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Dear Poles,

To minimize the administrative and accounting costs and headaches associated with condo fees, our community plans to charge each homeowner who is not set up to pay automatically (e-check or credit card) an additional $5-$10 per month. The HOA agreements and regulations do not say whether the HOA can do this.

Can the board simply vote and implement this change, or does it require the approval of a majority of homeowners?

Signed. MADAM

Dear MS,

A public association is generally entitled to charge fees as described in its governing documents. Now this is not an absolute rule in application. Almost all associations charge for items that have known and proven administrative costs, such as key chains, gate access stickers, and sometimes even ID cards or wristbands. And yes, I do think the association could quantify the additional administrative costs of accepting payment by check. So it’s a bit of a gray area and I’m not sure there are any cases that are completely appropriate. One place where you could very well get into trouble is when the association tries to collect this additional fee. Assume that the owner pays by check but does not pay the surcharge. The association returns the check and takes the position that the assessment itself is partially overdue; or instead that the surcharge is overdue and still due. How will this fee be collected? It is not an assessment that can be collected by lien and foreclosure. I also don’t think it would count as a collection fee. Instead, it may simply be a duty that will only be recoverable in small claims court, if at all—in which case the juice won’t be worth the squeeze. Personally, I believe that the benefits of such a policy greatly outweigh the legal risks and the functional impossibility of collecting the fee; but ultimately that decision must be made by the board in consultation with the association’s attorney.

Dear Poles,

I own property in a HOA established in 1978. Our declaration of covenants states that “the maximum annual assessment may be increased each year by no more than 5% above the previous year’s maximum assessment, without a vote of the members. »