QUESTION: Can the HOA put a lien on my house?
ANSWER: Yes, but there are rules the HOA must follow. The idea of an association being able to place a lien on your real property is frightening to many homeowners. However, homeowners do not realize that according to the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (the “CC&Rs”) of many associations, a lien is automatically placed on your home January 1 of each year. This lien is for the annual, bi-annual, quarterly, monthly, or periodic assessments that each member of the association must pay to the association for upkeep, maintenance and community functions. The association agrees not to record a separate lien or foreclose on the lien if the homeowner will pay their assessments timely. If a member timely pays their assessments, the association will not record its lien. In short, most associations already have a lien on your home.
Although the association has a lien for the amount of annual assessments, the association does not have an automatic lien for the fines or the fees it imposes in connection with violations. Under Arizona law, an association may only place a lien on your property for fines or fees associated with violations of the CC&Rs if it has obtained a judgment in a court of law against the homeowner for those violations. The Superior Court must sanction any Justice Court judgment before the Justice Court judgment becomes a lien. Thus, if a homeowner fails to maintain his yard, the association must notify the homeowner of the violation, give the homeowner a chance to contest the violation, sue the homeowner for the unresolved violation, and win the lawsuit on its merits before the association can place a lien on that home for the CC&R violation. Therefore, a homeowner do not need to worry about the association placing a lien on their property if the owner pays their regular assessments and abides the provisions of the CC&Rs.