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Florida Condominium and Homeowners Associations Law: Priority of Liens

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One issue that comes up often for Florida Condominium and Homeowners Associations is lien priority. It is safe to say that nearly everyone who has lived in a Florida Condominium or Homeowners Association knows that unit owners have to pay certain monthly maintenance assessments and often special assessments on top of that. This is an obligation that comes with living in an Association, and each unit owner is bound by the governing documents of the Association to pay these assessments. What is seemingly not as well-known is that the Association has the power to place a lien on the property in order to enforce payment of assessments, much in the same way a person would have a lien on their property for a mortgage.

When assessments owed to the Association are past due and the Association places a lien on the property to collect what is owed, the Association becomes what is known as a lienholder. As mentioned earlier, this operates much the same as, for example, a mortgagee who holds a lien on a property. When multiple liens are on the same property, each lien has certain “priority” in relation to the other liens. In Florida, a lien’s priority is generally determined by when it was recorded, with the earliest lien having priority over liens that were recorded at a later date. For example, the lien of a first mortgagee will have higher priority over the lien of a second mortgagee because the lien of the first mortgagee was recorded prior to the recording of the lien of the second mortgagee.

As with many things in the law, there are exceptions to this rule. Liens for taxes and city or municipal utilities are given priority, regardless of when they were recorded (often referred to as “superpriority”). Another such example is with liens placed by Condominium Associations. The Florida Condominium Act provides that a Condominium lien on a unit to secure the payment of assessments shall relate back to the recording of the original declaration of condominium, regardless of when the actual claim of lien is recorded. This is vitally important to Homeowners Associations, as it essentially gives the Association’s lien priority over most other liens, even if those liens were recorded first. This statute, however, does not apply in the case of first mortgages or the “superpriority” utility liens. In the case of a first mortgage, the Association’s lien is effective from the time of recording the lien.

Understanding lien priority in situations where the Association is forced to record a lien to collect unpaid assessments is important to any Florida Condominium or Homeowners Association. With the many intricacies surrounding lien, foreclosure, and association law, it is imperative that Florida Condominium and Homeowners Associations have the benefit of experienced and knowledgeable attorneys who can advise the Association in how to best handle issues concerning liens and lien priority.

At Mejia Shehadeh Giannamore, PLLC, we have the experience to handle the issues with the business interests of the Condominium Association in mind. Feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation to discuss how Mejia Shehadeh Giannamore, PLLC can help your Florida Condominium or Homeowners’ Association with its legal needs. You can email us at contact@sglawfl.com or reach us by telephone at (305) 507-9843.

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