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Snowbird flies east for summer, HOA bills lag behind

Q: I am a snowbird living in Las Vegas. In 2007, I returned to the Midwest to spend the summer and notified the postal service to have my mail forwarded. When I returned to Nevada, I was mortified when I received notice that my association had filed a lien against my property for delinquent dues.

After several phone calls to determine how I could have missed paying my assessments, I learned that the mailings from the management company have “return service requested” printed on all their mailings. Because of this, I would never receive their billings, past-due notices or letters of intent to lien when I am away from Nevada. This management company is new this year and the prior management company did not have “return service requested” on their mailings.

I drafted a letter to the association that if I had received their billings that I would have paid them immediately. I received a curt response stating that it was my responsibility to ensure my payments were made on time and that my failure to notify the management company of my temporary address change resulted in the post office returning my billings. In short: Shut up and pay up.

I still can not believe that an association can know that neither a billing nor intent to lien notice was received by the homeowner, be allowed to file a lien against said homeowner for nonpayment of dues. I would be glad to take these high-handed people to court if it did not cost me too much and if I had a chance to win. Do you think that I could pursue this in the court system? I have paid the charges along with a letter of protest.

A: It is the responsibility of the homeowner to pay their assessments. There is no law that requires the association to send billing statements. It is a courtesy.

As a homeowner, you should have realized that you had not paid your assessments. If your mortgage company’s billing statement for your home was not received by you in the mail, would you not have contacted them to ascertain why you did not receive the statement? Or would you have just mailed in your payment along with a note that you had not received your statement?

The same logic applies to the payment of your monthly assessment. It is also your responsibility to notify the association of any change in mailing address.

You may have an issue with the post office. If the association notified the post office to “return service requested,” the envelope returned to the management company should have had a sticker on the envelope informing the association that there was a forwarding address. When there is no forwarding address, the envelopes come back with a sticker saying unknown mailing address.

You could ask the management company to show you the returned envelopes to see how the post office labeled the return mail. If it does have the forwarding address on the envelopes and if the association did not forward the mail to you, then the association would owe you the late and legal fees that you paid. If the envelopes show unknown mailing address, then you should contact the local post office for your zip code and find out what happened to your request to forward your mail.

If you decide to fight the issue, note state law requires you to first submit the complaint to the ombudsman’s office and to initiate either arbitration or mediation action against the association prior to taking the issue to the court system.

In this matter, based on the information that you have sent to me, you would probably lose, unless you can show that the association did have your forwarding address and failed to mail you billing statements and delinquency notices.

Barbara Holland, certified property manager, broker and supervisory certified association manager, is president and owner of H&L Realty and Management Co. She is a member of the Institute of Real Estate Management. Questions may be sent to Association Q. & A., P.O. Box 7440, Las Vegas, NV 89125. Her fax number is 385-3759. Questions may be shortened and are subject to editing.

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