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Special assessments FAQ

A special assessment is a fee assessed to a homeowner by a condo association or homeowner’s association (HOA) separate from the regular dues to cover unexpected budget shortfalls.

We often receive the same kinds of questions from DC, Maryland and Virginia homebuyers and sellers, so we’ve started to compile an FAQ list:

When are special assessments levied?

Most condo or HOA homeowners pay a regular (usually monthly) fee which covers exterior maintenance, while more comprehensive fees also include some utilities (water, trash, etc.).

Typically, a portion of the condo dues or HOA dues will go into a reserve fund for larger, occasional expenses. If the association’s reserve fund is low and an unexpected expense arises for repair or maintenance, the association may assess a special assessment to cover the costs.

How are special assessments collected?

Some special assessments are paid monthly in small amounts until the debt is paid off, while others are a one-time charge paid by each homeowner as lump sum.

Who pays for special assessments when a property is sold?

To determine whether the seller or buyer is responsible for the payment of a special assessment, the first place to look is the sales contract to see how special assessments are addressed. Generally, the seller is responsible for any existing or levied but not yet collected special assessments at the time of settlement, unless otherwise agreed by the buyer and seller.

Ben Raffel

Ben Raffel is a settlement attorney at Federal Title & Escrow; he began in 2018. He appreciates meeting new clients and guiding them through settlements.