It’s always difficult when a condominium or homeowners association must levy a special assessment against the owners. Sometimes there’s no choice. If the association failed to reserve money for major repairs or an unexpected cost arises, a special assessment may be the only option. No owner wants to pay a special assessment. This is why it’s important to explain to the owners why the special assessment is necessary and how it will help in the long run. Here are some tips when announcing a special assessment:
1. Send a letter to the owners explaining that the board has approved a special assessment. (Some association governing documents may require a vote of the owners). Describe the reasons for the special assessment and be upfront about why the association doesn’t have the funds on hand. Also cite to the authority of the board to adopt and levy the assessment.
2. Discuss the alternatives that the board considered. Alternatives include taking out a loan from a bank, postponing repairs, or selling common assets.
3. If possible, explain that owners may have options in paying the special assessment. The association may have an arrangement with its bank to offer financing to owners. In some cases owners may have insurance coverage for special assessments.
4. Be sympathetic and if necessary, express regret. Board members are also owners—it makes sense that board members may not be enthusiastic about the assessment, yet recognize it is in the best interests of the entire membership and association.
5. Give as many details on the total assessment amount, as well as each owner’s share of the assessment. Be clear with deadlines for payment and payment options which may be available to the owners.
6. Ideally, divide the special assessment into 12 equal payments for owners, each with monthly due dates. In the case of a foreclosure or bankruptcy, it may be possible to recover unpaid special assessments.
As always, seek qualified legal counsel before levying or collecting a special assessment.