by the mortgage crisis — especially when others hit foreclosure. When neighbors don’t pay their bills, the condo association falls short of revenue and, the next thing you know, the grass isn’t green but the pool water is.

And more than amenities are at stake.

Respondents to a recent poll in Florida expressed concerns about abandoned units (some vacant more than six months) becoming health and security issues. In some cases, units formed mold or attracted pests. Sometimes, the trash doesn’t get picked up.

Across the country, about 24 million housing units are governed by roughly 300,000 homeowners associations, according to the Community Associations Institute, a nonprofit organization of homeowner association managers in Alexandria, Va.

There are even instances of condo associations filing for bankruptcy protection from creditors. In one case in South Florida — where only 70 percent of the owners were paying their maintenance fees — an association filed for protection, owing a roofing company and local code enforcement a combined $125,000.

Typically, condo associations conduct board of directors meetings, where members estimate expenses, including management fees, maintenance costs and insurance premiums. Common elements are covered, things like walkways, pools, roofs, siding and lawncare.

Funding comes from owners — and if they stop paying, the association may be stuck with bills that can’t be paid. What are the options for associations and owners? Here are some tips:

Enforce collections:
Associations are obligated to collect late assessments and dues, but some groups are hesitant to fulfill their responsibilities. Groups should follow their established procedures to collect and those should be legally enforced.

Some lenders drag out foreclosures and don’t assume the title to avoid maintenance or other fees. In one case, a state judge ruled that a lender could either stop foreclosure proceedings and pay maintenance fees on a unit it didn’t own or foreclose and pay thousands in past‐due fees. Fees should never become so high that they’re unpayable. Property will deteriorate if associations cannot operate. That will lead to more foreclosures, so enforcement is good for the well‐being of the community.

Renegotiate service contracts:
A bankruptcy filing might forestall financial problems for associations, but only temporarily if the issue is dwindling income and not rising expenses. At that point, it might be time to call service providers — garbage pick‐up, roofers, landscapers and the like — and ask to revisit the contract. See if a new payment schedule can be reworked so that services, even if reduced, will continue.

Consider a one‐time fee:
An association could enact a one‐time special payment. While this would be paid for only from those not in foreclosure, the tactic is based on bolstering the association for the good of the broader community.

Participate in the process:
The association is there for owners, so go to the meetings. Ask questions. Keep board members working for the interests of the community.

Charles J. Kovaleski is president of Attorneys’ Title Insurance Fund, Inc. (The Fund), the leading title insurer in Florida and the sixth largest title insurance company in the country. The Fund has been in business for more than 50 years and supports a network of more than 6,000 attorney agents statewide who practice real estate law. The Fund, based in Orlando, underwrites more than 300,000 title insurance policies for owners and lenders in Florida every year. For more information, visit

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