Don’t lose your home over a small HOA dispute


Question: Recently I got a letter from my homeowner’s association stating that I owe money that I know I paid. My management company is not the easiest to deal with. What specifically do I need to do to clear this up? – Rafael

Answer: It’s difficult to detail just one procedure for dealing with community associations, because they run the gamut from huge and professionally run to small and self-managed. But here are some general guidelines that should help.

Don’t make a small problem into a large one. I have seen more than one home foreclosed for what started as a $10 discrepancy and then mushroomed out of control with all sorts of fees tacked on. You’ll want to keep a detailed journal of all communication. Call your management company and find out what the problem is and see if it can be resolved. Follow up with an email.

If the company agrees that it was a mistake, ask for an updated statement in writing. You might also send a trackable letter (return receipt requested), repeating the conversation and its resolution, and asking the company to confirm the details of your letter or correct any misunderstanding.

If you still can’t clear this up, pay the disputed amount and include a letter stating that you are paying it under protest and expect an investigation and refund. This is particularly hard for many homeowners to accept because no one wants to pay for something they don’t owe. However, it’s a necessary step to avoid late fees, interest and other expenses.

Continue to follow up with the management company. If this stalls, you should take the issue directly to the board at the next scheduled meeting. Finally, if none of this works, speak with an attorney about taking legal action. This is where the detailed journal will pay off.

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 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.

News Source: Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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