Bradenton, FL asked in Consumer Law, Foreclosure, Real Estate Law and Collections for Florida

Q: Is it legal for my management to threaten foreclosure on me for sending HOA invoices to an incorrect address?

I moved into a condo in Bradenton from New York. My HOA instructions and unique pin for accessing the payment portal was sent to the wrong address for consecutive months. I had asked 3 times for my management to send the paperwork to my new address. For this reason I was unable to pay my dues at the scheduled times for these months. I recieved an email that I have to pay their legal fees. I was told in person that if i did not pay, there would be legal pursuit against me. What do I do? I am only behind because of their negligence. Any advice and laws that they are breaking that I can reference? Should I not correspond with them without an attorney? Thank you

1 Lawyer Answer

A: These are particularly troublesome issues to deal with because Florida law does not favor owners in these situations and owners are not familiar with dealing with the ins and outs of living in a community association, especially if you are just moving to Florida.

The first thing you probably want to consider is paying the amount demanded rather than risking your home being foreclosed upon. Only you can weigh the risks and benefits of fighting the foreclosure but you also have to consider there are prevailing party attorneys' fees in the statutes as well as the association documents, so you could end up owing a lot more if you lose the fight. On top of that the documents and the statutes provide for attorneys' fees and costs pre-litigation.

A lot of is riding on your ability to prove you asked to have your address updated and the management company failed to do it. As a general rule, management companies will not update an address without something in writing and hopefully you have something to show you made the request. This will not help you now but I always recommend doing so by certified mail, return receipt.

As of July 1, 2021, associations are required to send a "Notice of Late Assessments" to owners before an account can be turned over to an attorney for collections. If the owner does not reside in the property, the notice has to be sent to the address of record and the property address. If you did not receive this notice and you were placed into collections after July 1, 2021, then I recommend you hire an experienced lawyer to address this issue. Keep in mind this notice does not require it to be sent by certified mail and the threshold for associations to prove it was sent is low -- having a copy of the notice that was mailed.

I hope this information helps.

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