A delinquent unit owner is an unfortunate reality nearly all common interest communities must deal with at one point or another. A person misses one payment, the homeowners association (HOA) gives them a notice, but things snowball. Suddenly, that unit owner is in a deep financial hole, and the HOA has to turn to more drastic solutions.

Under Florida law, an association does have the right to record a claim of lien against a property. Here’s a brief overview of what types of charges a claim of lien can include.

Contents of a claim of lien

When considering recording a claim of lien, there are a number of state laws – plus HOA bylaws – to consider, which is why it is often a good idea to have an attorney help prepare the documents. The initial step is for the HOA to send a letter to the delinquent unit owner, describing how much that person owes and giving them 45 days to pay what is owed in full. The types of charges that a HOA can put in a lien claim include:

  • Unpaid assessments
  • Late charges
  • Interest
  • Reasonable attorneys’ fees
  • Costs incurred during the collections process

Only after that 45 days is up can the HOA actually file the claim of lien. In order to be valid, a claim of lien has to list a description of the parcel, the name of the owner, the name and address of the HOA, the total amount due, and a due date.

What happens next

If all the lien paperwork and notices have been correctly filed and prepared, a couple of things may happen. If the delinquent unit owner pays everything owed in full, the lien is satisfied. If the HOA does not receive proper payment however, then the association can opt to foreclose on the lien. This is generally done by filing a lawsuit in court – a process with its own specific requirements, deadlines and procedures.

As someone involved in the oversight of a common interest community, you want to avoid these types of situations. Sometimes, however, you have no choice but to address them head-on. Florida law and HOA rules offer a solution, but only if followed precisely. Before taking any action yourself, consider contacting an attorney. They can help ensure each step goes as smoothly as possible.