Condo Owner Surprised by Special Assessment

T.S. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

My condo association is planning on replacing all the roofs. We got a letter stating we will have to come up with almost 9,000 dollars or have a monthly increase of 200.00 for 60 months. Can they make us do that? Also, they are having a meeting. In this regards, what questions should be asked at that meeting? I appreciate your help and expertise.

Mister Condo replies:

T.S., owning a condominium is kind of like being a partial owner of a business. From time to time, business decisions need to be made about how to protect and maintain the business. In this case, it would appear that an insufficient amount of common fees has been collected for many years, resulting in a deficit when it came time to replace the roofs. The correct procedure would have been to have had higher monthly dues for the many years leading up to this now needed roof replacement. The Board can and must replace the roofs or they may subject unit owners to damage and worse. There is only one place where this money can come from – the unit owners. So, a special assessment has been levied to cover the cost of the roofs. You and your fellow unit owners now must decide if you can afford the one-time payment of $9,000 or if you would rather pay an extra $200 per month for 60 months, totaling $12,000 per unit. I know if it were me, I wouldn’t want to get stuck with an extra $3000 in interest for what amounts to a $9,000 loan but not all unit owners will be able to easily come up with the $9000 and I expect many will take the $200 per month option. As for what you should ask at the meeting, I would want to know what other special assessments lie ahead and how soon. Chances are if they didn’t have enough money in the Reserve Fund to pay for the roof, they might not have enough for other association-owned items. Siding for the buildings? Pool and club house? Tennis Courts? What other expenses are coming up? It is quite possible that the roofs are just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, you would like to see a Reserve Study and funding plan introduced to the community so as to avoid these special assessments in the future. All the best!

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