Posted By Larry Tolchinsky on March 3, 2015
Condo living is a different lifestyle here in Florida, one that lots of people enjoy. Sharing the responsibilities of lawn care and landscaping, pool upkeep, and more can free condo residents from chores they would have face if they lived in a single family home in the suburbs.
However, living the Florida Condo life also means being willing to live in a shared community where a property manager has control over lots of things and where condo unit owners can face decisions being made by the Condo Board or the Condominium Association with which they do not agree.
When Condo Unit Owners Don’t Pay Their Fees and Assessments
One big result of this: when the Condo Board decides on spending money on a project and each condo owner is faced with the new responsibility of having to pay their share of that project’s cost. What if the unit owner rebels and decides not to pay?
Another result of this: there are Florida condo units that have been abandoned by their owners which are in the foreclosure process. What happens to the Condo Association when they have basic expenses (like maintenance, etc.) and there’s not money coming from those defaulting unit owners? What is the Condo Board to do?
The answer, in many instances, is a lien. Liens are placed against the Florida condo unit. If the liens remain unpaid, then the Condo Association can foreclose on the condo unit and take title to the property.
Liens Against a Florida Condo
Before real estate agents show Florida condos to prospective buyers, they are required to explain the distinction of this type of real estate ownership and how it is different from owning a single family home. One of the big reasons for this requirement is because anyone buying a Florida condo needs to know that there is the risk of a lien being placed against their condo home by the Condo Association.
What is a lien?
A lien is a way to cloud title against real estate, preventing it from being sold or transferred without the debt established in the lien being paid. It is tied to the Florida real estate itself, not the owner. Liens filed in the real property records are also prerequisites for foreclosing on the condo.
Liens can be placed against land and real estate, like condominium units, townhouses, single family homes, as well as commercial and industrial properties for several reasons. There are tax liens where liens are placed against Florida real estate as vehicles to get income taxes, estate taxes, or property taxes paid, for instance. Also, mechanic’s liens and materialman’s liens can be placed by contractors who have unpaid construction invoices. Vendors’ liens can be filed against real estate in Florida to get certain debts paid.
However, most disputes involving condo fees and condominium assessments are liens placed by the Condominium Association against a specific condo unit for outstanding and unpaid assessments.
Florida Condo Liens
Florida Statute 718.116 authorizes liens to be placed against condo units and makes the owner of the condo unit responsible for paying any assessments that are placed against the condo unit while that particular owner has legal title to that unit.
Florida Statute 718.116 also authorizes new owners of Florida condos to be liable for paying past-due assessments on the Florida condo. The new owner and the past owner of the unit can be held liable for those condo assessments “jointly and severally” which means that if the past owner is not able or unwilling to fork over any cash to pay the assessment debt, the new owner can be held liable for the entire amount.
This is true even if the new owner bought the Florida condo in a foreclosure sale.
Why? Isn’t this unfair to the new condo owner?
Maybe. However, the Florida Legislature has decided that the interests of the condominium as a whole in maintaining and repair and upkeep of the entire condominium property must prevail over the new condo owner who may be surprised to learn that they’ve got a big assessment amount due and owning now that they’ve closed on their new condo unit. The law is designed to help Condo Associations get reimbursed and paid for the monies needed to do their job regarding the common areas, etc., for the benefit of the condo owners as a whole.
Problems With a Florida Condo Lien?
If you have problems with a lien being placed against a Florida condo that you own or may wish to purchase, then you need to know the legal ramifications of the condo lien as well as ways to solve the lien problem short of losing the condo property (as well as your options and risks if you choose to let the condo go in face of the condo lien). You may also want to explore the potential liability of any real estate agent who failed in their duty to explain what condominium purchases are and the risks involved in purchasing a condo unit (like liability for assessments).
An experienced Florida condo lawyer can explain the nuances of your particular circumstance and help you decide which alternative is in your best interests.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to Chat with Larry in the comments below, at email@example.com, or (954) 458-8655. If you have a specific or personal situation, please call or email Larry because he can’t answer specific fact questions in general comments.