Connecticut community associations are currently confronting unique challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Common interest communities in Fairfield County have been have been particularly challenged due to the severity of the virus in our area. While the circumstances are unprecedented, and it may not be business as usual, association boards are encouraged to continue conducting association business in whatever legally permissible manner possible, and this includes continuing to pursue collections of past due accounts. .
Boards under pressure from unit owners who are in collection as a result of circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic should be mindful of the fact that they do not have the power to unilaterally modify annual budgets ratified by unit owners. Even if it were possible for boards to unilaterally reduce charges due from all owners for a limited period of time, boards doing so would create additional financial distress for their associations as some unit owners would timely pay common charge payments regardless of circumstances, and others would use the pandemic as an excuse to avoid making payment. If across the board decreases in common charges were to occur, associations would struggle to maintain basic services.
What should boards do? Boards forced to confront a myriad of deferment, abatement and reduction requests should consider each request for relief individually. Some owners will have been temporarily laid off, others will have had positions permanently eliminated, others will have had a reduction of compensation and others may just be chronic offenders. Some investor owners will have lost rent income from tenants, others will just be looking for an excuse to avoid payment and nobody will know exactly what the future holds. When considering a course of action, boards should take the current judicial delays into account as the courts are not as of the date of this article’s publication allowing foreclosure sales to occur or law days to run.
We are all navigating this difficult time together and we encourage our boards to continue carrying out their duties under the Connecticut Common Interest Ownership Act with both common sense and compassion. As always, it is best to confer with legal counsel to discuss specific matters related to your association before taking action. If you have any questions about your association, please call a member of our Condominium and Community Association Practice Group, Robert Pacelli or Joseph Cessario.