Idaho law allows a homeowner's association (HOA) to record a lien against a lot when the owner fails to pay assessments. But only if the covenants, conditions & restrictions (CC&Rs) or bylaws give the HOA the power to file a lien.
The amount claimed under the lien may only be for "reasonable costs" of maintaining the common areas. The common areas must be real property (i.e., real estate). This means, if the lien was for assessments related to the maintenance of personal property (equipment owned by the HOA) or for a fine no lien may be recorded.
The lien may only include assessments that were levied within 12 months of its recording. In other words, the amount of the lien is limited to the amount owed in the prior 12 months.
The lien is only good for 12 months after it is filed. The HOA can extend it for another 12 months if it records a written extension of the lien before the first 12 months is up. If the HOA does not extend it, the lien is automatically released.
After the lien is recorded, it automatically includes all assessments that the owner does not pay after the lien is recorded. No new liens must be filed.
The lien must be verified by the oath of a person who has knowledge of the amount owed. It must state:
- the amount due;
- the name of the owner;
- the name of the association; and
- the description of the property (i.e., the legal description).
Within 5 business days of recording, the HOA must serve a copy of the lien on the owner by personal delivery or certified mail. If the lien is not served within 5 business days, it will be as if it was never filed and the HOA must file a new lien. If this happens, the new lien amount may include money owed in the previous 12 months from the date the new lien was recorded.
Keep in mind, a lien is not the only way for an HOA to collect assessments. The HOA could also file a lawsuit in small claim's court, magistrate court, or district court. To file in small claims court, the amount owed must be less than $5,000. Idaho Code Section 1-2301. To file in magistrate court, the amount owed must be less than $10,000. Every claim over $10,000 must be filed in district court.
In small claim's court, no attorney may argue for a party. Keep in mind, the HOA can have an attorney help it get ready for the hearing.
Even if the HOA files a lien, it can still file a lawsuit without waiving the lien. But, if the HOA recovers all the money, the lien will be released. If the HOA recovers some of the money, the amount owed under the lien will be reduced by the amount collected. Keep in mind, the statute of limitations to collect assessment through a lawsuit is longer as well. In Idaho, it is 5 years. Idaho Code Section 5-216.
See Idaho Code Section 45-810 to read the actual law about homeowner's association liens.