If you live in a condominium, single-family house, or townhome that is part of a common interest development in Massachusetts, you are probably responsible for paying dues and assessments to a condominium association (COA) or homeowners’ association (HOA). If you fall behind in payments, in most cases the COA or HOA can get a lien on your home that could lead to a foreclosure.
Read on to learn about the particular requirements for COA and HOA foreclosures in Massachusetts.
COA Laws in Massachusetts
Massachusetts’ condominium laws can be found in Part II, Chapter 183A of the state’s General Laws.
HOA Laws in Massachusetts
HOAs in Massachusetts are often incorporated as nonprofit corporations and are subject to the state statutes that govern such corporations, which can be found in Part I, Chapter 180 of the Massachusetts General Laws.
In addition, the policies regarding the operation of the HOA, including those regarding assessments liens, can be found in the association’s governing documents, such as the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), bylaws, and rules and regulations. (Find out more about what's in your HOA CC&Rs and other relevant documents in Nolo’s article Before Buying: How to Read the CC&Rs or Homeowners' Association (HOA) Documents.)
How COA and HOA Liens Work
In most cases, a COA or HOA has the power to place a lien on your property if you become delinquent in paying the monthly dues and/or any special assessments (collectively referred to as assessments). Generally, the lien will automatically attach to the home from the time that the assessment comes due.
In Massachusetts, a COA is entitled to a lien for assessments from the time the assessments are due (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, § 6(a)(ii)).
If you are part of an HOA in Massachusetts, check the association’s governing documents to learn about the HOA’s right to get a lien on your home if you don’t pay the assessments.
Charges the COA or HOA May Include in the Lien
State law and the COA or HOA’s governing documents will usually set out the type of charges that may be included in the lien. In Massachusetts, a COA is permitted to include certain charges in its lien such as:
- past due assessments
- assessments for expenses caused by the misconduct of the owner (or the owner’s tenants or guests)
- late charges
- attorneys’ fees
- court costs, and
- collection and enforcement costs (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, § 6(a)(ii)).
To find out which charges a Massachusetts HOA may include in its lien, check the association's CC&Rs.
Notice of Lien Required
Once an assessment has been 60 days late, the COA must send notice (by certified and first-class mail) to the condo owner stating the amount of the delinquency (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, § 6(c)).
Lien priority determines what happens to other liens, mortgages, and lines of credit if your HOA or COA lien is foreclosed. (To learn more about lien priority and its importance in HOA foreclosures, see What happens to my mortgages if the HOA forecloses on its lien?)
In Massachusetts, a COA’s lien is prior to all other liens, except for:
- liens and encumbrances recorded before the condominium master deed is recorded
- liens for real estate taxes and other municipal assessments or charges, and
- a first mortgage on the condo recorded before the date on which the assessment sought to be enforced became delinquent (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, § 6(c)).
To find out the priority of an HOA lien in Massachusetts, check the association’s governing documents.
COA Super Liens
Under certain circumstances, a COA lien for delinquent assessments has priority over a lender’s first mortgage. This is called a super lien. In Massachusetts, six months worth of delinquent common expense assessments (including costs and attorney's fees) have super lien status (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, § 6(c)). (Learn more in Nolo’s article Homeowners’ Association Super Liens.)
Requesting a Statement of Assessments Due from a COA
If you make a written request, the COA must provide you with a statement setting forth the amount of unpaid common expenses and any other sums which have been assessed. It must send this statement within ten business days after it receives your request (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, § 6(d)). The COA may charge a reasonable fee for providing the statement.
COA May Collect Rent from Condo Tenants
If a tenant resides in the condo and the assessment is 25 days late, the COA may collect the rent that is due to the condo owner from the tenant to cover the assessments (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, § 6(c)).
COA and HOA Foreclosures in Massachusetts
A common misconception is that the association cannot foreclose if you are current with your mortgage payments. However, the association’s right to foreclose has nothing to do with whether you are current on your mortgage payments. If you default on the assessments, the COA or HOA can foreclose. (Learn more about HOA liens and foreclosure.)
In Massachusetts, a COA must file a civil action (lawsuit) to foreclose its lien (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, § 6(c)). To find out more about an HOA’s right to foreclose if you become delinquent in paying the assessments, read the association’s governing documents.
What to Do if You Are Facing Foreclosure by a COA or HOA in Massachusetts
If you are facing a COA or HOA foreclosure, you should consult with an attorney licensed in Massachusetts to discuss all legal options available in your particular circumstances. (See our HOA Foreclosure topic page for articles on HOAs, possible options to catch up if you are delinquent in payments, how bankruptcy can help discharge dues, HOA super liens, and more.)