Board members can approach an owner by letter, email, phone or knocking on the door. Or the board can go through an intermediary—someone in the association who’s on good terms with the non-paying owner.
Don’t send the person on your board who’s the most impatient and thinks of owners as “slackers” or “deadbeats”. Send the most compassionate board member.
To reduce defensiveness, engage an owner immediately with an attitude of genuine interest in whatever they may be experiencing, no less than the Board’s concern for the well being of the whole community, respect for the association, and so on.
Yes but doesn’t the law say associations may not forbear collecting payment in full of assessments? Yep, that’s what the attorneys tell us. If you “waive” the payment of any part of the unpaid assessment fees. you could get into trouble.
The board member’s task is not to negotiate a deal, but to inquire as to the possible reasons the owner has fallen behind, and to explore options that work for both parties.
The dialogue can start with: “Hi Sam, this is Mary up in 3C. How are you? The reason I’m calling is, we haven’t received your assessment payments and the board asked me to contact you because we want everything to run well in our association. We also want to understand what’s going on and find out if you’re OK. Do you have a minute to talk?”
Attorney Denise M. DeBelle in Chicago says “You want to create a written policy in your association’s rules and regulations so you can have uniformity in the way you do this, year in/year out, from one board to the next, and everyone is treated the same”, The policy can say that 1) the board will attempt to talk with non-paying owners to find solutions, 2) if no communication can be established after a certain period or no agreements are reached, the board will pursue collection of the debt using the protections available under the law.
In associations, no less than in relations between countries, what we need in these dangerous times is more frank and direct conversation, not less.