In 1994, the Georgia Legislature adopted the Property Owners’ Association Act (“POA”). The POA provides significant advantages to homeowners associations. Here are some of the most important advantages of the POA:
After submitting to the POA, an association no longer needs to file liens at the county courthouse for unpaid assessments or other charges. Instead, the POA creates an automatic statutory lien against a delinquent owner’s lot for any sums owed to the association. The POA provides that the declaration of covenants itself serves as notice that there is a lien on every lot in the community for any unpaid assessment or other charges. As a result, closing attorneys, title examiners, purchasers or owners must contact the association for a statement of any amounts owed to the association prior to concluding a sale or refinance of the lot, or risk the existence of a lien. If the association is not paid out of the proceeds of the sale or refinance, the lien continues against the lot and will generally have priority over subsequent liens and mortgages.
Another benefit of the POA’s automatic lien is that it protects the association even if the association’s records have incorrect or misspelled owner names. Recorded liens are only effective if filed under the correct owner names. If the association’s records have an owner’s name misspelled the recorded lien may be ineffective. The POA makes the lien effective, even if you have incorrect or no information about an owner.
2. Buyers and Sellers are Jointly and Severally Liable to Pay Assessments
The POA includes another provision that helps strengthen an association’s assessment collection powers. The POA makes buyers and sellers jointly and severally liable for all unpaid assessments. This means that, if the automatic statutory lien is not paid at the closing, the association can proceed against the new owner, who will be personally liable for all amounts owed prior to the closing.
3. Tenants are Obligated to Comply With Association Regulations
The POA also requires that both owners and tenants must comply with all the provisions of the declaration of Covenants and the association’s rules and regulations.
4. Fines and Suspension of Privileges
The POA gives homeowners associations a statutory power to assess fines against violators and to suspend the common area use rights of violators, if allowed in the Covenants. Fines constitute a lien against the violator’s lot, and the ability to fine significantly strengthens the association’s powers to enforce the Covenants and the rules and regulations.
5. Late Fees and Interest
Submission to the POA allows homeowners associations to charge a late fee equal to the greater of $10.00 or ten percent (10%) of the amount due, and interest at a rate of ten percent (10%) per annum on unpaid assessments and charges, if allowed by the Covenants.
6. Recovery of Attorney’s Fees from Owners
The POA authorizes the recovery of the association’s costs of collection of the delinquent assessments, including reasonable attorney’s fees actually incurred. This provision is extremely helpful with judges who otherwise are reluctant to grant the association its attorneys fees, when it sues delinquent or violating owners.
7. Perpetual Duration
Prior to 1993, Georgia law at Code Section 44-5-60(d)(1) generally provided that Covenants expire after twenty years. That statute was amended in 1993 to permit Covenants to automatically renew, but the Georgia courts have held that Covenants in communities that were recorded prior to 1994 do not receive the benefit of the new 1994 law. One of the most important benefits of the POA is that it has a provision that states Georgia Code Section 44-5-60(d)(1) shall not apply to any Covenants contained in any instrument submitted to the POA. That means that if a community’s Covenants were recorded prior to 1994, submission to the POA now will eliminate the possibility that the Covenants will expire after twenty years.
8. Ease of Adoption
In most communities, Board members can quickly and easily adopt the POA by obtaining the consent of the association members by mail or by going door to door, depending upon the specific amendment provisions within a community’s governing documents.
Once in place, the POA provides clear advantages to homeowners associations seeking to maximize their collections.