HOA of my rental has sent me to collection

12 Replies

I'm running into some problems with my rental property in GA, and I wanted to see if anyone here would be willing to provide some advice/suggestions on how to handle this situation regarding HOA fines.

I purchased this property in early 2016 and my tenants moved in shortly after. These tenants seem great (i.e., rarely bother me, always pay rent on time) and they renewed their lease in 2017. Two weeks go, I received a call and letter from a debt collection agency, saying there have been $3000 fines on my rental property due to various types of HOA violations, and they intend to file a lien on my property if I don't pay the fines within 15 days. Most of these violations are about weeding/leaving trash cans out/not applying fresh mulch, etc.

The issue is I had no idea of any of these HOA violation notices and apparently they've been sending these notice letters to the rental property address since May 2016. Upon renting out this house, I did inform the HOA that these tenants will be living in the house. However, I didn't ask the HOA to mail all future written letters/notices to my personal address. I called the tenants to verify if they have ever received any letters from the HOA, and their answer was "no". I'm not sure if the tenants just threw out these letters because the letters had my name on the letters.

Couple of questions I have regarding this issue: 

1- Should I bill my tenants back for the violations? I did not receive any notice of these violation due to the HOA letters were sent to my rental property, but I'm not sure if my tenants actually received notice either, if they never opened any of these HOA letters.

2- In an attempt to prevent future violations, I asked my tenants to hide their trash cans inside the garage or in the backyard. However, the tenants said they use the garage as an office and therefore can't put the trash cans inside. They said they absolutely cannot put the trash can inside the garage and will only be able to put it behind the side door of the fence. However, the iron fence door doesn't block the view from the street and therefore unable to hide the trash cans very well. I'm guessing in order to prevent any future HOA violations, I will have to pay to install a wooden fence door that can block the view from the street. I'm not sure if I want to incur these unnecessary expenses though, since this is not my fault as a landlord. Should I ask the tenants to pay for the wooden fence door?

I know many folks here are very seasoned landlords. I would greatly appreciate advice from you guys!

- Amy

Amy,

Where and how do you pay your hoa dues? Have you received invoices and or statements at your home address. At closing did you fill out paperwork that stated to send all notification directly to your home? What address does the county property appraiser state as your mailing address? You my be able to fight this depending on some of the above items.

By no means should you pay to install the fence. They will need to do this ASAP. Give them a notice in writing. Look up your landlord tenant laws stating how you give violation letters. 

You also should have given the tenant a copy of the rules and regulations, so that they know and understand any rules and regulations to abide.

Does you lease cover HOA violations? Were the tenants provided with copies of the HOA rules?

Originally posted by @Kim Meredith Hampton :

Amy,

Where and how do you pay your hoa dues? Have you received invoices and or statements at your home address. At closing did you fill out paperwork that stated to send all notification directly to your home? What address does the county property appraiser state as your mailing address? You my be able to fight this depending on some of the above items.

By no means should you pay to install the fence. They will need to do this ASAP. Give them a notice in writing. Look up your landlord tenant laws stating how you give violation letters. 

You also should have given the tenant a copy of the rules and regulations, so that they know and understand any rules and regulations to abide.

Hi Kim, 

Thanks so much for the response.

In regards to your questions- I purchased the property with cash and therefore I pay the HOA dues directly. I paid two years of HOA dues when I first bought the property so it won't become due until 2018. The county property appraiser still sends letters to my rental property address, my tenants just forward the mail to me.

The recorded covenant states that the HOA must send final notices to cure violations via certified letters. I do not believe the HOA actually sent any letters via certified mail though. Not sure if that is a good enough reason to fight this since this is only an issue of technicality.

However, assuming the HOA did send letters to my rental property address and my tenants just threw these letters away. Should I ask the tenants to pay for these fines or at least half of the fines, since their actions actually resulted in the violations? What would you do in situations like this?

Originally posted by @Jon Holdman :

Does you lease cover HOA violations? Were the tenants provided with copies of the HOA rules?

 Jon - 

Yes my lease states the tenants should be responsible for any HOA violations, and I provided the tenants with a copy of the covenants/restrictions at the signing of the lease.

My question is - even though I gave me a copy of the covenants and restrictions, I did not specifically highlight anything in the covenants. Can the tenants just claim they were not aware it was not okay to leave trash cans outside all the time, therefore they shouldn't be required to pay? 

when renting in an HOA your lease should have a clause stating that any fines levied by HOA due to tenant activity will be billed back to them. this should accompany a copy of your HOA bylaws. in this case fines can be passed onto tenant. if this is not the case I do not believe you have the right to charge them.

however, since they have piled up so much, I believe getting them to fight it would be an uphill battle, and likely not held up in court since it would look like you are not running your business properly, sicne you were not receiving notices. I would politely work with HOA and try to get fines reduced since they were nto forwarding notices to you

@Amy Martin not sure why you have not changed the address, as only one Home can be homestead, and never leave something like that up to the tenant. If the tenant is in fact sending you your mail, then you should have received these violation letters. 

The HOA would have sent the certified letter to your Home address, so really can't blame them for the mistake. I really think you are at-a loss on the fees/fines.

If the trash can info was in the information you provided the tenant at the beginning of their lease, then by all means they can share some of the cost

Provided your lease states the tenants are responsible for HOA violations you should bill them for the entire amount of $3000. That is a simple black and white decision. The lease is clear.

Your tenants need to be held responsible according to their lease agreement.

If your tenants received letters from the HOA in your name there is no way they would simply throw them away. I would first assume they are lying but you must work with the HOA to confirm the letters were sent to be able to force your tenants to pay. I suspect your tenants will refuse and you will be forced to take them to small claims court to collect.

For now pay the fines and go after the tenants.

Originally posted by @Kim Meredith Hampton :

@Amy Martin not sure why you have not changed the address, as only one Home can be homestead, and never leave something like that up to the tenant. If the tenant is in fact sending you your mail, then you should have received these violation letters. 

The HOA would have sent the certified letter to your Home address, so really can't blame them for the mistake. I really think you are at-a loss on the fees/fines.

If the trash can info was in the information you provided the tenant at the beginning of their lease, then by all means they can share some of the cost

 I know I filled out some form at closing about my own home address. I'm not sure if the law firm that did the closing even bothered to pass it on to anyone though. I know the attorney at closing was horrible, he lost all the paperwork I filled out and I had to fill out all paperwork again. But I can't remember what forms I filled anymore. 

Regarding proper notice - if the covenants state the HOA has to send certified letter, not just regular mail, to give me final notices before they impose the fine. Would there be a legitimate argument that they failed to follow the covenants provisions since they did not send certified letters?

Originally posted by @Thomas S. :

Provided your lease states the tenants are responsible for HOA violations you should bill them for the entire amount of $3000. That is a simple black and white decision. The lease is clear.

Your tenants need to be held responsible according to their lease agreement.

If your tenants received letters from the HOA in your name there is no way they would simply throw them away. I would first assume they are lying but you must work with the HOA to confirm the letters were sent to be able to force your tenants to pay. I suspect your tenants will refuse and you will be forced to take them to small claims court to collect.

For now pay the fines and go after the tenants.

 Thomas - 

Thank you for the advice. If I do have to sue the tenants, I need to wait until the lease ends, right? 

Originally posted by @Andrew Boettcher :

when renting in an HOA your lease should have a clause stating that any fines levied by HOA due to tenant activity will be billed back to them. this should accompany a copy of your HOA bylaws. in this case fines can be passed onto tenant. if this is not the case I do not believe you have the right to charge them.

however, since they have piled up so much, I believe getting them to fight it would be an uphill battle, and likely not held up in court since it would look like you are not running your business properly, sicne you were not receiving notices. I would politely work with HOA and try to get fines reduced since they were nto forwarding notices to you

The HOA is not willing to negotiate. I will either have to pay the full balance or they will file a lien on my property. I may end up paying the full amount just to stop all their collection activities first, then think about suing either the tenants or the HOA...just a thought...

Have your lawyer send a demand letter to the tenants requesting the payment. As soon as they refuse to pay you can proceed to filing with small claims court. It has nothing to do with when the lease ends.

Based on what you say I think you have a case against the tenants.  My lease has a statement saying all money received is applied to other fees first and the rent last.   So, you could tell them they owe you the $3000, apply the rent to it, then evict when they (likely) refuse to pay.  Could get ugly.  

Are you willing to fight this battle? Even though your lease says they're responsible and they have the rules, they will say they were unaware there was an issue. By the HOA not having your correct address, you've kind of shot yourself in the foot. The tenants should have reasonable let you know about the letters and not just discarded them. OTOH, you should have made sure the HOA had your correct info so you would have found out right away and could have nipped this in the bud.

How easily can you re-rent the place?  How hard with the tenants fight you if you try to evict?  I think a conversation with your landlord/tenant attorney is in order.  If you do choose to pay yourself I would be very clear with the tenants that ANY further violations will result in an eviction.  Including hiding those trash cans.

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