Withholding Assessments Won’t Work

Sometimes community residents become dissatisfied with the association for some reason. In this case, let’s use maintaining the parking lot as an example. Mr. Homeowner is unhappy because several small potholes have appeared in the parking lot, and the association hasn’t repaired them.

He called the manager who said that all potholes will be repaired in the spring. “It’s much easier and cheaper to fix them now, while they’re small,” Mr. Homeowner states. The manager explains the association’s maintenance schedule and states that parking lot repairs are scheduled, and budgeted, for spring.

Mr. Homeowner wants the potholes fixed now, so he decides to withhold his assessment payment until the potholes are filled. Sorry Mr. Homeowner, withholding assessments will not get the potholes filled. Here’s why:

You signed a contract with the association called the Declaration, or CC&Rs, in which you agreed to pay assessments. Period. There are no Unless Clauses in the Declaration—“I agree to pay assessments, unless…”

Yes, the association has an obligation to maintain the common areas. Since the repairs are on the maintenance schedule and in the budget, the association is fulfilling that obligation.

Filling every pothole as it appears throughout the winter isn’t economical. Agreed, it’s less expensive to fill a small pothole. However, it’s far less expensive to have only one visit from the asphalt company to repair all potholes—even the big ones.

Unfortunately, Mr. Homeowner, instead of getting the potholes filled immediately, you get a lien filed against your home for failing to pay your assessments.

But, let’s say the potholes get especially large before the end of winter and Mr. Homeowner fears they’re dangerous. He believes the potholes may cause damage to his car or that he might injure himself. He should call the manager and explain the situation. The association will make emergency repairs to protect owners and avoid liability.

If the association still fails to repair what Mr. Homeowner believes is a hazard, he has the right to pursue other legal channels to require the association to perform its duties. But, withholding assessments isn’t one of them.

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