CAN THEY REALLY TAKE MY HOME?

It’s amazing how dangerously uninformed some people are.  Over the years I have heard time and again owners of condominium units and homes in HOAs take the position that even if they don’t pay their assessments, it makes no difference because it’s their “homestead property” and “homestead property” is protected under Florida law.  Unfortunately, they sometimes wind up clinging to that argument from their new apartment they now rent, having gotten tossed out of their “homestead property” by the court.

Florida does have a very strong homestead protection law.  Our Florida Constitution says:

SECTION 4. Homestead; exemptions.—

(a) There shall be exempt from forced sale under process of any court, and no judgment, decree or execution shall be a lien thereon, except for the payment of taxes and assessments thereon, obligations contracted for the purchase, improvement or repair thereof, or obligations contracted for house, field or other labor performed on the realty, the following property owned by a natural person:

(1) a homestead, if located outside a municipality, to the extent of one hundred sixty acres of contiguous land and improvements thereon, which shall not be reduced without the owner’s consent by reason of subsequent inclusion in a municipality; or if located within a municipality, to the extent of one-half acre of contiguous land, upon which the exemption shall be limited to the residence of the owner or the owner’s family;

When you purchase a home in an HOA or a unit in a condominium, the declarations of covenants and condominium each contractually obligate the owner upon purchase, to pay assessments to the association, going forward.  Therefore, the protections of The Florida Constitution do not apply.  If you don’t pay your condo or HOA assessments you get foreclosed upon to the same extent as your mortgage company would foreclose on you for failing to pay your mortgage.  On top of the assessments, you will owe late fees, interest, court costs and of course…….attorney’s fees.

Small amounts of unpaid assessments can turn into final judgments for many thousands of dollars.  The worst thing to do is to ignore it.  It won’t go away by itself.

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