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Every homeowners association (“HOA”) is different, but most are governed by a long set of rules and regulations.  These rules, state laws, and the association’s “Declaration of Covenants” determine whether or not your association can charge you legal fees.  In Colorado, the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (“CCIOA”) also controls the rights of many homeowners and associations.  See Colorado Revised Statutes § 38-33.3-101 et seq. 

When you were considering whether to purchase your property, you should have received a copy of the HOA’s Declaration of Covenants and any additional rules and regulations.  By purchasing the property, you agreed to be bound by these rules.  The bottom line is you have a duty to pay your assessments on time every month and live by the other rules.

Frequently, an HOA charges legal fees to a homeowner for costs of collection.  In many situations, the homeowner falls behind on payments – for assessments, fees, etc.  When the HOA has sent notices but the homeowner still doesn’t pay his or her balance, the association may choose to contact an attorney for help.

If your HOA has the right to charge late fees and attorney fees, and you fall behind on monthly assessments, your HOA can bill you for the legal fees it incurs to have an attorney review your file and/or get a lien against your property.  Since you agreed to be bound by the rules, you essentially agreed to pay these charges.

However, in Colorado, just because the HOA puts these fees on your bill does not mean that you have to pay them without asking any questions.  Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-33.3-123 (1)(e) makes it clear that a homeowner has the right to challenge these charges.

The best plan by far is to stay current on your financial obligations to the HOA, and live by the rules and regulations so you do not get fined.  If you fall behind, though, contact the HOA and see if you can negotiate the charges.  You may be able to get the fees reduced or removed entirely.

Every situation is different.  Please contact our office if we can assist you with your concerns.

by Lisha Sorensen, Attorney, Hanes Hrbacek & Bartels LLC