Understanding Special Assessments

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: everyone hates special assessments. Getting a notice that you owe more money to the association can not only put a damper on your day but also a dent in your wallet, both of which a board should be sympathetic to. In a perfect world, there would never be a need for special assessments—or any other type of assessments for that matter—but sadly; they’re sometimes a necessary evil.

Often times, special assessments are levied when the association needs to make essential repairs, improvements or additions to the common elements, but lacks extra reserve funds to cover the costs. While a board usually puts in its best effort to keep a healthy reserve fund and to budget in advance for these types of projects, occasionally unforeseen expenses occur. When this happens, the board has to call upon the residents to pitch in financially so that the association can remain solvent.

Unfortunately special assessments aren’t optional fees, and residents are responsible for paying special assessments in the same way they’re responsible for general association assessments. Just remember, though, that these fees are funding projects that will benefit all residents, and your special assessment fees are your contribution toward that.

Of course, a board should not take levying special assessments lightly. A board understands that special assessments can be a hardship for each resident, but—since the board members are also responsible for paying their share of any new special assessment—the assessment is an extra financial burden on resident board members as well.

Because of this, boards usually try and make levying special assessments a last resort, and, if passed, offer payment plans when possible. There are also regulations set forth in a community’s bylaws that must be followed before levying a special assessment, and in some instances it is required that residents vote on the proposed project before a special assessment can be adopted. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure your opinions on these matters are heard by attending open board meetings and voting on critical projects that require a special assessment.      

While none of this changes the fact that having to pay special assessments fees is about as fun as a root canal, just remember that it’s all part of the greater good for the association. Special assessments are investments in your home and your community, and can help keep your association a wonderful place to live for years to come.

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About midtowntim

I'm a licensed community manager, community volunteer and I live in a multi-family high-rise condo.
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