BERLIN – Each year, Ocean Pines Association residents are expected to pay an assessment fee to the homeowners association.
This year, that amounted to $921 for most residents. While many — in fact more than 97 percent of them — pay the annual fee by the May 1 deadline, there are those that don’t. And while those unpaid fees represent less than $500,000 of the more than $8 million billed annually, Ocean Pines Association (OPA) officials are serious about collecting the debt. Serious enough that this year the homeowners association purchased the foreclosed home of a resident who owed back dues. The association is now selling the home at market value in an attempt to recoup what the individual failed to pay the association.
“This is one of the strategies we have available to help make us whole with delinquent assessments,” said OPA General Manager Bob Thompson. “It’s not something we necessarily want to do.”
It’s also unusual. Thompson says this is the first time the association has purchased a house to recover back dues. Though officials have considered the possibility before, generally there’s too much owed to the bank on a home to make it worthwhile.
“We believed there was enough equity in this house to make it an appropriate approach,” Thompson said.
And so the Ocean Pines Association is now selling the three-bedroom home at 37 Tail of the Fox Dr. The sale is being handled by Realtor Marlene Ott, who was selected by officials after the association solicited information from a variety of local real estate agents.
“Based on the submittals, listing it with Marlene appeared to be the most advantageous to Ocean Pines,” Thompson said.
He says the listed price of $174,900 will enable the association to recover what it spent buying the home, what it spent remodeling the home and the multiple years of assessments the previous homeowner didn’t pay.
He’s optimistic that the home, which has been on the market since July 24, will sell quickly.
“I expect it to be sold by the end of September,” he said.
Thompson says that while he knows some people are surprised at the association’s foray into the real estate business, he doesn’t expect it to generate an unfavorable community response. He says OPA has a responsibility to collect its unpaid assessments.
“We owe it to our membership to take a reasonable, diligent approach to the collection of assessments,” he said, adding that not pushing to collect unpaid assessments wasn’t fair to those who paid on time. “We’ll take all avenues to make sure collection efforts maximize the assessments paid.”
Collection efforts undertaken by OPA typically consist of bills, letters from legal counsel and liens. The association will also file in court and employ collection agencies. And, as it has now proven, purchase property.
“There’s a multi-pronged approach,” Thompson said. “We owe it to our membership to stay focused.”