By: Robert A. Pacelli, Jr.
The Connecticut condominium association lien, also called the “Nine-Month Priority Super Lien,” provided in C.G.S. Sec. 47-258 gives Connecticut common interest communities a powerful tool to collect unpaid charges owed by unit owners. The statute provides that in most foreclosures of a unit, the Association must be paid up to 9 months of charges owed by the unit owner before the lender or other foreclosing party gets anything.
If there is a foreclosure sale, the Association is paid before the lender receives any funds from the sale. If there is a foreclosure without a sale (called a strict foreclosure in Connecticut), the foreclosing entity, usually a mortgage lender, as to pay the community up to an amount equal to nine months of common charges and special assessments due for that unit before taking title to the property. Since the common interest community is paid, at least in part, prior to any mortgage holder, the lien for nine months common charges is said to have “priority.”
The Connecticut Supreme Court has described this law as “a speedy mechanism” through which an association can secure…common charges, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs, and has noted that “[t]he creation of a lien with such a super priority protects consumers, because unit owners depend on their association for vital maintenance services.” Linden Condominium Ass’n v. McKenna, 247 Conn. 575 (1999)
Here are some typical collection scenarios that often arise:
- A unit owner’s mortgage holder brings a foreclosure suit. At the time that title passes to the lender in the foreclosure, the unit owner only owes three months of common charges. The common interest community would only collect the three months of charges since that was all the unit owner owed at the time, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.
- The common interest community brings a foreclosure suit against a unit owner who is twelve months behind in common charges, and the unit is subject to a first mortgage. If the Association’s foreclosure action proceeds to judgment, the lender will frequently pay all unpaid common charges contained in the foreclosure judgment, plus the Association’s attorneys’ fees and costs, to prevent title to the unit passing to the Association, even though the priority lien is only for nine months.
- The common interest community brings a foreclosure suit against a unit owner who is twelve months behind in common charges at the time that judgment enters. At the time that title passes by virtue of the foreclosure action, the common interest community will be entitled to receive nine months of common charges, plus attorneys’ fees and costs, but will not likely be able to obtain the balance of the charges due from the foreclosure action.
As these different scenarios make clear, the application of the Connecticut super priority lien for association common charges to any particular Connecticut common interest community is complicated. A condominium association should consult with an experienced Connecticut condominium lawyer before accepting less than the full amount of any common charges due.
Please call Robert Pacelli, the chair of the ZNC Connecticut condominium law department.