Maryland HOA and COA Foreclosures

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

By , Attorney · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

In Maryland, 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 Do HOA and COA Assessments Generally Work?

When you buy a single-family home, townhome, or condominium in 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 could 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.

Charges the HOA or COA May Include in the Lien

Maryland law specifies the types of charges that a COA may include in an assessments lien.

  • Assessments. The COA can include amounts for unpaid assessments in the lien. (Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 11-110(d)).
  • Late charges. After 15 calendar days, COAs in Maryland may assess a late charge of $15 or 1/10 of the total amount of any delinquent assessment or installment, whichever is greater, if permitted by the COA bylaws. (Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 11-110(e)).
  • Attorneys' fees and collection costs. COAs may also include reasonable attorneys' fees and collection costs in the total lien amount. (Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 11-110(d)).
  • Interest. A COA may charge interest at 18% unless the governing documents specify a lower rate. (Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 11-110(e)).

To find out which charges an HOA in Maryland may include in its lien, check the association's governing documents, like the CC&Rs.

HOA and COA Lien Foreclosures in Maryland

In Maryland, an HOA or COA may foreclose its lien in the same manner that a deed of trust or mortgage is foreclosed. (Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 14-204(a)).

Foreclosure Limitation

While late charges and various other charges imposed by an HOA or COA generally constitute a lien on your property, an association may only foreclose a lien that consists solely of:

  • delinquent periodic assessments or special assessments and any interest, and
  • reasonable costs and attorneys' fees directly related to the filing of the lien that don't exceed the amount of the delinquent assessments, excluding any interest. (Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 14-204(d)(2)).

Be aware that the HOA or COA can use other means to enforce a lien for additional amounts, like suing you for the money owed.

Statute of Limitations

Any action to foreclose a lien must be started within 12 years after the date a statement of lien is recorded. (Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 14-204(c)).

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.

Is Maryland a Super Lien State?

In most cases, first mortgages or deeds of trust have priority over an HOA or COA lien. But under certain circumstances, an HOA or COA lien for delinquent assessments can have priority even over a lender's first mortgage or deed of trust. This kind of lien is called a "super lien."

Maryland law states that if a mortgage or deed of trust holder forecloses, four months' worth of unpaid regular HOA or COA assessments for common expenses (not including interest, collection costs, late charges, fines, attorneys' fees, special assessments, or any other costs) get priority over a first mortgage or deed of trust recorded on or after October 1, 2011. The super lien is limited to a maximum of $1,200. (Md. Code Ann., Real Prop. § 11B-117(c), 11-110(f)).

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

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

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