Many readers have posted questions regarding the ability to collect rent from tenants.
It is important to remember that in all of the cases reported previously on this blog, the Court only appointed a blanket receiver to collect rent after the Association filed an action to foreclose its Claim of Lien. Thus, the Association must pursue the collection procedures set forth in the Condominium Act (Chapter 718, Florida Statutes) or Homeowners’ Association Act (Chapter 720, Florida Statutes). It must send written notice of the delinquency to the Owner, file its Claim of Lien, notify the owner in writing of the intent to foreclose and then file its lawsuit, all before it can ask the Court to allow it to collect rental income.
Here is an issue that comes up frequently:
Assume the following:
– A bank has commenced foreclosure proceedings against a unit Owner but not taken possession of the unit
– The Condo association has liened the Owner for past due assessments
-The condo Owner has declared bankruptcy
-The Condo Owner has a renter in the unit & is collecting rent
Can the Condo association obtain a receiver to collect the rent to pay the association assessment?
A bankruptcy filing results in what is known as an “automatic stay”. This essentially stops all collection activity against the debtor. In Senate Report No. 95-989, the Judiciary noted:
The automatic stay is one of the fundamental debtor protections provided by the bankruptcy laws. It gives the debtor a breathing spell from his creditors, stopping all collection efforts, all harassment, and all foreclosure actions. It permits the debtor to attempt a repayment or reorganization plan, or simply to be relieved of the financial pressures that drove him into bankruptcy.
Generally when there is a foreclosure pending against a debtor in bankruptcy, the Court will require payment of post-petition obligations (assessment fees or mortgage payments). If the debtor files under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code (reorganization), creditors (including the Association and/or the Lender) are prohibited from taking any action to collect past-due amounts. However, these creditors may file a Motion for Relief from Stay in the event the debtor fails to keep ongoing obligations current. While the automatic stay is in effect, the Association cannot take further action to collect any past due assessments or charges. It cannot collect rent directly from the tenant (even if the governing documents provide that type of relief) and any rent collected may be deemed to be property of the bankruptcy estate. Violations of the automatic stay are not taken lightly by bankruptcy judges.
Some communities have amended their governing documents to include an automatic “assignment of rent” when an owner falls into delinquency status. The communities that are most successful not only amend the governing documents, but likewise require (through amendment or as part of the approval procedures) a tri-party lease addendum that includes this assignment. The tri-party lease addendum creates a contractual relationship between the owner, the tenant and the association which is helpful in the event assessment payments from the owner fall behind schedule. This document generally gives additional rights to the Association in the event the owner fails to control the conduct of the tenant (or the tenant’s guests) as well.
All of these actions must be considered in light of the existing governing documents and in conjunction with analysis of the laws governing debt collection (especially when bankruptcy is involved).