If a unit owner does not pay his or her assessments, the condo association has the power to file a claim of lien and, ultimately, foreclose on the unit. But in order to do the above, the condo association must strictly comply with the statutory pre-conditions and requirements which follow:
1 – Perfecting the Lien: Call or send a nice Reminder/Demand Letter (Optional)
Contact the owner And let them know they are late in paying their assessment. This simple step may result in the unit owner paying all amounts due and owing, without any additional action required by the association.
2 – Notice of Intent to Record a Claim of Lien (mandatory pre-condition)
A notice of intent to lien is a formal statutory letter sent to the delinquent unit owner stating the association’s intent to place a lien on the unit for the owners failure to pay assessments. The notice of intent to lien must be delivered to the owner of the unit by both registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, and first-class United States mail to the owner at his or her last known address as reflected in the records of the association. If the address reflected in the records of the association is not the condominium unit address, the notice of intent to lien must also be delivered to the owner at the address of the unit. Delivery of the notice is deemed given upon mailing. § 718.121(4), Fla. Stat. The association must give the owner thirty (30) days to pay the outstanding balance before proceeding to the next step.
3 -Record the Claim of Lien
Thirty (30) days after sending the notice of intent to lien, the association can record the claim of lien in the public records. § 718.121(4), Fla. Stat. In Florida, the claim of lien must be drafted by an attorney because a legal description is required and it creates property rights. To be valid, the claim of lien must include:
• a legal description of the condominium parcel;
• the name of the record holder;
• the name and address of the condominium association;
• the amount due;
• the due dates; and
• it must be executed and acknowledged by an officer or authorized agent of the association.
The claim of lien secures all unpaid assessments that are due and that may accrue after the lien is recorded through the entry of final judgment, as well as interest, administrative late fees, and all reasonable costs and attorney fees. § 718.116(5)(b), Fla. Stat. The claim of lien is only valid for one (1) year after it is recorded. In other words, a legal action to foreclosure the lien must be commenced within one (1) year of filing the claim of lien.
If the unit owner pays the amount owed in full, the owner is entitled to a filing and recording of a “Release of Lien” in substantial compliance with the form found in in § 718.116(5)(d). The unit owner may contest the lien by filing a “Notice of Contest of Lien.” If the unit owner files a Notice of Contest of Lien, the association must commence a legal action to enforce the lien within ninety (90) days from the date the association received such notice. If the association does not commence an action within that ninety (90) day period, the claim of lien is voided. § 718.116(5)(c).
4 – Notice of Intent to Foreclose the Lien
The condominium association must provide written notice to the unit owner of its intention to foreclose its lien thirty (30) days before filing a lien foreclosure action. The notice must be delivered by physically delivering a copy to the unit owner, or by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested, addressed to the unit owner at his or her last known address. The notice is deemed to have been given at the time of mailing. § 718.116(6)(b).
5 – Foreclose the Lien
Thirty (30) days after the condominium association provided written notice of intent to foreclose, the association may bring a legal action in its name to foreclose the lien in the same manner a mortgage of real property is foreclosed, and may bring an action to recover a money judgment for the unpaid assessments without waiving any claim of lien. The association is entitled to recover its reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in either action. § 718.116(6)(a). At the foreclosure sale, the association has the power to purchase the condominium unit and to hold, lease, mortgage, or convey it. § 718.116(6)(d).