What Happens to Your Sale If You Don't Pay Your HOA Dues?

Many owners these days are having financial problems, and decide to stop making payments on both their mortgage and their homeowner association dues. They may later decide to sell as a short sale, do all their document submission to the lender, list their property, find an eligible buyer who is willing to wait, and look forward to opening escrow and getting it sold. And, common to many sellers, they stopped making payments several months prior, so now a significant dollar amount in delinquent HOA dues has built up--hundreds and even thousands of dollars are in arrears.

In California an HOA may initiate foreclosure on a property after 18 months of nonpayment (but then they take over all associated mortgage and other costs of that unit), but before that, an association after a few months of nonpayment may instruct its attorneys to file a lien. If a lien exists at the close of escrow, then it will raise the issue of getting it paid off prior to close, or delaying the close of escrow--and in a short sale, lenders may impose additional fees for not closing by the specified date. If the seller does not have the money to pay it off--this will include the dues, late fees and attorney fees--then perhaps the buyer would be willing to contribute, but if the buyer cannot or will not, then that particular escrow will not go forward. And if you have a Notice of Sale on your property already, the lender may no be willing to extend and wait for a new buyer--it just depends on the lender.

Another wrinkle for a closing is even if delinquent dues can be paid off at closing, the number of delinquent owners in the association may exceed the lender's guidelines, and now there's another reason it may not close escrow--for any owner. Non-payment of dues may force other HOA members to pay special assessments to make up for the loss of income, which may be a hardship for many owners who are struggling to stay current because of their own loss of income or job cutback issues. This may actually increase the number of delinquent owners.

Contrary to what many short sale sellers assume, lenders will not pick up all HOA costs, and many banks completely disallow any HOA costs in their approval, and that includes move-in, move-out fees, and provision of HOA documents to escrow as asked for in the contract, a total potential cost of up to $500 or more per transaction. Another potential outcome is that the owner will be pursued later by the association with a judgment filed against them. And I've also read that some bank approval terms are "requiring" buyers to pay the delinquency at closing, which is driving them away from the transaction.

So if the seller can't pay now because of all their financial problems, one option would be 1) to approach the association with a request to negotiate them down to what is possible, or 2) request a forbearance agreement and work out a payment plan over time. These are much better options for an owner who wants to do a short sale and avoid foreclosure.

The last piece of advice is that the homeowner should obtain legal advice. But unfortunately many people don't do that because that would be another bill to pay, so they look up information on the internet instead, which won't tell them about their specific situation. Find a legal clinic or some source of local legal advice which will be a resource. If you just decide to stop paying your HOA dues, it could ultimately cost you more than you think.

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