People who live in a planned development are usually part of a condominium owners’ association (COA) or homeowners' association (HOA), which is typically a nonprofit corporation responsible for managing and maintaining the community. A COA or HOA has a lot of power over the residences and homeowners in a planned community. The association creates and enforces the rules of the community, as well as determines how much members have to pay in dues and assessments (collectively referred to as “assessments”).
Residents who live in this kind of a community setting—whether it’s a condominium, townhouse, or single-family home—in Massachusetts usually have to pay assessments to their COA or HOA. If you fall behind in those 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 COA and HOA foreclosures and related laws in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts’ condominium laws can be found in Part II, Chapter 183A of the state’s General Laws.
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. Also, the policies about how the HOA operates, including those regarding assessments liens, can be found in the association’s governing documents, like the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), bylaws, and rules and regulations.
In most cases, a COA or HOA has the power to place a lien on your property if you become delinquent in paying the assessments. Generally, the lien will automatically attach to the home from the time that the assessments come 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're 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.
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, including:
To find out which charges a Massachusetts HOA may include in its lien, check the association's CC&Rs and other governing documents.
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 a COA or HOA 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:
To find out the priority of an HOA lien in Massachusetts, check the association’s governing documents.
Under certain circumstances, a COA lien for delinquent assessments has priority over a lender’s first mortgage. This kind of lien is called a super lien. In Massachusetts, six months’ worth of delinquent common expense assessments, including costs and attorneys' fees, have super-lien status. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, § 6(c)).
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.
If a tenant resides in the condo and the assessment is 25 days late, the COA may collect the rent that’s due to the condo owner from the tenant to cover the assessments. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, § 6(c)).
If you default on the assessments, the COA or HOA may foreclose. A common misconception is that the association can’t foreclose if you’re current with your mortgage payments. But the association’s right to foreclose has nothing to do with whether you’re current on your mortgage payments.
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.
If you’re behind in assessments and facing a COA or HOA foreclosure in Massachusetts, consider consulting with a local attorney to discuss all legal options available in your particular circumstances.