Collecting Overdue Condominium Fees in Massachusetts
Unpaid condominium fees and special assessments are a common issue facing associations in Massachusetts. In dire economic times, the arrearage only tends to increase. The condominium association is left trying to work within a budget, lower than anticipated.
Thankfully, however, Massachusetts provides a unique form of protection for condominium associations against delinquent fees known as the "super-lien process." According to M.G.L. c. 183A § 6(c), outstanding condominium fees are a lien against the delinquent unit from the date the fees become due. The delinquent unit owner is personally liable for all condominium fees, including late charges, fines, interest and collection costs.
In Massachusetts, a properly filed condominium fee lien is entitled to super-priority over all other non-municipal liens, including a first mortgage on the unit, for up to six (6) months of condominium fees, attorney's fees and collection costs. Furthermore, the lien cannot be discharged by way of bankruptcy due to its statutory nature. See In re Stern, 44 B.R. 15 (Bkrtcy.D.Mass.1984).
In order to perfect its lien, the condominium association must first send both sixty (60) day and thirty (30) day notices, in accordance with the statute, to the unit owner and mortgage lender prior to commencing suit to obtain super-lien status.
Most often, a mortgage lender will choose to pay the delinquent fees on behalf of the unit owner in order to preserve the priority of its own lien. The mortgage lender will then tack the amount paid onto the balance of the unit owner's mortgage. In the event that neither the unit owner nor the mortgage lender pay the overdue balance, the condominium association can file suit to perfect the super-lien and ultimately foreclose on the unit in order to satisfy the amount owed.
The process of obtaining super-lien status can commence as soon as the unit owner is delinquent by sixty (60) days or more. However, it is important to note that the statute only protects the fees due within the six (6) months preceding a foreclosure filing. It is therefore highly recommended that a condominium association begin the process as soon as a unit owner's condominium fees are sixty (60) days or more overdue. The longer an association waits to take action against the delinquent unit owner, the less protection the association will receive under the statute.
If your condominium association is attempting to collect fees at least sixty (60) days overdue, the time to act is now. Utilizing the super-lien statute, our office has successfully collected outstanding condominium fees, late fees, collection costs and attorney's fees for numerous condominium associations in Massachusetts. Our office would be happy to assist you in your efforts.