Homeowners' Association (HOA) Laws in Colorado

Learn about Colorado laws that can protect you if you live in an HOA-governed community.

By , Attorney University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Updated 6/13/2024

When you buy a single-family home, townhome, or condominium in Colorado that's part of a planned community with covenants, you'll most likely be part of a homeowners' association (HOA). And you'll probably have to pay fees and assessments, often collectively called "assessments," to the HOA.

If you fall behind in the assessments, the association will likely first try to collect the debt using traditional methods. For instance, the HOA will probably call you and send letters. But if those tactics don't get you to pay up, the association will probably try other ways to collect from you. The HOA might take away your privileges to use the common facilities or file a lawsuit for a money judgment against you.

Most HOAs also have the power to get a lien on your property if you become delinquent in assessments. Not only will an assessments lien cloud the title to the property, which hinders your ability to sell or refinance the home, but the property can also be foreclosed to force a sale to a new owner—even if the property has a mortgage on it.

However, Colorado has laws that provide protections for residents who are part of an HOA regarding debt collection practices and HOA foreclosures.

What Is an HOA?

A homeowners' association or "HOA" is a legal entity that manages and maintains a neighborhood. Its members usually consist of homeowners in the community. The original developer of the community typically creates the HOA.

The main functions of the HOA are to collect assessments, including monthly dues and special assessments, and enforce the rules of the community. The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) outlines the community's rules and the bylaws govern how the HOA operates. "Resolutions" are additional rules and regulations that an HOA adopts.

Colorado HOA Law Summary

In Colorado, if your home is part of an HOA and you fall behind in assessments:

  • The HOA usually can get a lien on your home if you become delinquent in paying the assessments.
  • The HOA can charge you for assessments, late charges, collection costs, attorneys' fees and costs, fines, interest, and other charges.
  • If you request it, the association must provide a statement stating the amount of past-due assessments.
  • After you default on the assessments, the HOA may foreclose, but only if the total amount secured by the lien equals six months or more of common expense assessments and the HOA gets board approval.
  • Colorado has laws that provide protections regarding debt collection practices and foreclosure for residents who are part of an HOA.
  • If the HOA 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.
  • Lien priority determines what happens to other liens, like a mortgage lien, if an HOA lien is foreclosed.

Where to Find Colorado's HOA Laws

In Colorado, the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA) (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-101 through § 38-33.3-319) covers condominiums, co-operatives, and planned communities, including condominiums created after July 1, 1992. (C.R.S. § 38-33.3-115, C.R.S. § 38-33.3-103). But § 38-33.3-316 of the CCIOA applies to all condominiums, and an organization created before July 1, 1992, may elect to have the development subject to the CCIOA (C.R.S. § 38-33.3-117, C.R.S. § 38-33.3-118).

The CCIOA modified the state's older Colorado Condominium Ownership Act (CCOA) (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33-101 through § 38-33-113) and superseded most of the CCOA for communities created under the CCIOA. For new condominiums, only parts of the CCOA remain in effect, most of which relate to timeshares. This article focuses on the CCIOA.

Also, HOAs are often incorporated as nonprofit corporations and are subject to the Colorado Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act. (C.R.S. § 7-121-101 and following).

How HOA Liens Work, Generally

Based on the association's CC&Rs and state law, an HOA can usually get a lien on a property if the homeowner is delinquent in paying the assessments. Once a homeowner becomes delinquent on the assessments, a lien will usually automatically attach to the home.

In some cases, 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.

HOA Liens in Colorado

In Colorado, the recording of the Declaration of CC&Rs or the "declaration" constitutes record notice and perfection of the lien. No further recording of the claim of lien for assessments is required. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316(4)).

Charges a Colorado HOA May Include in the Lien

Colorado law sets out the types of charges that the HOA may include in an assessments lien. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316(1)). Unless the declaration provides otherwise, the association may include charges for:

  • Assessments. The HOA can include amounts for unpaid assessments in the lien.
  • Late charges. Charges for the late payment of assessments may be included in the assessments lien as well.
  • Reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. The HOA may also include reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred in the total lien amount. But it can't include fees incurred before the HOA fulfills certain notice requirements. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316(7)).
  • Fines. The association may include fines for violations of the declaration, bylaws, or rules and regulations of the association. But the HOA may not fine any owner for an alleged violation unless the association has a written policy governing the imposition of fines that includes a fair and impartial fact-finding process concerning whether the violation occurred and whether the owner is the one who should be held responsible for the violation. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-209.5(2)(b)(I)).
  • Interest. The HOA may also include interest on the past-due common expense assessments at the rate set by the association, but not exceeding 8% per year. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-315(2)).
  • Other charges. The association may also impose certain other charges, like charges for the preparation and recordation of amendments to the declaration or statements of unpaid assessments. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-302(l)).

Colorado Law Requires HOAs to Establish a Consistent Debt Collection Policy

Colorado law requires most HOAs to adopt a policy governing the collection of unpaid assessments, including before using a collection agency or taking legal action to collect unpaid assessments. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-209.5, § 38-33.3-316.3).

The policy must specify:

  • the date on which assessments must be paid to the HOA (and when an assessment is considered past due and delinquent)
  • any late fees and interest the HOA is entitled to charge on a delinquent owner's account
  • any returned check charges the HOA is entitled to charge, and
  • the circumstances under which a delinquent owner is entitled to enter into a payment plan and the minimum terms of the payment plan. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-209.5).

How to Get a Statement of Assessments Due in Colorado

If you make a written request, the association must provide you with a statement of the assessments due. If the HOA fails to furnish a statement, it can't assert a lien for the unpaid assessments due as of the date of the request. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316(8)).

HOAs Must Give Written Notices Before Taking Legal Action

Before taking action on a delinquency, an HOA must alert the homeowner about the amounts due. And the HOA must keep records of the contact, including the type of communication and the date and time of communication attempts. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-209.5).

An HOA must send a notice of delinquency in the homeowner's preferred language (see below) by certified mail, return receipt requested, and contact the unit owner by two of the following means: telephone, text, or email (effective August 7, 2024). (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-209.5).

Also, before the HOA can turn a delinquent account over to an attorney for legal action or collections agency, the HOA must provide a notice to the homeowner specifying:

  • the total amount due, including an accounting of how the total was determined
  • whether the homeowner can enter into a payment plan, along with instructions for contacting the association to enter into such a payment plan
  • the name and contact information for the individual the homeowner may contact to request a copy of the ledger to verify the debt amount
  • that the homeowner must take action to cure the delinquency, and
  • that failing to cure the delinquency within 30 days may result in the account being turned over to a collection agency, a lawsuit being filed against the owner, the filing and foreclosure of a lien against the owner's property, and other remedies available under Colorado law. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-209.5).

An HOA must send a written notice of any violations, giving 30 days to correct a problem before imposing a fine. (The period to fix a violation is 72 hours if it threatens public safety or health.) The association must give the homeowner another 30-day period—so, two consecutive 30-day periods—to cure a violation before taking legal action. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-209.5).

Getting Notices in Another Language

A homeowner may notify the association if they prefer that correspondence and notices from the HOA be in a language other than English. Then, the HOA must provide notices in that language. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-209.5).

Monthly Statements

An HOA must send homeowners monthly notifications (in their language of choice) by first-class mail and by email, if the HOA has an email address for the owner, of any outstanding balances with an itemized list of all assessments, fines, fees, and charges that the homeowner owes. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-209.5).

HOAs Must Offer Payment Plans

An HOA must attempt to set up a payment plan with the homeowner before initiating a foreclosure. The plan must allow the homeowner to pay the debt in monthly installments over 18 months. Under the payment plan, the owner may choose the amount to be paid each month, so long as each payment is in an amount of at least $25. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316.3, § 38-33.3-209.5).

But an HOA doesn't have to offer a payment plan to a unit owner who has previously entered into a plan. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316.3).

If the delinquent owner fails to remit three or more installments under the payment plan or fails to remain current on regular assessments during the plan, the HOA may then pursue legal action. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316.3).

HOA Foreclosures in Colorado

In Colorado, an HOA may foreclose its lien in the same manner as a lender can foreclose a mortgage. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316(11)). Because mortgages in Colorado must be foreclosed judicially, an HOA must file a lawsuit in court to foreclose.

This process differs from most residential foreclosures in Colorado. Colorado home loans are usually secured by a deed of trust rather than a mortgage, and foreclosures of residential deeds of trust are typically nonjudicial.

HOA Foreclosure Limitations

Colorado law limits an HOA's ability to foreclose in certain circumstances.

Limitation based on the amount of the delinquency. An HOA (or the assignee of the HOA's lien, again, like a third-party debt collector) may foreclose only if the total amount secured by the lien is equal to six months or more of common expense assessments based on a periodic budget adopted by the association. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316(11)).

No foreclosure for a lien that consists solely of fines or related costs. Again, HOAs can foreclose if the total amount secured due is equal to six months or more of common expense assessments. In the past, that total could be comprised of assessments, fees, fines, and collection costs, such as legal fees. In fact, a judge could order the home foreclosed, even if the homeowner never missed a single HOA monthly fee. Colorado's HOA reform law in 2022 (HB22-1137) changed this law.

Now, an HOA may not foreclose its lien if the debt securing the lien consists of one or both of the following: (1) fines or (2) collection costs or attorneys' fees the association incurred that are only associated with assessed fines. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316(1)). Colorado's HOA reform law also prevents HOAs from assessing fines on a daily basis in some cases and limits the total amount of fines for a violation to $500 if the violation doesn't threaten public safety or health. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38–33.3–209.5.)

Board approval is required before foreclosure. The HOA executive board must vote in favor of foreclosure before proceeding with such a foreclosure on any given delinquent account and may not delegate this authority to an attorney, insurer, manager, or any other person. The board must formally resolve, by a recorded vote, to authorize the filing of a legal action against the specific unit on an individual basis. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316(11)).

Statute of limitations. For the lien to remain valid, the HOA must initiate an action to enforce the lien within six years from the date the full amount of the assessments became due. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316(5)).

Mediation Is Available Before Foreclosure

At least 30 days before starting a foreclosure, an HOA must notify the owner of their right to mediation. To initiate mediation, the unit owner must respond within 30 days after the date of the notice. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316).

To participate in mediation, both parties must:

  • pick a mutually agreeable mediator who's knowledgeable about this law and common interest community disputes and
  • schedule the mediation session within 30 days after the notice about mediation. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316).

Because time is limited, if you want to participate in mediation, you should respond to the notice right away and get the process going. An attorney can help you elect mediation and can represent you in the mediation.

What Is the Redemption Period After an HOA Foreclosure in Colorado?

Under Colorado's general foreclosure law, certain lienholders get a redemption period after the sale, but not a foreclosed homeowner. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-38-302). However, in 2024, a new Colorado law (House Bill 1337) created a right of redemption for foreclosed homeowners, among others, for properties in an HOA that have been foreclosed. This law gives unit owners, tenants, nonprofits, community land trusts, and other entities the opportunity to purchase the property before it's transferred. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-305.5). (The laws included in House Bill 1337 take effect at 12:01 a.m. on the day following the expiration of the 90-day period after final adjournment of the general assembly.)

You have a limited amount of time to redeem and you have to follow specific procedures, so if you want to redeem after losing your home to an HOA foreclosure, it's a good idea to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

Also, if you don't redeem, a foreclosed homeowner can apply for their share of any surplus funds. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-38-111(2)).

Colorado HOA Liens and Your Mortgage

A common misconception is that the association can't foreclose if you're current with your mortgage payments. However, 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 others 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.

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

HOA Lien Priority in Colorado

Under Colorado law, an association lien is generally prior to all other liens, except for:

  • liens recorded before the declaration
  • a first mortgage or deed of trust that was recorded before the date on which the assessment sought to be enforced became delinquent, and
  • liens for real estate taxes and other governmental charges. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316(2)(a)).

But an HOA gets a super lien in an amount equal to the common expense assessments that would have come due during a six-month period before the HOA or a lender with a senior lien starts a foreclosure action. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316(2)(b)).

HOA Resources in Colorado

The Colorado legislature created the state's "HOA Information and Resource Center" in 2010 to address legislative and consumer concerns regarding HOAs in Colorado. While the HOA Center won't mediate or arbitrate a dispute you have with your HOA or provide legal advice, it will provide you with information regarding your basic rights and responsibilities under the CCIOA. The law that established the HOA Center is scheduled to sunset (expire) on September 1, 2025. To get contact information for the HOA Center and learn more about what it can do for you, go to the Colorado HOA Information and Resource Center website.

Another good resource for general information about HOA laws in Colorado is the Colorado HOA forum, especially the organization's "Little Known Facts" and Guides sections. However, any general legal information you get online should not be a substitute for legal advice or legal counsel.

Talk to a Lawyer If You're Facing an HOA Foreclosure in Colorado

If you're facing an HOA foreclosure in Colorado, consider consulting with a foreclosure attorney to learn more about state laws and how they apply to your situation and to discuss all legal options available in your particular circumstances.

Under Colorado law, homeowners may file a civil lawsuit against an HOA for no more than $25,000, plus costs and attorneys' fees, if they can prove that the HOA violated foreclosure laws. The statute of limitations for the suit is five years after the violation happened. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-316.3).

You might also consider talking to a lawyer if you disagree with your HOA over how much you owe in past assessments, supposed HOA violations, landscaping, or another matter.

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