Ask a real estate pro: Can board pass this latest special assessment?

Owner of Gibraltar Title, Board-certified real estate lawyer Gary M. Singer writes about the housing market in the Sun Sentinel each Monday. 

Q: Our association is specially assessing all of the owners several extra payments to fund a refinance of a loan we took out for the clubhouse renovation from a few years ago. Can they do this? — Joel

A: As long as your association follows the correct procedure, it can pass a special assessment. When your association has a unique expense that the regular maintenance dues cannot cover, it can pass a “special” assessment. These assessments can be a one-time payment, or they can be spread out over a period of time. However, unlike your regular dues, they do not continue indefinitely. Once their purpose is funded, the assessment is complete, and the money cannot be used for any purpose other than what it was created for.

Generally, your board can pass a special assessment without a full vote of all the owners. The board must specifically notify the owners in advance that the issue will be voted on at an upcoming meeting and must publicly decide. Of course, like with many association-related matters, your community may have more stringent requirements, so be sure to check your community’s documents.

Special assessments are often levied for needed repairs that the association cannot currently afford, or to renovate the community. Common examples are for roofing projects, to replace fences or repave the roads and lots. Since your association may not have saved the necessary reserves, and it is not realistic to expect the homeowners to pay for the entire repair up front, your board may choose to borrow the money from a bank and have the special assessments repay the loan.

Boards can also refinance such loans to get better terms or to pay off the loan early, as seems to be the case for you. While it is unpleasant to have to pay extra, it is often the only way to maintain your community while keeping your monthly dues as low as possible — something every homeowner wants.

If you have any questions you would like to see Gary answer, please email him at gary@youareclosing.com