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Maine Alliance for Road Associations

Collecting Unpaid Road Dues via Court Action

  • 14 May 2023 11:29 AM
    Message # 13201297
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This is an inquiry to see how many other statutory road associations have encountered a similar response when attempting to collect on unpaid road dues.

    Our road association has a resident with over $2,000 in back dues.  We have filed the necessary Notices of Claims and Notices of Extensions (liens) and will continue to do so.  We recently consulted with an attorney to see if we could proceed to court and collect the back dues.  We of course accumulated attorney fees in the process (not insubstantial).

    After our attorney wrote to the debtor, then spoke with him, our attorney advised us to simply wait until the debtor sells his home – how ever many years that might be – and to continue filing the necessary liens and lien extensions.  (Our debtor lives alone, has an expensive boat, an extra car and a skidoo sitting in his driveway.)

    In essence, our attorney told us we could proceed to court and pay more attorney fees and obtain a judgment, but he told us we would probably have little or no success collecting on that judgment.  So, rather than spending more money on legal fees, we were advised to wait the situation out for an indefinite period of time.

    Has anyone had success collecting on unpaid dues via the court process, or has everyone had to wait out the situation in hopes of a home sale/closing?

  • 14 May 2023 8:26 PM
    Reply # 13201435 on 13201297

    Thank you for this inquiry on the never ending saga of liening of non-paying members versus going to court. We too have about 10+ years of owners with liens and costs. 

    If you research the owner on the Registry of Deeds, you will probably see that he/she has many other liens too. We have one guy who has federal, State tax liens and many other liens - except from municipalities. The Town can take your house, but all these other liens just pile up on the owner.  According to one attorney, years ago, stated that when the house gets sold, the chances of our liens are less likely to be paid off due to the other liens. 

    Finally, a long time ago, at a MARA conference the paperwork was distributed to file it at a small claims court. I have not utilized the small claims court procedures. If the owner has a mortgage, I am aware that some banks will pay it off. In the past a MARA officer/member (Peter) shared his experience of going to a bank, handing them the lien, and they paid it off. 

    Clearly this owner you described has multiple properties and doesn't seem to be concerned about his/her neighbors. I find that when one owner has one property, lives year round in it is more likely to be interested in his/her membership within the community. We just had a 10 year lien just paid off. When an owner wants to refinance, they have to pay off their liens. Unfortunately, due to high interest rates, it is less likely people will want to refinance. 

  • 15 May 2023 7:07 AM
    Reply # 13201519 on 13201297
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thank you for your thoughts and insights.

    We’re particularly interested in hearing from any association with experience pursuing an unpaid road dues claim in court.  Is court just an option with no real prospects?  Has any association succeeded in collecting via this route?

  • 16 May 2023 9:55 AM
    Reply # 13202188 on 13201297

    We just started the Lein process this year. I agree that there is little chance of collecting from a stubborn owner, But we were starting to get people to not want to pay because so and so didn't. We also started using Quickbooks this year for our accounting and will be distributing a treasures report that shows overdue balances by lot nunber and owner name.

    out of 54 owners we only have 2-3 that give us problems and refuse to pay.

  • 16 May 2023 1:58 PM
    Reply # 13202354 on 13201297
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thank you for your reply.

    Yes, putting liens in place is essential for several reasons, including the very reason you cite ("they don't have to pay, why should I?").

    But beyond that, when a debtor begins to amass a large debt (say $3,000 or more), it becomes a meaningful amount in terms of lost/unavailable resources to maintain the road.  And that is when a court action to collect the debt would be quite helpful, if it can be done quickly and economically.

  • 25 May 2023 6:33 AM
    Reply # 13206340 on 13201297
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I'd be most interested in the reasons your attorney gave for your probably having "little or no success" in collecting the debt including "costs of suit and reasonable attorney's fees" (as stated in the Private Ways Statute, §3102) after a court judgement in your favor? 

    Last modified: 27 May 2023 6:51 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • 01 Jun 2023 9:21 AM
    Reply # 13209133 on 13201297
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Our attorney indicated that debtors have a number of options for delaying and avoiding ultimate collection, even with an order in place, and that the protracted effort can often be unsuccessful.

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