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Finances and Assessments: Understanding Special Assessments

There’s no way to sugar-coat it: everyone hates special

assessments. Getting a notice that you owe more

money to the association can not only put a damper on

your day but also a dent in your wallet, both of which a

board is sympathetic to. In a perfect world, there would

never be a need for special assessments—or any other

type of assessments for that matter—but sadly, they’re

sometimes a necessary evil.

Often times, special assessments are levied

when an association needs to make essential

repairs, improvements or additions to the

common elements, but lacks extra reserve

funds to cover the costs. While a board puts in its

best effort to keep a healthy reserve fund and to budget

in advance for these types of projects, occasionally

unforeseen expenses occur. When this happens, we

have to call upon our residents to pitch in

financially so that the association can remain

solvent. Unfortunately, special assessments are not

optional fees, and residents are responsible for paying

special assessments in the same way they are

responsible for general association assessments. Just

remember, though, that these fees are funding

projects that will benefit all residents, and your

special assessment fees are your contribution toward


Of course, a board does not take levying special

assessments lightly. Not only do we understand that

special assessments can be a hardship for you, but—

since we would also be responsible for paying our

share of any new special assessment—they’re an extra

financial burden on resident board members as well.

Because of this, we try and make levying special

assessments a last resort, and, if passed, offer

payment plans when possible. There are also

regulations set forth in our bylaws that we must follow

before levying a special assessment, and in some

instances, we require residents to vote on the proposed

project before we can adopt the special assessment for


While none of this changes the fact that having to pay

special assessments fees is about as fun as a root

canal, just remember that it’s all part of the greater good

for the association. They are investments to your

home and your community and can help keep

our association a wonderful place to live for

years to come.

Article Provided by Community Associations Institute

How to Prevent a Special Assessment

- Hire a reserve study specialist to perform a 20+

year financial analysis on your association. The

information will help guide your association with

the amount to save and the timing for completing


- Create a routine maintenance schedule and

stick to it. Many times associations are required

to perform large maintenance projects, because

they didn’t perform the small ones.

- Make small dues increases as needed. It is

easier for an owner to keep up with incremental

increases than to be required to pay a large

special assessment.


- Are you taking the appropriate steps to prevent

special assessments in your association?

- What do you feel you could do to help residents

better understand the associations financial

position so there doesn’t need to be a special

assessment in the future?

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