Collecting Association Assessments

Procedures for collecting overdue assessments differ from one community association to the next depending on established procedures, governing documents, and local and state statutes. In addition to being reasonable and consistent, CAI recommends the following procedures for collecting delinquent assessments:


  • Begin collection actions early while the outstanding amount is manageable.
  • Take an incremental approach. Start with friendly reminders or personal contact, and then follow up with stronger reminders, making sure to provide as much information as possible.
  • Consider allowing owners to negotiate payment plans.
  • Follow due-process procedures. Give delinquent owners ample notice and provide an opportunity for them to be heard.
  • Comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act throughout the process.


Legal Actions

There is no specific point at which a community association should have its attorney file a lien against the property—it depends on various factors. Generally, these factors concern the individual circumstances of the case. For example, an association may have little choice but to file a lien if the owner has failed to respond to repeated attempts by the association to collect the debt.


Nobody wants to foreclose on a home, but community associations rely on the lien and foreclosure process to collect unpaid assessments. For associations, it’s often the only leverage they have to ensure fairness and shared responsibility. Placing a lien on the property, with the ability to foreclose, is typically enough impetus to get delinquent residents to meet their financial obligations—without removing the owner from his or her home.


Foreclosure should always be used as a last resort, applied only after other measures have failed. People occasionally face financial hardship—a lost job, for instance—and in those cases, many community associations do work with homeowners to develop deferred or special payment plans.


Importantly, many community associations use “collection aids” prior to legal action. For example, they may suspend privileges (such as parking) or deny access to amenities (such as recreation facilities) for those who are seriously in arrears. Revoking a pool or club membership often gets results when letters are being ignored. We do not recommend suspending essential services such as water and utilities that provide heat.


Residents who do not pay their assessments are not cheating some faceless entity, but their neighbors and community. That isn’t fair to those who do meet their responsibilities. When some homeowners are delinquent, either their neighbors must make up the difference, or services and amenities must be curtailed. That affects everyone in the community, perhaps even leading to a decline in property values.