It has been said many times that assessments are the ‘life-blood’ of an association.  With costs rising for everything from pool chemicals and light bulbs, to snow removal, the adage continues to hold as true as ever in 2023.  Just like the rest of us, associations are not immune to rising costs and cannot provide their owners with the necessary services when assessments are not paid by owners.

According to delinquency data published by Goodwin & Company in 2020, of the 351,000 associations nationwide, 37% have less than 5% delinquency, while 23% of associations experience a delinquency rate that ranges from 11% to 20%.  In a typical non-payment scenario, the board of directors or management company communicate with owners for payment in accordance with a collection policy and, if the efforts do not result in payment, turn such delinquent account over to legal counsel or collection agency.

But what happens in the atypical situation when the failure to pay is not based on financial inability, but due to a mental health disability? A board may become aware of a disability by personal interaction with the owner, ‘odd’ calls or communications, reports from residents, or when a relative or other person communicates on behalf of the owner.

While having a disability does not relieve an owner of the obligation to pay assessments, state and/or county resources may be available to a disabled owner for assessment payment assistance on a temporary or short-term basis. If the disability is sufficiently debilitating, it may be necessary to have a guardian and/or conservator appointed.

A guardian of an incapacitated adult is charged with the person’s care, medical treatment, and living arrangements. Except for limited amounts of money, a guardian does not handle the person’s financial needs.  A conservator, on the other hand, is deemed to be a fiduciary and is responsible for the person’s financial affairs including, but not limited to, paying bills, depositing funds, preparation of tax returns, and operating a business on behalf of the incapacitated person.

Colorado’s Department of Human Services, through its Adult Protective Services program, investigates allegations of, among other things, self-neglect of at-risk adults. If you have reason to believe a resident is incapable of addressing his/her basic needs, a report may be made by calling the county department where the person resides.

Adult Protective Services files most of the petitions to have a conservator appointed. A conservator may be a relative, a close friend, or a public administrator. In the event Adult Protective Services is not willing or able to assist, Colorado courts have instructions and forms available online for the appointment of a conservator for an adult.

While reporting suspected self-neglect is a personal decision, doing so may assist your community in the long run with collecting assessments and the overall wellbeing of the association.

Should you have any additional questions, please contact an Altitude attorney at (303) 432-9999 or at [email protected].

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