A community association never wants to sue their members to collect unpaid assessments or HOA dues. But when informal efforts to collect those fees fail, your board members or staff may find themselves heading to court. Learn what to expect during collections lawsuits to make the most of your time in court.
While the exact procedure for a collections lawsuit will vary from state to state, you can count on certain things when you have to take a community association collections case to court.
Many states require anyone trying to collect a debt to send out demand letters or notices before taking the matter to court. Among other things, these notices warn the people who owe you money that you will be filing a lawsuit if they don’t pay.
Choosing the Right Court
Where you file your collections lawsuit can be very important. Depending on your state, the court you need may be based on location, the kind of relief – like collections or eviction – or even how much money they can award. If you file in the wrong place, you may have to start over.
Service of Process
Once a lawsuit is filed, you have to “serve” the debtor (now the Defendant). Generally, this means someone has to physically hand a copy of the complaint to them. This may be easy when the people who owe you money live in your community. But, if your debtor has moved or passed away, it may be harder to track down where to send the paperwork.
One of the best ways to speed the collections process along is to have clear records. If volunteers, staff, property managers or collections specialists like Equity Experts, have reached out to the debtor to try and collect unpaid HOA dues, make sure they keep a record. You should also give your collections specialists all the records regarding invoices, fees, interest, and past payments. All that will make it easier to prove the debt is owed.
Your community member has the right to raise defenses – reasons why they shouldn’t have to pay the debt. This could include errors in invoicing, prior payments, or other technical issues. They do not include financial inability to pay.
When the case is concluded, the court will enter a judgment saying how much the Defendant owes. Sometimes this will include a payment plan that spreads the expense over time. The judgment also gives your community association the right to use collections procedures to collect the debt out of the defendant’s assets.
A collections lawsuit is only one part of a longer collections process. Equity Experts can help you navigate the process and get your delinquent HOA fees paid. If you have outstanding accounts receivable, contact Equity Experts today to learn how we can help.