Can my HOA accept and cash a check as my offer to settle a debt and then continue to demand the full sum that they say I owe?

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Can my HOA accept and cash a check as my offer to settle a debt and then continue to demand the full sum that they say I owe?

I owe HOA dues to my homeowner’s association in addition to fines and penalties for landscaping infractions on a rental property. However, I did not receive the letters because they were sent to the wrong address although I had notified them of my new address. I disputed the fines and offered to make monthly payments to bring my HOA dues up to date. The HOA cashed the check that accompanied the letter, but still claims that I owe for the landscaping fines. Did acceptance of my check constitute acceptance of my offer to make monthly payments for the dues and not for the other fines?

Asked on September 14, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

No, if there was qn existing debt--for the moment, assume there was; I know you dispute it, though we'll get to that in a moment--and the debtor sends the creditor a check, then, regardless of any papers or offers accompanying the check, or anything written on the check itself, the debtor may cash or deposit the check and apply it against the balance owed. That's why, when you owe someone money, never send them amounts which you dispute until you first have in writing that they accept your terms.

Since you dispute the debt, you may need to litigate to resolve it--if doing so is cost effective. Even representing yourself will cost something in court costs and also time; hiring a lawyer would, of course, cost money. Since the only way to resolve a dispute like this is litigation, your choices are:

1) Bring a legal action, if you deem it worthwhile

2) Don't pay, and if the HOA takes legal action, decide whether it's worth defending yourself (be careful of impacts on your credit rating)

3) Pay the debt

4) Negiate a settlement, if possible, then pay.

 


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