Duty to Pay Assessments

In accordance with the Davis-Stirling Act, "regular and special assessments and any late charges, reasonable fees and costs of collection, reasonable attorney's fees, and interest is a debt of the owner of a separate interest at the time the assessment or other sums are levied".

The obligation is personal in nature, even though it may also become a lien against the property.

A condominium assessment becomes a debt of the owner when the assessment is levied by the condominium association. However, the debt becomes a personal obligation of the owner only after the association records a notice of delinquent assessment (lien) against the owner's interest. Recording a lien gives the association a security interest in the lot or unit against which the assessment was imposed. The lien dates from the time the lien is recorded. California follows the "first in time, first in right" system of lien priorities. HOA assessment liens follow this same system. An assessment lien is prior to all other liens recorded subsequent to the notice of assessment, except that the CC&Rs, almost always provide for the subordination of the lien to any first trust deed holders.

Members cannot deduct any portion of their assessments because they do not use recreational facilities or because they have a grievance against their association. Vacating or abandoning a unit or lot in an association does not release an owner of the liability of paying his or her assessments.

Owners cannot deposit their assessments in an escrow account and claim they are paying their assessments. Owners can dispute charges, but they must continue to pay their assessments while they dispute them.

Pacific Association Collections