Arizona HOA and COA Foreclosures

If you fail to pay your HOA or COA assessments in Arizona, the association can get a lien on your property and might foreclose on your home.

By , Attorney University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Updated 3/22/2023

In Arizona, if your home is part of a homeowners' association (HOA) or condominium owners' association (COA) and you fall behind in assessments:

  • The HOA or COA can usually get a lien on your home.
  • The association typically can charge you for overdue assessments, including late fees, attorneys' fees and costs, and collection fees.
  • The association might choose to foreclose its lien.
  • Lien priority determines what happens to other liens, like a mortgage, if an HOA or COA lien is foreclosed.

If the HOA or COA initiates a foreclosure, you might have a defense to the action, or you might be able to negotiate a way to get caught up on the overdue amounts and save your home.

How HOA and COA Assessments Generally Work

When you buy a single-family home, townhome, or condominium that's part of a planned community with covenants, you'll most likely pay fees and assessments, often collectively called "assessments," to an HOA or COA. If you fall behind in the assessments, the association will likely initially try to collect the debt using traditional methods. For instance, the association will probably call you and send letters.

But if those tactics don't get you to pay up, the association might try other ways to collect from you. The association might take away your privileges to use the common facilities or file a lawsuit for a money judgment against you.

Based on the association's Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) or Declaration of Condominium and state law, most HOAs and COAs also have the power to get a lien on your property if you become delinquent in assessments. Once you fall behind in payments, a lien will usually automatically attach to your property. Sometimes, the association will record its lien with the county recorder to provide public notice that the lien exists, regardless of whether state law requires recording.

An assessments lien clouds the title to the property, hindering your ability to sell or refinance the home. In addition, the property can also be foreclosed to force a sale to a new owner—even if the property has a mortgage.

HOA and COA Liens in Arizona

In Arizona, the lien attaches to the property at the time the assessment becomes due. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1807(A), § 33-1256(A)). The HOA or COA doesn't have to record the lien in the county records for it to be valid. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1807(E), § 33-1256(E)).

Although Arizona law doesn't require an association to record its lien, filing a "Notice of Claim of Lien" is common.

Charges an HOA or COA May Include in a Lien

Arizona law limits the types of charges that the HOA or COA may include in the assessments lien. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1807(A), § 33-1256(A)). Generally, the association may include, along with past-due assessments, late-payment fees, reasonable collection fees, and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.

The association can get a lien for fees, charges, late charges, other than charges for late payment of assessments, monetary penalties, or interest after the entry of a judgment in a civil suit for those fees, charges, late charges, monetary penalties, or interest from a court of competent jurisdiction and the recording of that judgment in the office of the county recorder as otherwise provided by law. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1807(A), § 33-1256(A)).

Notice of Delinquent Assessments

At least 30 days before authorizing an attorney or a collection agency to begin collection activities, the association has to mail (by certified mail, return receipt requested) a written notice to the homeowner at the owner's address. The notice must state:

Your account is delinquent. If you do not bring your account current or make arrangements that are approved by the association to bring your account current within thirty days after the date of this notice, your account will be turned over for further collection proceedings. Such collection proceedings could include bringing a foreclosure action against your property.

The notice must be in boldfaced type or all capital letters and include the contact information for the person that the homeowner may contact to discuss payment. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1807(K), § 33-1256(K)).

HOA and COA Lien Foreclosures in Arizona

In Arizona, the HOA or COA may foreclose on its lien in the same manner as a mortgage lender can foreclose on a mortgage. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1807(A), § 33-1256(A)). Because mortgages in Arizona must be foreclosed judicially, the HOA or COA must file a lawsuit in court to foreclose its lien. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-721).

Arizona home loans, on the other hand, are usually secured by a deed of trust rather than a mortgage. So, foreclosures by mortgage lenders in Arizona are typically nonjudicial.

In addition, Arizona has laws that limit the HOA's or COA's ability to foreclosure in certain circumstances. The HOA or COA can't foreclose unless the owner has been delinquent in paying the amounts secured by the lien (excluding reasonable collection fees, reasonable attorneys' fees, charges for late payments, and costs incurred with respect to the assessments) for a period of one year, or the delinquent amount is $1,200 or more, whichever occurs first, as determined on the date the action is filed. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1807(A), § 33-1256(A)).

Statute of Limitations

For the lien to remain valid, the HOA or COA must initiate an action to enforce the lien within six years from the date that the full amount of the assessments became due. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1807(F), § 33-1256(F)).

Redeeming the Property After the Sale

After a judicial foreclosure, Arizona law provides a redemption period of:

  • six months after the sale date, or
  • 30 days after the sale date, if the court determines the home is abandoned, and the property was not used primarily for grazing or agricultural purposes. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 12-1282).

HOA and COA Liens and Your Mortgage

A common misconception is that the association can't foreclose if you're current with your mortgage payments. But an association's right to foreclose isn't dependent on whether you're up to date on your mortgage. Instead, lien priority determines what happens in a foreclosure.

What Is Lien Priority?

The priority of liens establishes who gets paid first following a foreclosure sale and often determines whether a lienholder will get paid at all. Liens generally follow the "first in time, first in right" rule, which says that whichever lien is recorded first in the land records has higher priority than later recorded liens. A first lien has a higher priority than other liens and gets the first crack at the foreclosure sale proceeds.

If any proceeds are left after the first lien is paid in full, the excess proceeds go to the second lienholder until that lien is paid off, and so on. A lien with a low priority might get nothing from a foreclosure sale.

But state law or an association's governing documents can adjust lien priority.

HOA and COA Lien Priority in Arizona

An association's lien is prior to all other liens, except for:

  • liens recorded before the declaration
  • liens for real estate taxes (and other governmental charges), and
  • a recorded first mortgage, a seller's interest in a first contract for sale recorded before the association lien, or a recorded deed of trust. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-1807(B), § 33-1256(B)).

So, a foreclosure by an HOA or COA usually won't eliminate a first mortgage or deed of trust because the association's lien is normally lower in priority.

Talk to a Lawyer If You're Facing an HOA or COA Foreclosure

If you're facing an HOA or COA foreclosure in Arizona, consider consulting with a foreclosure attorney to discuss all legal options available in your circumstances.

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