There is no way to sugar-coat a special assessment. Receiving a notice that you owe more money to your homeowners association can not only put a damper on your day but also a dent in your wallet, both of which the board is sympathetic to. In a perfect world, there would never be a need for special assessments—or any other type of assessments for that matter—but sadly; they are sometimes a necessary evil.
Purpose of special assessments
Often times, special assessments are levied when the Association needs to make essential repairs, improvements or additions to the common elements, but lacks extra reserve funds to cover the costs. While the HOA board puts in its best effort to keep a healthy reserve fund and to budget in advance for these types of projects, occasionally unforeseen expenses occur. When this happens, it has to call upon residents to pitch in financially so that the homeowners association can remain solvent.
Unfortunately special assessments are not optional fees, and residents are responsible for paying special assessments in the same way they are responsible for general Association assessments. Just remember, though, that these fees are funding projects that will benefit all residents, and your special assessment fees are your contribution toward that.
Special assessments aren't taken lightly
Of course, the HOA board does not take levying special assessments lightly. Not only does the board understand that special assessments can be a hardship, but—since it would also be responsible for paying its share of any new special assessment—it’s an extra financial burden on resident board members as well. Because of this, the board tries to make levying special assessments a last resort, and, if passed, offer payment plans when possible.
There are also regulations set forth in the bylaws that the board must follow before levying a special assessment, and in some instances require residents to vote on the proposed project before adopting the special assessment for it. Make sure your opinions on these matters are heard by attending open board meetings and voting on these critical projects.
While none of this changes the fact that having to pay special assessments fees is about as fun as a root canal, just remember that it is all part of the greater good for the homeowners association. They are investments to your home and your community, and can help keep your Association a wonderful place to live for years to come.