Debt collection is a troublesome topic no matter what industry you’re in, but when it comes to collecting on unpaid HOA assessments, things can get tricky. Between your community’s governing documents, state laws, and federal regulations, there are a lot of rules to follow.
On top of that, there aren’t a whole lot of options out there for community associations looking to collect on that debt. Many communities hire an HOA attorney or try to handle collections on their own.
1. Lawyers are focused on a legal resolution, not reclaiming lost funds.
Many communities rely on HOA attorneys for legal guidance and lawsuits. For this reason, many also turn to their attorney when a homeowner has failed to make payments. Many boards still believe that their only course of action is placing a lien on the property and going to court. And your attorney won’t tell you any differently.
Your attorney’s primary function is to follow a legal process of “lien and foreclose.” The priority is seeking a resolution of an issue and seeking justice, not collecting the debt that is owed to your association. The board has a fiduciary duty to collect that money, not to pursue some form of justice against the delinquent owner, so choosing a lawyer might not be the best course of action.
Because collections are highly regulated, there are a LOT of laws surrounding the collections process. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) has many rules around the who, the how, and the when of collections efforts. Violating any of those rules, even by accident, can create a massive legal headache for your community. When it comes to collections, do not do this at home.
Federal laws aren’t the only ones to worry about, though. Many states have their own specific rules and requirements, also. Depending on where you reside, your state’s laws may be even stricter than the FDCPA, so following the federal law might still get you into hot water.
3. Traditional collection agencies aren’t built for HOAs.
Much like an attorney, a collection agency that isn’t tailored to handle HOAs and condo associations will look for the fastest, biggest buck they can make. Typically these companies will want to buy the debt or advance funds to you against this debt–this might sound like a great plan because at least you’re recovering something, but many governing documents (and some state laws) specify that debts must be collected at 100% of the principle that’s owed. A collection agency will not pay 100% so this is in direct violation of those rules. Getting funding to ease the pain of a cash shortfall may also be a violation of your CC&Rs.
It also creates an ethical concern–by selling off that debt, your community loses control over how the debt is collected, opening up your hurting homeowners to aggressive collections efforts. Will they operate within the confines of the FDCPA? Almost certainly. But as we’ve said before, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical.
Find Out Why An HOA Collections Agency Is Right For Your Community
Collecting monies owed to your association is a difficult process, but it shouldn’t also be a painful one! At Axela, we understand the importance of ethical community association debt collection, and we’ve perfected the process and technology it takes to make that happen.
We’ll be at CAI National in Orlando, FL May 4-7 and can show you a better way to maintain a perfect cash flow scenario. If your community is struggling with delinquency and collecting debt, stop by Booth 605 so we can show you why an HOA collections agency is right for you.