Owner Association Judicial Lien Foreclosure a Valuable Collection Tool

Association Collection Duty

The association and the Board of Directors have duties to collect assessments due the owner association.

  • If an owner association has any of the following:
  • High delinquency ratio compared to owners that are paying;
  • Repeat delinquent owners;
  • Uncollectible delinquent accounts; or
  • Delinquent owners with equity;

then the owner association should consider a judicial foreclosure lawsuit on any delinquent owners.

Typical Collection Tools of Associations

Most owner associations use the following collection tools:

  • A Collection Policy (collection policies are required under Senate Bill 05-100)
  • Late Charges
  • Interest charges
  • Other fees (if allowed under the governing documents or, in a proper case, the agreement between the association and the managing agent or management company)
  • Delinquency reporting from the managing agent or management company to the association (provided at or in advance of periodic board meetings)
  • Letters from the management to the delinquent owner
  • Additional notice of lien recording with the Clerk and Recorder
  • Demand letters from the association’s attorneys
  • Collection phone calls from the association’s attorneys
  • Status reports from the association’s attorneys to the association and the association’s management company
  • County Court lawsuit (for breach of the owner’s agreement to pay assessments)
  • Enforcement of court ordered judgment through interrogatories, garnishments and contempt citations

Additional Collection Tools

In addition to these remedies, the following are sometimes used:

  • Suspension of voting rights (notice and hearing may be required)
  • Suspension of rights to use recreational amenities or common elements (notice and hearing may be required)
  • Utility shut offs (notice and hearing may be required and consultation with the owner association’s legal counsel is recommended [Note: some municipalities preclude utility shut offs as a collection remedy]
  • Assignment (sale) of sums due the association

HOA Foreclosure – An Additional Collection Remedy to be Considered

Judicial foreclosure of the assessment lien, by the HOA foreclosing, is an additional collection remedy that owner associations should consider.

The association foreclosure option should be evaluated regularly and used, when needed, aggressively.  To evaluate the association’s foreclosure option, owner associations and their boards and managers should understand the judicial foreclosure process.  In addition to foreclosure, Associations should evaluate receiverships as a collection remedy, in the proper case.  For more on receivership as a collection remedy, see our separate article on this subject.

The Authority of the Association to Foreclose

Most declarations grant the owner association a lien against an owner’s unit for unpaid assessments.  In addition, the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA) also grants owner associations foreclosure rights on their statutory liens (on the association’s super lien and on the remaining lien).  A judicial foreclosure process is required to be followed (versus the public trustee foreclosure process used by lenders to foreclose on deeds of trust).

When Should an Owner Association Foreclose?

An owner association should consider foreclosing its lien if any of the following factors apply:

  • The property is not already involved in foreclosure by the first lien lender
  • An owner is chronically delinquent in paying assessments
  • Delinquent assessments cannot be collected from an owner through a County Court collection lawsuit (e.g., the owner cannot be located for service, or the owner is judgment-proof)
  • There is equity (market value vs. balance of first mortgage) in the property in excess of approximately $15,000
  • The community has a high level or ratio of delinquent owners – and an association foreclosure may motivate other owners to voluntarily pay
  • First lien lenders are not foreclosing on the owner delinquent in paying them – the super lien allows the association to foreclose on the first lien lender for 6 months of budgeted assessments
  • If the association has a high rate or ratio of delinquencies

When should an owner association judicially foreclose the “super lien”?

If first lien lenders are not foreclosing on their borrower (the owner), the association should consider a judicial foreclosure of its super lien.  The association can pursue judicial foreclosure of its super lien as frequently as once every 6 months, or until the first lien lender forecloses and becomes an owner due to a non-paying owner in a property with no equity.

What about the First Mortgage?

Usually, the property will remain subject to the first mortgage following the sale and issuance of a deed to the owner association.  If the property remains subject to a first mortgage, the owner association must communicate its intent to the lender and try to work with the lender to allow time to sell the property without the lender foreclosing.  Alternatively, the Association could refinance the property.
If at any time the owner is not making first mortgage payments, the lender may foreclose its lien and become the owner.

What about a 2nd, 3rd or Other Junior Mortgage?

An association lien, by statute, has priority over any junior mortgage or judgment lien that may be recorded against the property.  If the owner association takes title to a property previously encumbered by such a lien, that interest will not survive the judicial foreclosure and will be extinguished from the property.

The Judicial Foreclosure Lawsuit of an HOA – Court Order Sought to Allow a Sheriff’s Sale of the Property

  • Lawsuit filed.  To start a judicial foreclosure, an owner association files a lawsuit in the district court of the county where the property is located.  The suit is brought against the owner and all persons who have an interest in the property as defendants. A Lis Pendens (notice that litigation is pending) is recorded against the property to give notice to any interested parties that there is pending litigation against said property.
  • Service of process obtained.  The lawsuit is served on all defendants.
  • Response period expired.  Following service of the lawsuit, the defendants are allowed a short period of time to file an answer with the court.  If the defendants do not answer the lawsuit, an order for foreclosure can be obtained by “default.”  This is sometimes referred to as a “default judgment.”
  • If the defendants answer or respond.  If the owner files an answer or response, the case is set for trial in the same manner as other lawsuits.

Common or Typical Result of HOA Foreclosure Lawsuit.

An order for foreclosure can frequently be obtained by a summary judgment motion without having to go to trial, or the defendants default and do not answer.

Court Ordered Foreclosure Sale by the Sheriff.

The key steps in the Sheriff sale process (similar to the Public Trustee process) are as follows:

  • After a foreclosure order is issued by the court, either by default, summary judgment or trial, that order is sent to the County Sheriff by the owner association’s attorneys.
  • The Sheriff schedules a sale date.  The initial scheduled sale date must be no less than 110 calendar days after the date of the recording of the Lis Pendens.
  • Once the sale dates is set, the Sherriff publishes notice of the sale in a local newspaper.  The Sherriff also sends notices to all persons who have an interest in the property.
  • The owner association submits a bid to the Sheriff before the sale.  The bid is typically the amount of money that the owner owes the association (including assessment late fees, interest, fines, attorney fees and costs incurred in the foreclosure), and not additional sums or cash.  As such, the owner association bids its debt (a sort of paper bid only) without any cash paid or bid at the sale.  The bid is generally for the total debt owed to the owner association.
  • A sale (held by the Sheriff in an auction format) occurs at the Sheriff’s office.
  • The highest bidder at the sale receives a “certificate of purchase” not a “deed.”
  • The owners association is not always the successful bidder.  If the owners association is not the highest bidder, it will receive the full amount of its bid (typically within two week’s time) through the court and the owner association will be removed from the foreclosure process it started.  The successful bidder takes the owner association’s place in the foreclosure.
  • If the owners association is the highest bidder, it receives the “certificate of purchase.”
  • There is no owner redemption period in a judicial foreclosure.
  • After the Sheriff’s sale, other lien holders (i.e., second mortgage, judgment creditor, etc.) have short periods of time to redeem the property.  Intent to redeem must be filed with the Sheriff’s Office within 10 days after the Sheriff’s sale takes place.
  • If nobody redeems the property, the Sheriff will issue a confirmation deed for the property to the holder of the certificate of purchase (e.g., the owner association or the successful bidder).  When the deed is issued, it removes (forecloses) the owner, who is then no longer the owner, and also removes any other encumbrances against the property (except the first mortgage and any tax liens).

What can an owner association do once it has a deed?

Once it is the owner, an owners association can then evict the former owner or occupants.  After eviction, the owner association can lease, sell the property or leave it vacant.  If the owner association sells the property, the owner association is entitled to keep the net proceeds following payment of the first mortgage and closing costs.

General Recommendations

  • Judicial foreclosure of owner association liens can be effective and is typically an under-utilized collection tool.
  • It serves as an additional option to remedy to get an owner to pay
  • It “reminds” the owner that the repercussions of choosing not to pay assessments are both serious and expensive and could potentially lead to the loss of their property.
  • It can be used on the chronic or repeat delinquent owner
  • It “reminds” other owners of the consequences of non-payment
  • It may result in the association acquiring any  equity in the owner’s property
  • It can be used to foreclose on a first lien lender, by foreclosing the super lien.  This can be done as often as once every 6 months, or until the first lien lender starts and completes its own foreclosure
  • It stops the ongoing loss of assessments
  • Effective use of assessment lien foreclosure is the association’s commitment to not accepting marginal payment plans and not accepting payment plans once a sale date is set

If your owner association has a high delinquency ratio compared to owners that are paying, repeat delinquency owners or otherwise uncollectible delinquent accounts, then consider a judicial lien foreclosure by the association as another collection remedy.

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