Condos Suck

Or, rather, the associations suck.
My wife owns a condo outside of Phoenix. In addition to the standard monthly condo association dues, there’s dues to the “community association” that are paid twice a year. There’s an artificial lake next to the complex, and the dues go to maintaining that. I think it’s silly, but whatever.
For about four years, the community association send us the semi-annual invoice, and she paid it promptly. However, in 2010, we never got any bills from them. Since it’s semi-annual, it’s not something we routinely think about, and we never thought to ask. In December, we get a letter from a collections agency saying that we owe {dues+$300}, as we haven’t paid our bills for that year.
We call the association to inquire why this happened, and they say we didn’t pay any of our bills. When asked what address they were sending the bills to, they quoted an address of a private home several miles away from the condo, with which we had no connection. They checked their records and there was no record of anyone ever requesting an address change — it just magically changed without anyone noticing. Evidently the “addressee not found – return to sender” markings on all the returned mail wasn’t obvious enough, and they kept sending more “you’re late, pay your bills” letters and never thought to call us. Since the account had gone to collections, they said there wasn’t anything they could do; we had to go through the collections agency if we wanted to dispute things.
Thinking this would be open-and-shut, as the association was clearly at fault due to screwing up the addresses, we disputed things with the collection agency. They contacted the association, investigated a bit, then reported back to us that the association has reviewed our dispute and denied it, claiming that even though we had no idea what the amount of the bill (as the amount often increases) or its due date were (as they screwed up their records and were sending our bills to the wrong place), we were still responsible for paying it on time and in full. Since we didn’t, the association claims we need to pay all the late fees, re-billing fees, and collection agency fees. If we want to dispute it in person (and you bet we do), we can go to the monthly association meeting.
The collection agency is really professional, and I have no hard feelings for them, but we’ve had nothing but trouble from the association and their property management company. First it was a leaky roof which damaged our ceiling (and they say that their responsibility lies only in fixing the roof, not paying for any damage that their leaky roof did to our ceiling), and now this? I’m seriously considering inventing a way to mail dog poop to them such that, when the box is opened, the poop bursts into flame.
If this doesn’t get resolved at the association meeting, we’re thinking of suing the association. Sure, we could pay the fees and whatnot easily, but it’s the principle of the thing. Any lawyers in the Phoenix area interested? Even if we don’t need representation (e.g. we go to small claims court), we could definitely use some advice or pointers, even if not official legal advice.

3 thoughts on “Condos Suck”

  1. I believe there are laws in place that allow you to bypass the collection agency and pay the association directly.

  2. Correction… I think you can always pay the owner of the debt… so if the association is hiring the collection agency to collect the money than you can pay the association… however if the association sold the debt to the collection agency then the collection agency owns the debt and I think you have to pay them.
    If you deal with the collection agency be sure you get an agreement in writing that states the terms of the settlement. Failure to do this my have them come back at you later for further money for “fees” or claimed additional monies owed. Also, do not give them your checking account # and routing number. Pay with a CC or a USPS Money order and make copies of everything.

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