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Understanding Miami Condo Special Assessments: What You Need to Know

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Are you considering buying a condo in Miami, or are you already a condo owner? It's crucial to understand the concept of Miami condo special assessments. These fees can impact your ability to obtain a loan for your purchase. As a condo owner, you will be responsible for paying your share of the assessment. This article aims to provide essential information about special assessments in Miami, their workings, and how to deal with them if they arise.



In this article:


What is a special assessment?

A special assessment is a fee for all unit owners in a condominium complex to fund repairs, renovations, or reserves. The fee can vary based on the complex's size, the project's severity, and other factors. Typically, unit owners will receive prior notification of a special assessment and may be able to express their opinions. Sometimes, a vote may be required for the assessment to take effect. Since special assessments can be a significant expense for unit owners, it's vital to understand their workings and your options if your association levies one.




How do special assessments work

The association may impose a special assessment on all unit owners when a condo complex needs significant repairs or renovations. First, the board of directors will vote on the proposal specifying the assessment amount and its reason. Once approved, the assessment fee is charged to all unit owners, and the amount due will depend on their percentage of ownership. Payment is typically due immediately, although the association may allow payment to spread over time.


For instance, suppose the condo complex needs a new roof. In that case, the association will gather quotes from contractors and hire a contractor to complete the work. The fee assessed to each unit owner will be determined based on the building's size and the severity of the project.



What you can do about Miami condo special assessments

Some options are available if you're facing a special assessment that you cannot afford. One of the first steps you should take is to discuss the situation with your condominium association or property manager. They may be willing to work with you to develop a payment plan or explore other options.


Here are some other potential options to consider:

  1. Apply for the new Condominium Special Assessment Program: The program offers a loan of up to $50,000 to owner-occupied condo homeowners with limited finances for special assessments related to building recertification.

  2. Apply for a private loan: You can apply for a loan to cover the assessment fee. This could be a personal loan or a home equity loan. Remember that taking out a loan will increase your debt load and may impact your ability to qualify for future credit.

  3. Negotiate a payment plan: You may be able to negotiate a payment plan with the association. This could involve spreading the payments over a set period or deferring payments until later. Remember that interest or late fees may apply, and the association may require a down payment.

  4. Challenge the assessment: In some cases, you can challenge the assessment. This could involve disputing the assessment amount or the reason for it. Remember that challenging the assessment could affect legal action and may not be successful.

  5. Sell your unit: If you cannot pay the assessment fee, consider selling your unit. This could allow you to avoid the assessment and move on to a more affordable property.

It's essential to remember that each situation is unique, and other options may be available to you. It's always a good idea to consult an experienced condominium lawyer to discuss your rights and options. They can help you understand the potential consequences of each option and develop a plan that works for your situation.


How to avoid being blindsided by a special assessment

Staying informed and proactive is crucial to avoid being blindsided by a special assessment. First and foremost, it's essential to read all documents and notices sent by your condo association carefully. Pay attention to any mention of upcoming repairs or potential special assessments.

You can also attend board meetings or review meeting minutes to keep up with any discussions related to assessments or repairs. If you notice anything concerning, ask for more information or clarification. It's better to address concerns upfront than wait until an assessment is imposed.

Another way to stay informed is to get involved with your condo association. Joining a committee or serving on the board can give you more insight into the association's decision-making process and financial situation.


Building an emergency fund specifically for special assessments is also a good idea. Set aside a portion of your monthly budget if a surprise assessment arises, and you must pay your share. Having this reserve can help alleviate the financial burden of an unexpected assessment.



Miami condo reform

Miami condo owners have had significant challenges recently, particularly after the Surfside tragedy that killed 98 people in 2021. To improve residents' life and safety, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 4D in May 2022. The bill brings significant changes to high-rise condo inspections and maintenance. Condo reform may affect Miami condo special assessment costs as buildings may need to make repairs and gather reserves for future repairs and renovations.


One significant change involves "milestone inspections" for condominiums and cooperative buildings that are three stories or higher. The buildings will be required to undergo these inspections 30 years after initial occupancy and 25 years after initial occupancy for condo buildings within three miles of the coast. Additionally, condo associations will be required to conduct structural integrity reserve studies at least every ten years beginning in 2024, ensuring that the necessary funds are set aside to make repairs.



Conclusion

Special assessments can be a nuisance but are often necessary to keep a condominium complex running smoothly. It is essential to be aware of special assessments levied on your complex and have a plan in place if you cannot pay the fee. Contact your condominium association or property manager with any questions about special assessments.

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