It’s never a fun topic to consider, but the sudden death of a resident is something that a homeowners’ association (HOA) should know how to handle. As a board member, you will have to deal with delicate and time-sensitive matters such as death expenses, unpaid HOA assessments, and taxes. It’s possible to conduct community matters while being respectful and compassionate. So, what do you do when an HOA resident dies? Here are some things you should know:
The First Step When an HOA Resident Dies
First and foremost, when an HOA owner dies, you should offer condolences to the deceased person’s family. Emphasize empathy and respect just as you should with any member of your community. Remember that they have just lost a loved one; they’re still going through the difficult process of grief. Being sensitive can go a long way. While it’s important to settle HOA fees after death, you need to give the deceased’s relatives time.
After one to two weeks, the board can respectfully set up a meeting with the family to discuss HOA matters. Explain that you are required to settle financial matters. Ideally, the meeting should happen within the month of the homeowner’s death. Here’s what you need to do when an HOA resident dies:
When a Homeowner Dies, Find Out If They Had a Will
Homeowners are asked to provide emergency contact or information about their family. If they cannot be reached following the death of an owner, the HOA can check public court records to see if he/she had a will in place. This is to determine the executor of the estate, or the person responsible for managing the deceased resident’s affairs. This is the person your board will be allowed to provide with a key to the deceased resident’s home.
If the homeowner did not have a will at the time of death, someone will be appointed to control his/her assets. This person would then have full access to the homeowner’s property and personal belongings.
In the event that someone claims to control the estate of the deceased homeowner, the HOA should ask for documentation. It’s not enough for that person to tell you verbally that they have the authority to handle the deceased owner’s assets. You can ask your HOA manager or attorney to verify the documents before handing over access or keys.
Who Is Responsible for Unpaid HOA Assessments?
Though it may be sad when your HOA resident dies, nothing really changes for the association when it comes to dues. And the truth is, the HOA still has the law on its side.
Ownership of real estate and other assets will be transferred to the deceased homeowner’s heirs or beneficiaries. HOA or condo assessments, mortgage, taxes, and other financial responsibilities pass on to the new owners. The HOA can request interviews and other procedures that are standard for new homeowners.
If there were unpaid dues before the homeowner’s death, the HOA can file a suit to claim this amount against the deceased’s estate. The executor cannot use the estate to pay for assessments and other expenses that occur after the death. The new owners will still be bound by the same rights of the HOA as the previous owner. They will be responsible for payments moving forward even if they are not part of the HOA.
As a show of compassion, the board can agree upon a more lenient pay schedule to lessen the financial burden on the deceased homeowner’s family. However, you should still emphasize that financial obligations must be met. You can explain to them that you are simply fulfilling your responsibilities as an HOA board member.
Inform the new owners about your community’s assessments, how much is due, and when payment can be expected. An HOA management company can prepare the necessary paperwork and account statements to ensure that affairs are handled properly and smoothly.
What If HOA Dues Aren’t Being Paid?
If the HOA cannot determine the whereabouts of the deceased homeowner’s family (or establish his/her heirs), you can place a lien on the property and begin foreclosure proceedings in order to collect unpaid assessments—especially if the resident did not have probate assets. This should be done after a considerable period of time, and after efforts have been made to find the deceased homeowner’s family. The executor can make a notice of probate, or the board can make an informational notice to the public.
If the new owners are unable to meet the HOA’s financial requirements, the association can put a lien on the property. The lien will be tied to the property, making the current homeowners liable for unpaid assessments, late charges, interest, and other fines.
If the new owners continue to default on their dues, the HOA can begin foreclosure proceedings. This is possible even if the homeowner is making mortgage payments. Depending on your state, the court may require a minimum amount on delinquent assessments as well as a time period before you can initiate foreclosure proceedings.
If your HOA board is unable to handle these delicate matters, you can enlist the services of an HOA management company. They have experience in dealing with the death of a homeowner. An HOA manager will be able to handle the legal and financial matters, thus relieving some of the burdens on the board. As a board member, you can instead focus on providing emotional support to your deceased homeowner’s family.
How to Deal With Death in Your Community
Death, while unfortunate, is a natural part of life. As your community ages, so will your residents. When an HOA resident dies, the association will have to deal with legal and financial matters. Unpaid assessments and death expenses may feel like a burden. However, the HOA will get paid one way or another. It is more important to be compassionate and help the deceased owner’s family cope with the loss. An HOA manager will be able to take charge and ensure that everything is handled properly and respectfully.
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