If you live in a condominium, single-family house, or townhome that’s part of a common interest community in Washington, you are most likely responsible for paying dues and assessments to a condominium association (COA) or homeowners’ association (HOA). If you don’t pay, the COA or HOA can usually get a lien on your property that could lead to a foreclosure.
Read on to learn more about COA and HOA foreclosures in Washington.
A COA or HOA typically has the power to place a lien on your property if you get behind in monthly dues or any special assessments (collectively referred to as “assessments”). Generally, once a homeowner defaults on assessments, a lien automatically attaches to that homeowner's property.
In Washington, a COA is entitled to a lien on a condo for any unpaid assessments from the time the assessment is due. (Wash. Rev. Code § 64.34.364(1)). The recording of the COA’s governing documents—that is, the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) and bylaws—in the county records constitutes record notice and perfection of the lien. The COA doesn't have to record the lien in the county records, although it can do so if it wants to. (Wash. Rev. Code § 64.34.364(7)).
If you are part of an HOA, check the association’s CC&Rs and bylaws to learn about the association’s right to place 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 the association may impose in addition to the past-due assessments. In Washington, a COA also has the power to impose:
To find out which charges an HOA in Washington may include in its lien, check the association's governing documents.
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 Washington, COA liens are prior to all other liens, except for:
To find out the priority of an HOA lien in Washington, check the association’s governing documents. Often, an HOA’s CC&Rs will state that an HOA lien is subordinate to a lender’s mortgage.
In some states, a lien for delinquent assessments has priority over a lender’s mortgage. This kind of lien is called a super lien.
In Washington, a COA is entitled to a super lien over mortgages recorded before the date that the assessment became delinquent in an amount equal to six months’ worth of delinquent common expense assessments. (Wash. Rev. Code § 64.34.364(3)). This can be reduced by up to three months under certain circumstances and, if the COA elects to foreclose nonjudicially, it's not entitled to a super lien. (Wash. Rev. Code § 64.34.364(4),(5)).
If you make a written request to the COA, the association must provide you with a statement of the amount due within 15 days after receiving the request. (Wash. Rev. Code § 64.34.364(15)).
If you default on the assessments, the COA or HOA can foreclose. 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 has nothing to do with whether you're current on your home loan.
In Washington, a COA lien may be foreclosed:
To find out about an HOA’s right to foreclose if you become delinquent in paying the assessments, read the association’s governing documents.
Unless the COA starts the foreclosure or sues the condo owner personally for payment within three years after the full amount of the assessments becomes due, a lien for unpaid assessments, as well as the condo owner’s personal liability for the assessments, will be extinguished. (Wash. Rev. Code § 64.34.364(8)).
If you’re behind in assessments and facing an HOA or COA foreclosure, consider consulting with an attorney licensed in Washington to discuss all legal options available in your particular circumstances.