Anyone who pays monthly dues to a community Homeowners Association (HOA) will tell you,
there is never a good time to be hit with a special assessment. You are already paying dues to cover specific services and the costs to maintain a well-kept communal environment. But when a major expenditure is anticipated that affects the well-being of the whole community, your HOA has the right to levy a special assessment. A word of warning: Refuse to pay and the bill just gets bigger with late fees and fines.

Your HOA must obey California’s rules.

Special assessments are written into HOA contracts to ensure all members of the community contribute equally to the upkeep and wellbeing of the properties and public areas. But assessments can be expensive so pay attention and follow your money.

Capital improvements — new roofing, elevator replacement, painting, parking lot repaving—specified community projects often require a special assessment. Suppose a storm has wreaked havoc throughout your community leaving fallen trees and flooding — everyone benefits from the restoration effort and the expense must be shared. Rest assured, California
law has strict limits on what the money can be used for and every dollar paid must be used for repairs specified when the assessment was issued.

You have protections under California law.

While California has very clear laws guiding the stewardship of HOAs, you are not guaranteed the HOA will follow them. To prevent abuse of the special assessment system by allowing HOA leaders to fleece residents, California law states an HOA or governing body cannot levy a special assessment exceeding 5% of the year’s gross fiscal budget. To be clear, this is 5% split equally across all HOA community members.

If the HOA is billing more than the legal 5% without a public vote, residents are within their rights to seek legal help to fight the assessment. If you are facing a dispute with your HOA, consult with a real estate attorney who understands real estate law and know where you stand before you enter a dispute.


Know Your Rights. Protect Yourself.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Real Estate Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Mary Catherine Wiederhold
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