​​What Happens If You Don’t Pay HOA Fees?

​​What Happens If You Don’t Pay HOA Fees?

For homeowners who live in communities with a homeowners association (HOA), paying the recurring fees is a legal requirement. But what happens if you choose to stop making online payments for those HOA dues? The consequences can be quite serious – from late fees and interest charges to potential legal action.

To know why you shouldn’t avoid paying your HOA fees, it’s important to understand what they are and how HOA fees work. Let’s dig a bit deeper and see the potential consequences of not paying HOA fees.

 

 

What Are HOA Fees?

Before looking at what happens when you don’t pay, it’s important to understand what HOA fees are and why they exist. These regular assessments paid by all homeowners in the community fund the HOA’s operations and maintenance of common areas like:

  • Landscaping
  • Amenities like pools, parks, and community centers
  • Security services
  • Insurance for common areas
  • Reserve funds for future repairs and projects

Once you know how HOA fees work and what they go toward, you’re more likely to see the value in paying and keeping your community running smoothly. But what happens if you don’t?

Failing to pay your share of the fees unfairly shifts those costs onto your neighbors. HOA fees are legally binding obligations spelled out in the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) that every homeowner agrees to when purchasing their property.

How Much Are HOA Fees?

The amount of HOA fees can vary greatly depending on the location and amenities of the community. On average, homeowners pay between $200-$400 per month. However, some luxury communities can have fees upwards of $1,000 per month. 

Sometimes, there are special cases where a homeowner may be exempt from paying HOA fees, such as if they are part of a senior living community or have a disability. But in general, all homeowners are expected to contribute their fair share for the maintenance and upkeep of communal areas.

Consequences of Not Paying HOA Fees

So what happens if you willfully decide to stop paying those obligated HOA fees? The HOA has several potential courses of action that it can take should you fail to pay your dues.

Late Fees & Interest Charges

The very first consequence is usually late fees and interest charges added on top of the outstanding dues owed. Many HOAs impose late fees after 30 days of non-payment, and interest rates of 5-10% or more can quickly accumulate.

Deactivation of Privileges

The HOA may also deactivate any community privileges like use of pools, fitness centers, or other amenities until payments are made current. If you fail to pay for an extended period of time, the HOA may even restrict your access to common areas like parks and playgrounds.

Liens Against the Property

If dues continue going unpaid, the HOA can place a lien against the homeowner’s property. This shows up on the property title and prevents sale or refinancing until the debt is settled.

Foreclosure

In many states, HOAs have the legal right to foreclosure on a home if dues remain delinquent long enough, just like a mortgage lender can foreclose. This may seem extreme, but HOAs must act to collect legitimate debts.

Court Judgments & Wage Garnishment

The HOA can also take homeowners to court, potentially garnishing wages or bank accounts to recover owed fees, interest, legal fees, and other costs incurred.

Forced Home Sale

In some severe cases of prolonged non-payment, the HOA may be able to obtain a court order forcing the sale of the home to recover the debt. This is typically rare, but in some cases, it may be the only option for the HOA to recoup their losses.

Negative Credit Impacts

Throughout the process, the HOA will likely report any liens, judgments, or other delinquencies to credit bureaus – severely damaging the homeowner’s credit score. This can quickly snowball into more significant financial problems for the homeowner, making it difficult to obtain loans or credit in the future.

Communicating With Your HOA About Fees

Of course, circumstances like job loss or unexpected expenses can make it difficult for homeowners to stay current on their dues through no fault of their own. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain open communication with the HOA board and try to work out a payment plan before matters escalate.

Most HOAs would prefer to avoid drastic collection actions if possible – as long as residents make an effort. Explain your financial hardship and propose a plan to chip away at the debt over time before fines and interest accrue, as this can often lead to more manageable payments.

Following the HOA’s prescribed process for dealing with delinquencies – instead of ignoring notices – goes a long way. Difficult situations may potentially qualify for temporary fee waivers or reductions as well, if the HOA permits.

Don’t Risk Not Paying Your HOA Fees

Not paying HOA fees that every other neighbor is obligated to cover is considered a violation of legal agreements accepted during home purchases. While HOAs aim to work with residents when possible, they ultimately have a fiduciary duty to protect the finances and home values of the entire community.

So, the consequences of ignoring dues can quickly become severe—from mounting late fees and interest to liens, potential foreclosure, court judgments, and long-lasting credit damage. The best approach is communicating proactively with your HOA to explore legitimate payment arrangements or temporary relief options before delinquencies spiral out of control. 

If you operate an HOA board, create easy ways for residents to pay dues, offer payment plans for those experiencing hardship, and clearly communicate the consequences of failing to meet financial obligations. Staying transparent about how HOA fees work and offering plenty of options can help prevent conflicts and preserve the community’s financial health.

Register for our August 1st webinar on The Importance of an HOA Website.

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