Don’t let history repeat itself.
During this COVID-19 crisis, it serves us to look back to the last time our economy was in terrible shape: the 2008 recession. Millions of property owners lost their homes and suffered significant financial losses during the years after the real estate crash. To this day, property values in greater Chicagoland (and areas throughout the nation) remain at levels below what they were at the peak.
Board members and property managers are reaching out to our law firm daily and asking: Should the association waive assessments during this coronavirus outbreak? The same question was posed during the 2018 recession and our answer remains the same. While everyone should have a measure of compassion and understanding for their neighbors, Boards do not have the legal right to allow owners to skip payments.
Boards are charged with the duty to act in the best interests of the Association as a whole. Allowing certain owners to skip assessment payments ultimately results in other owners having to pick up the slack. This is not to say that owners should not be given payment plans or that late fees should not be waived for the time being. Boards can and should consider and respond to any request. However, unlike in 2008, the federal government is responding to the coronavirus outbreak by providing relief efforts and support in the form of payments to individuals, families, and businesses. Additionally, there are enhanced unemployment payments to qualified individuals who have lost their jobs.
During the 2008 recession, even Boards with a good policy in place addressing delinquent assessment payments delayed legal pursuit of past due assessments. This was mostly out of sympathy for fellow owners and in the hope that financial circumstances would improve. Unfortunately, in most cases they did not.
Without a crystal ball, we cannot know what path the current crisis will take or when it will end. However, we do know that Association budgets rely on revenue and that the many goods and services they require to operate have to be paid for with that revenue. In 2008, many associations allowed owners to go months or even years without paying, only to finally have the owner foreclosed on. This resulted in budgetary shortfalls. Had the Boards taken a firm and fair stance early on, with clear communication to owners about the need for revenue and what happens when the association meet it’s budgetary needs, many of the losses could have been lessened or even avoided.
Boards should send out a reminder to all owners that assessments are due and payable. If an owner cannot make their regular assessment payment, they should provide the Board with an explanation and a proposal for eventual repayment. If owners know that assessment payments are still expected to maintain Association operations (along with the consequences if payments are not received), a repeat of 2008 can be avoided.
If KSN can answer any legal questions for or assist your Board, do not hesitate to contact our law firm. Please call 855-537-0500 or visit www.ksnlaw.com.
Since 1983, KSN has been a legal resource for condominium, homeowner, and townhome associations. We have four office locations, serving hundreds of clients and thousands of communities throughout Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Our attorneys are also licensed in Arizona, Florida, and Missouri.
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