Association cracks down on late dues

RANCHO SANTA FE — Rancho Santa Fe residents who are behind in their homeowners association dues will now be subject to suspension of their membership privileges and liens on their property.
“Despite several letters requesting payment of
the outstanding Association assessments and warnings of the consequences of nonpayment, these property owners have failed to bring their assessments current,” said Steve Comstock, chief financial officer for the Association.
Comstock said at the July 1 meeting of the Association that 50 property owners were in jeopardy. They had until July 8 at 5 p.m. to either pay up or make other arrangements with the Association.
Comstock called it “an unfortunate, but necessary step,” in the effort to collect delinquent assessments for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. The amounts reflect the unpaid second and first installments and include penalties.
A list of the names of those who have not paid were given to the Associations members.
The total amount outstanding is $72,000 he said.
The first steps in the collection process are sending letters and calling the members.
“We don’t call them collection calls, we call them courtesy calls,” Comstock said.
But that is not the end of collection attempts.
“We find that the squeaky wheel works,” he said. “We will go away after the amount has been collected.”
Director Jack Queen asked how many of the properties were occupied.
“I believe all of them are occupied,” Comstock said. “Some people wait until the very end before they pay.”
Director Deb Plummer asked if in the long run, if the assessments are not paid, could the Association foreclose on a home?
“The lien is the first step in the foreclosure process,” said Peter Smith, Association manager.
Plummer said she heard on a NPR program about a home that was foreclosed upon by a homeowners association for the amount of the overdue fees which were nominal, but then it was sold on the courthouse steps for $3,000 and sold immediately for $150,000.
What was unfortunate about the incident was that the home belonged to a soldier fighting in Afghanistan, she said.
“I am glad we don’t go to great lengths, but as a homeowners association, we have a lot of clout and a big stick,” Plummer said.
If the lien is placed, the delinquent member’s membership in the golf and tennis clubs are suspended and finally when the property sells, the delinquent fees must be paid before the new owner can take over.
Smith said the recession is probably one of the reasons some people are unable to pay their fees.
“It’s twice the number what we normally see,” he said. “It’s getting worse. It’s not getting better.”
On the list was one LLC business, which Comstock said will be handled differently. An LLC provides business owners with a layer of protection that they are not personally liable for debts and obligations of the business.
“Once people realize they are going to be liened, they come forward,” Smith said. “We try to be accommodating.”

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