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CalAttorney2
CalAttorney2, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 10238
Experience:  I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing HOAs, homeowners, businesses and others in real estate matters.
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I live in Staten Island, NY and is getting lawsuit threat from

Customer Question

I live in Staten Island, NY and is getting lawsuit threat from community residential association (not homeowner association) for not paying late payment fee for their annual assessment. My property is not managed and maintained by the association except for some landscaping in my common and shared backyard. I am not a member of the association neither signed any agreement with them. However, as per direction from real-estate agent when I bought the house, I have been paying them $200 annually. Although, I have been late in payment since last few years but I have never defaulted. Now I got letter from their attorney to pay for all late payment charges of $380 including attorney fee or they will take the matter to the court. Should I take it seriously and pay them their dues or just ignore it. Thanks
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.
This really depends. I am concerned that you say you have no agreement, but they have a lawyer that is threatening suit.These associations sometimes crop up and threaten as if they have the same rights as a CID or HOA (entities created by deed restriction and contract, and therefore having a right of enforcement against each individual parcel), but they don't have any such rights or claims. They bluster about and even retain a lawyer but have no legal right to the money. If I were in your position, I would start by double (or even triple) checking everything in my paperwork (deed restrictions, title report, etc.) to ensure that there really is nothing that creates any sort of encumbrance, lien, levy, easement, or other right against my property. You want to be absolutely sure that they cannot enforce their claim - the risk here is that if you blow them off, and you are wrong, not only will they have a claim against you, they can enforce it by placing a lien against your home.The next issue is that they can try to enforce an "equitable" claim against you - claim that you are enjoying the right to this neighborhood beautification - I think this is a weak claim at best, ***** ***** certainly aren't entitled to their attorney's fees, collection costs, or interest (those are only allowed by statute or contract - neither of which would apply in that case).Finally, you can simply blow them off, and let the issue go away.you can try to mediate the dispute with them - contact your local bar association and request referrals to mediators, a third party neutral can often help you reach a mutually agreeable resolution. Use the bar association's referrals to contact a mediator or two, the mediator will then contact the other party to set up a mediation session, and you can go from there - hopefully resulting in a formal or written settlement agreement, and save yourself the time and expense of litigation.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I already checked my mortgage agreement and contract for sale, and did not see any enforceable agreement with the association. Where do i get deed restrictions and title to the property? I spoke with the association last week and they confirmed that I have no agreement to pay late fee. However, they mentioned that that was mentioned in their in bye-laws which I am not aware.
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.
You will want to get a title report (there should have been one when you purchased the home (you can ask your escrow company for a copy) but you can quickly and easily order one from any title insurance company (they usually charge a small fee), this will show all liens, encumbrances, etc. against your property.By-laws are simply documents that govern how an organization is run - they don't create a lien on your property (the local gardener's guild, historical society, and rocketeer's club will all have by-laws).
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I checked with the title and did not see any lien against my property. Please advise. Thanks
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.
Keep in mind - I cannot advise you on what course of action to take on this forum (we do not have an attorney/client relationship and I cannot provide you with a specific legal opinion).I provided you with a couple of options above that you can do - they vary from most risk adverse (give in and pay up), to most risky (ignore them and hope they go away).The risk is that even if they don't have a claim they can still sue you, you would have to defend the action, I doubt this will happen, (I don't see an attorney filing such a claim with no legal right or contractual claim) but I cannot promise anything.I have a feeling that this can be ignored, but I must reiterate, I have not reviewed any of your documents, any of the correspondence, and I do not have the ability to provide you with a specific legal opinion here.I do wish you the best of luck with this matter.