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Category Archives: Special Assessments

If You Had a Hammer

Get down to brass tacks (not to mention green dollars) with a comprehensive maintenance and repair plan.


A 264-unit high-rise condominium community in Alexandria, Virginia, recently imposed a special assessment of almost $9,500 per unit to fund a $4-million exterior repair project. The project concentrated on repairing spalled concrete on balconies and refinishing stained and discolored window units.

Why was such a basic project performed on such a grand scale, with such a huge price tag? Lack of regular maintenance. The community had failed to maintain cementitious coatings on the balcony decks and ledges, to replace deteriorated non-shrink grout around balcony railings, or to periodically clean windows, resulting in sand from the brick veneer reacting with and staining window glazing.

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Borrowing for Major Repairs

As communities mature more and more boards are faced with the responsibility and need to do major repairs of their common areas.  Often, because of unanticipated problems lack of or un-funded reserves, associations do not have sufficient funds to make necessary repairs. 

In the past when faced with a situation where major repairs were required and funds were not available, associations had no alternative but to pass a special assessment, defer repairs, or complete the work piecemeal over time.  Each of these solutions has its own shortcomings and can create new problems for the board and the association members. 

Special assessments, are never popular, can create a real hardship for owners, and are often difficult or impossible to pass.  Putting off necessary repairs is in clear conflict with the board’s fiduciary responsibility to “preserve enhance and protect” the value of the asset, and can create additional liability for the association if questions of health and safety are involved.  Spreading the work over time often will increase the overall cost of the project; lead to excessive insurance claims for repairs and can become a source of owner dissent. 

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Avoiding the Special Assessment Trap

Don’t think owners won’t notice an extra charge from the association.  Prepare for a fight and plan ahead to avoid special assessments altogether.

Many community associations turn to special assessments when confronted by unanticipated repairs, but boards need to avoid making hasty decisions to fund these surprise expenses.

Special assessments should be the last resort – not the first step –

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