In addition to charging regular monthly fees, a condominium's board of directors may occasionally make the decision to levy a special assessment. These assessments are intended to cover unexpected expenses or special projects for the property.
Because a special assessment can sometimes be a significant expense — occasionally amounting to thousands of dollars — it's possible that unhappy unit owners may threaten to challenge the fee. While the right to levy assessments is usually written into an condominium's bylaws, it is still possible for owners to take steps to address their concerns and oppose an assessment.
One way for owners to challenge an assessment is to form a large group of concerned unit owners before bringing the group's collective concerns to the condo board. Sometimes, this action itself is enough to reach a compromise or convince the board to rescind the assessment completely. However, if an agreement cannot be reached this way, unit owners may decide to go a step further and take legal action.
Legal challenges to assessments typically involve claiming that the condo board has made a legally improper assessment decision. This type of challenge may be more successful if undertaken by a group of condo owners rather than an individual. However, when it comes to challenging the reasoning behind a special assessment, it's common for courts to defer to the board's judgment regarding whether or not a project or expense is necessary. Successful legal challenges are typically based on condo board's failure to follow the proper procedure in adopting the special assessment.
As a member of a condominium's board of directors, it's important to make sure that the decision to levy an assessment is announced only after carefully reviewing the condominium's bylaws. Sometimes, governing documents include restrictions on assessments, such as limits on an assessment's purpose or amount. It's also fairly common for bylaws to prescribe specific procedures, sometimes requiring the assessment to be approved by a vote.
If the condo board unintentionally violates any of these restrictions, condo owners carrying out the challenge will likely have little trouble having the decision overturned. For this reason, it is in the board's best interest to carefully review its bylaws before making the decision to levy an assessment.
If you have further questions about assessments and the challenges you may face in implementing them, speak with an experienced condominium property management company. This can help you receive the advice and guidance you need as you address this issue.