Q: In our apartment, all apartments have two bedrooms, but some of them are slightly larger and pay $ 40 more in monthly maintenance. Our house is one of the smaller ones, but is listed as larger in the condominium documentation. We paid less and the association cashed the checks, telling us that we had to pay the difference. Now they threaten us with interest and late fees. What we can do? —Ron
A: At least for now, you need to pay the amounts shown on the condominium tax return. Failure to pay this amount every month will incur late fees, interest, and even potential legal action from your community.
When people underpaid their association, it accepts the payment and applies it to outstanding balances, payments and interest up to the current month.
The check you write this month is used to pay off older outstanding payments, causing your arrears to grow. This snowballs your debt, especially when your community’s lawyers are brought in to collect. You will also have to pay their fees.
I understand the instinct to stand up for myself, but as with most things, there is a right and wrong way to do it. You cannot withhold contributions, even in part, because you disagree with what the association is doing.
Simply ignoring the rules, even if they are wrong, and your own actions are bound to make things worse.
I once saw someone lose their apartment to foreclosure due to what started out as a disagreement over six more dollars in maintenance and got out of hand year after year.
You must pay the amount indicated on your apartment papers while you solve the problem.
You will need to prove to your community that the condominium is wrong. You may need to hire a professional to measure and report the actual size of your unit.
Once your community is aware of the bug, a vote by most apartment owners will be able to fix it.
When this happens, you should be eligible for an overpayment refund.
(Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and is certified by the Florida Bar Council as an expert in real estate law. He handles real estate, business disputes and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Florida. He is the chairman of the board of The Real Estate Section of the Bar Broward County attorneys. He is the co-host of the weekly radio show “Legal News and Review.” He often advises companies around the country on general issues and trends in Florida real estate. www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.)
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