Living in a community managed by a homeowner's association comes with a host of perks such as landscaping, trash pick-up and security. Some HOAs even maintain walking trails, swimming pools, clubhouses and golf courses for the enjoyment of residents. The perks don't come cheap, however, and you and your spouse must factor HOA fees into your household budget, whether collected monthly, quarterly or annually. Neglecting to pay your HOA fees could result in a blemish on your credit report or worse.
Contact your HOA if your account has not been forwarded to a collection agency. Make an appointment meet with the person responsible for billing. Your HOA, billing could be handled by an on-site property manager or by an off-site accounting office. Take your checkbook and your past due HOA bills to confirm past due account accuracy before you pay. Meeting with the person in charge connects your face with the past due account. A face-to-face meeting could defuse a potentially acrimonious situation, meaning that the HOA billing manager might be more willing to work with you when she knows your financial circumstances and sees that you are sincere about paying off the account.
Pay off the HOA debt on the spot or negotiate a payment plan, depending on how much you owe. Don't hesitate to pay off the bill if you have enough money to cover the check. If you don't have enough funds to pay off the bill, rather than asking if the HOA offers a payment plan, tactfully tell the billing manager exactly how much you can pay per month to bring the account current. Make the offer reasonable and attractive enough for the HOA to accept, and let the HOA counter your offer if they so choose. As with any other agreement negotiated verbally, request confirmation in writing.
Pay off the HOA debt according to the directions provided by the collection agency, if you receive the bill from a debt collector on behalf of the association. Call the collection agency to negotiate a payment plan if you do not have the funds to pay off the account in full by the due date. Request written confirmation of any agreed-upon payment plan.
- Surviving Homeowner Associations; Arlene Bandy
- The Case Against State Protection of Homeowner Associations; George K. Staropoli
- Everything Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s; Debby Fowles
- If you're selling your home and it is currently under contract, you might consider paying off the account at closing, assuming the HOA agrees to such an arrangement. The closing agent will deduct the fees you owe from sales proceeds and send them directly to the HOA.
- Don't ignore HOA bills even if you can't pay them. Instead, seek the advice of an attorney and have the attorney negotiate payment terms with the HOA, if necessary. HOAs have the authority to place liens on properties with excessive unpaid fees and such liens could land you and your spouse in court or might affect your ability to sell your property down the road.
Maya Black has been covering business, food, travel, cultural topics and decorating since 1992. She has bachelor's degree in art and a master's degree in cultural studies from University of Texas, a culinary arts certificate and a real estate license. Her articles appear in magazines such as Virginia Living and Albemarle.