M.D. from Massachusetts writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We have a leaky roof that needs to be repaired in our condo. A special assessment was done and they are saying $4,000 is due in less than 30 days. Do they have to give you time to come up with that kind of money?
Mister Condo replies:
M.D., in a word, “no”. Special Assessments are typically due when they are levied or assessed. Unless your governance documents indicate otherwise, the Special Assessment is due when it is issued. To complicate matters, Special Assessments are also subject to late fees and penalties if not paid on time. That can add insult to injury as I have heard stories where unit owners are heavily assessed and then penalized hundreds of dollars in late fees for not paying on time. Further, if the special assessment cannot be paid within the normal collection period, the association can take aggressive collection actions towards the delinquent unit owner up to and including foreclosure.
Special assessments are far too common in my opinion. When associations make proper Reserve Fund contributions over the years, Special Assessments are rarely needed. My guess is that your roof didn’t just stop working one day. It is probably decades old and its failure was predictable yet the association took no steps to put away money to pay for its eventual replacement. $4000 spread out over the 20 or so years that it takes for a rood to wear out would have meant less than a $17 per month increase to common fees over that same time. Few folks would struggle with $17 per month but many would struggle with a one-time $4,000 payment. When the dust settles on this particular assessment, I would encourage you to discuss proper funding of the Reserve Fund moving forward. It’s never too late for the association to get back on track financially. Good luck!