Payment of an owner’s delinquent assessment debt (including any applicable late fees, interest, collection costs, etc. lawfully imposed on the owner in connection therewith) becomes the personal obligation of the owner at the time the assessments and other sums are levied by the association. (Civ. Code § 5650(a); See also “Duty to Pay Assessments.”) Civil Code Section 5675 allows an association to secure this debt by recording an assessment lien against the owner’s lot or unit. After the expiration of thirty (30) days following the recording of an assessment lien, the assessment lien may be enforced “in any manner permitted by law,” including the following: (Civ. Code § 5700(a).)
- Nonjudicial Foreclosure*
- Judicial Foreclosure*
- Lawsuit for Money Damages (whether Superior Court or Small Claims).
*Limitations on Foreclosure
Prior to enforcing an assessment lien through nonjudicial or judicial foreclosure, the underlying assessment debt must meet or exceed the limitations contained in Civil Code Section 5720. (See “Limitations on Foreclosure of Assessment Lien.”)
“One Action Rule” & Assessment Liens
California’s “One Action Rule” generally requires the holder of a claim secured by real property (i.e., a mortgage lender) to take only one action against the debtor, and to pursue the real property first before suing the debtor personally. (See “One Action Rule.”) Although an association that records an assessment lien against an owner’s property also becomes the holder of a claim secured by real property, Civil Code Section 5700 allows the association to pursue the owner personally (i.e., to file a lawsuit against the owner) even after an assessment lien is recorded. (See “One Action Rule.”)
Judicial Enforcement & Merger Doctrine
When an assessment lien is enforced by an association through judicial action (i.e., a lawsuit for a money judgment or a judicial foreclosure action), the assessment lien is merged into any judgment obtained by the association. (Diamond Heights Village Assn., Inc. v. Financial Freedom (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 290; See also “Money Judgments (Assessment Collection).”)
- Civil Code Section 5720. Limitations on Foreclosure of Assessment Lien.
- Civil Code Section 5700. Assessment Lien Enforcement Generally.
- Civil Code Section 5675. Notice of Delinquent Assessment (Assessment Lien).
- Civil Code Section 5650. Debt of Owner; Assessments, Late Charges, Collection Costs, Interest.
Related Case Law
- Diamond Heights Village Association, Inc. v. Financial Freedom Senior Funding Corp.
(2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 290
[Assessment Collection; Judgment Lien Merger] When a HOA assessment lien is enforced by the HOA through judicial action, the debt secured by the assessment lien is merged into the judgment.
- Diamond v. Superior Court
(2013) 217 Cal.App.4th 1172
[Assessment Collection; Notice Requirements] A HOA must strictly adhere to the statutory lien and foreclosure notice requirements in order to perfect an assessment lien and foreclose on a homeowner’s property.