A.D. from Hartford County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I understand that Associations cannot force an owner into using an ACH or other debit system to pay for monthly maintenance fees. But can an association require ACH signup in order to forgive a late fee?
Mister Condo replies:
A.D., hello to you as well! Automated Check Handling (ACH) is simply one more method for a unit owner to pay their monthly fees and/or special assessments. Other debit systems (credit card or ATM transactions) are yet another way to pay that has become more common and popular in recent years. While I suppose it is possible for an association to “request” that clients use ACH or debit systems to pay for common fees I cannot for the life of me understand why they would “require” a homeowner to sign up for ACH in order to have a late fee forgiven. As far as the association “requiring” anything other than unit owners pay their fees on time I am unaware of any ruling that allows them to mandate or require unit owners use a particular type of payment system. While it is unusual for a Board to forgive a late fee it is not unheard of. Perhaps they are attempting to discourage future late fees by offering one-time late fee forgiveness if the late payer converts to ACH, which might actually benefit all parties involved. In this case, the late fee forgiveness is only being used as an inducement to ease future common fee payments. If that is the case, this mystery is solved. All the best!