"It’s the Economy, Stupid"

I’m at the College of Community Association Lawyers’ law conference, and the big subject of the day is – yeah, you guessed it – the economy.

Speakers are covering a number of topics associated with the economy, and its consequences. Numerous suggestions are being made – few things are strikingly new to me, but the speakers’ repeated affirmation of Hobbs & Olson’s collection practices are reassuring. One of the early afternoon speakers suggested that firms should be considering the pursuit of personal judgments – a practice that we’ve been advocating for years. Another speaker suggested that associations should be including a budget line item for bad debt –I’ve only been recommending that for a year.

A big issue of discussion – and one that we are seeing more of – deals with lenders who foreclose and don’t thereafter pay their assessments, and other lenders who, either by virtue of mandated or voluntary policies, are not foreclosing on their units. It seems to be the consensus that those deadbeat lenders should be pursued aggressively. I agree.

Ellen Hirsch De Haan, President of the Foundation for Community Association Research, is suggesting that associations might want to consider relaxing some rules that might otherwise make sense. Do you want to rigidly enforce anti-rent restrictions, if that rental income might help the owner to pay their mortgage and/or their assessments? Are you going to rigidly enforce your single family restrictions if the children who lost their jobs (or the parents who lost their 401(k)) move in?

“Good guys”, who pay their assessments, are being penalized if the association does not pursue their neighbors, because the neighbors end up paying more. For this reason, associations should be actively pursuing their collections equally, but equitably.

And here’s a scary tale from Florida – abandoned homes there are being stripped of appliances, cabinets, copper wiring and everything else of value. In high-end communities, the strippers are apparently watching the public foreclosure records, and visiting the foreclosed, and thus vacant, homes. So, if you are aware of foreclosed and vacant units in your association, keep an eye on them.

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