There’s a lot of economic uncertainty happening in different industries right now, and affected employees are being forced to make some tough choices about which bills to pay and which to let slide. That may run some people into trouble with their homeowners association (HOA) if they fail to pay their dues. The past-due maintenance fees, fines and assessments can really add up — and HOAs will sometimes threaten to foreclose on a home over them.

Can they do that? The short answer is, “yes.” The longer answer is more complicated. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Unpaid HOA fees and fines can turn into an encumbrance on your property via a lien. Once the lien is recorded on the land records, it has to be paid off before the property transfers hands or is refinanced. It can also act as a starting point toward foreclosure.
  2. There are two types of HOA foreclosure: Judicial and non-judicial. If your HOA’s governing documents allow for it, the HOA can move to sell your property without even involving the court. If not, the HOA will have to ask the court’s permission first. That permission may not be hard to get, however, as long as the lien is valid and true.
  3. A repayment plan can forestall any foreclosures or other legal action. If at all possible, it’s better to simply stay current on your HOA dues. If you can’t, however, be proactive and contact your HOA’s representatives or trustee right away to see if you can negotiate a payment plan or some other kind of reasonable solution.

If you find yourself in a bad situation with your homeowners association, you may need experienced legal assistance to work it out. Don’t hesitate to take action and explore your legal options.