CONDOMINIUM ASSESSMENT— I JUST KEEP PAYING!

The regular condominium assessment (maintenance fee) is a living expense and increases should be expected.  In the real world, costs constantly adjust as expenses for products and services change.  Many owners do not want the maintenance fees to increase.  However, the bottom line is that they should want their fees to increase enough to maintain the complex as a first-class condominium.

The regular condominium assessment covers exterior maintenance, snow removal, landscaping, trash removal, utilities, security, recreation facilities, and more.  It also includes savings for future big-ticket items like roofs, hot water heaters, and repaving.  Regular increases in the maintenance fees mean owners might not be hit unexpectedly with a special condominium assessment or loan payback when the roof needs to be replaced in a few years.

When the collective buying power of the entire association is factored in, a condominium assessment proves to be a real bargain for individual homeowners.  However, many owners do not want to hear that the condominium assessment is increasing.

Here are some of the reactions to an increase..

  • “I can’t afford increases.”  When you live in a condominium, you need to be willing to share the costs, as described in the governing documents.  Keep in mind that if the association does not maintain its property, real estate values can drop.
  • “I probably won’t be living here in 15 years when the streets need repaving. Why should I have a condominium assessment increase now?”  Senior citizens, as well as young people living in condos often pose this question.  The problem with this short-timer logic is that these people are themselves benefiting from the use of the streets, pool, and other common assets paid for by members who lived there before.
  • “Why don’t we just have a special condominium assessment for a specific project?”  It can be difficult to collect money when an owner is suddenly hit with a large expense.  It’s better that fee increases are gradual, so the funds are there when you need them.

 

What if a condominium assessment never increases?

  • Some invoices for services may not get paid, causing utilities to be turned off.
  • Contractors might be reluctant to make repairs if they think they are not going to get paid or that they have to fight for their money.
  • The buildings and recreational facilities might deteriorate and costs of repairs could increase because routine maintenance was abandoned.
  • The condominium property may be underinsured, so the association would have to make up the difference in the case of a disaster.

 

FACTS ABOUT A SPECIAL CONDOMINIUM ASSESSMENT

A special condominium assessment is a demand for money that is in addition to the regular annual or monthly fees.

A special condominium assessment can be levied against owners for various reasons.  Many times the reasons don’t make sense to the owners.  The best way to explain the need for a special assessment  is communication between the board and the ownersin advance!  Here are some of the reasons:

  • Due to an increase in materials, services, and labor, the amount set for the operating budget was insufficient.
  • No reserve study was done and the reserve funds are low.
  • An unexpected expense occurred and the repair or replacement cannot wait due to a money shortage.
  • The association wants to add a major item to the property—swimming pool, tennis courts, club house, etc.
  • The association needs to correct some deficiencies left by the developer, who is long gone.

 

Who has authority to charge a special condominium assessment and establish the amount? What are the payment options?

  • The board of directors usually has the authority to levy both of the above.
  • Occasionally, the Bylaws require owner vote.
  • Payment options are set by the board and can be any time from immediate to a number of years, depending on the size of the assessment.  They can be paid monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, etc.—any timeframe set by the board.

Financially, a special condominium assessment may feel like a burden to owners, but there are normally good reasons why the association might issue one.  In the majority of cases, a special assessment represents some current or future work that will be conducted by the association to keep the complex in good condition and to maintain its property value.

 

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