Q: Can a homeowners association require you to pay all of your late dues and fees within 30 days and then take you to court if you don’t? Thanks for your time.

A: It’s entirely possible that your homeowners’ association (HOA) can demand that you pay back late dues within 30 days. But even if they file a lawsuit, the wheels of justice can in some cases grind slowly.

The real question is, why haven’t you paid your HOA bills? If you’re trying to make a point about mismanagement, the only person you’re hurting is yourself. Many HOAs have begun to report owners who pay their assessments late to credit reporting bureaus, so paying late could mean you’re damaging your credit history and score.

If you can’t pay because you’ve lost your job or are being foreclosed upon, you should have a frank conversation with the president of the HOA to explain the situation. It may not go any easier, because if you tell the HOA you’re unable to pay, they may have to file a lawsuit in order to get in line in bankruptcy court.

Please talk to an attorney for more information about your situation.

Jan. 19, 2009.