Unhappy Owners Still Have To Pay Their Assessments

Owners can act out in different ways when they don’t like how their associations are carrying out their business and feel their complaints are being ignored. One common reaction is to withhold assessments until they get the response they want. But the law generally doesn’t let them do this.

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently made clear that owners don’t have the option to simply stop paying their assessments when they’re unhappy with the association, even if their complaints are perfectly legitimate (Feather Trace Homeowners Ass’n, Inc. v. Luster). The principle holds true in other states, too.

The homeowner in this case refused to his pay his $200 annual assessment in 2018 because the association had stopped maintaining the public areas in the 52-residence community. The HOA sued him for the unpaid assessment, plus costs and attorney’s fees, but the trial court judge ruled in the owner’s favor.

The judge found that the HOA’s failures to maintain the property resulted in such a “radical change” in the community that the owner wasn’t required to pay the assessment until concerns were addressed. The judge noted dangerous conditions around the community’s pond, health and safety issues, and “dead fish everywhere.”

On appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals expressed sympathy for the owner’s situation and characterized the conditions of the neighborhood as “dramatic and disheartening.” But it still ruled in favor of the HOA.

To learn more about the appellate court’s reasoning, as well as the remedies owners do have available to them, read our new article, Homeowners Can’t Withhold Fees in Protest.

Best regards,
Matt Humphrey
President