New Aspen housing rule: Pay up or face eviction
July 31, 2009
ASPEN – Deadbeat homeowners within the local housing program who fail to pay their association dues risk being kicked out of their units, under new rules adopted this week by the Aspen City Council.
The council on Monday and the Pitkin County commissioners last week approved changes to the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority guidelines that allow the agency to force payment from delinquent homeowners.
Failure to pay homeowner dues is now a violation of the deed restriction attached to each individual housing unit. Violating the restrictions can trigger an enforcement action that ultimately forces a homeowner to give up his or her unit.
The amendment to the guidelines was spurred by an increase in complaints from homeowner associations that didn’t have any recourse when their members refused to pay, said Cindy Christensen, housing operations manager.
Language inserted into new deed restrictions states that failure to pay the required dues or assessments is a violation of the deed restriction and unit owners must sell their home.
The legislation passed by both boards now includes older deed restrictions as well. The process involves the housing authority reviewing the owners’ deed restrictions, and then setting up a meeting between the alleged noncompliant owner and HOA board members to come up with a plan to resolve the issue.
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If the owner doesn’t show up to the meeting, or comply to the terms of the agreement, the notice of violation process will be initiated.
The housing office will ask the HOA to provide a written request as to the length of time the dues haven’t been paid, if there has been any contact with that owner about the nonpayment and how past due it is.
Christensen said some people haven’t paid their dues for several years, and there are others who haven’t paid since they moved in.
She said she doesn’t know how many owners in the program are failing to pay their homeowner dues, but once the law takes effect in September, she expects a rash of HOAs to ask for the housing office’s help. She added that she also anticipates that many homeowners will become current now that they have a lot more to lose.
“It could be that with this, people will start paying,” she said.
Before the change in law, the recourse that most associations had was placing a lien on the property and collecting the debt when the unit sold or when the owner refinanced. Associations typically use the dues to pay for common-area maintenance and repairs within a complex.
Another proposed change in the guidelines would allow retirees to rent their unit for up to six months in an effort to free up more housing for local workers. The retiree would have to reside in the unit at least six months a year and maintain it as their primary residence.
“By allowing a retiree who is not working to rent to a qualified employee, the retiree can still remain in the community along with providing workforce housing at a higher level,” wrote Housing Director Tom McCabe in a memo to the City Council.
While the county commissioners approved that amendment, the council did not. Some council members wanted more information about what impact it would have on the program and how many people would be affected.
Christensen said she hopes to provide additional information to council within the next month.
The other guideline amendment approved by both boards give owners of employee units located within otherwise free-market complexes the opportunity to buy a different unit within the housing program. In such cases, the housing authority could sell the vacated condo on the free market. The rogue units have become problematic because employee owners sometimes face dues and special assessments, approved by their free-market neighbors, that they cannot afford. There are 12 such units in the housing authority’s inventory.