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(TNS)—Q: In our condo, all the units have two bedrooms, but some are slightly larger and pay $40 more in monthly maintenance. Ours is one of the smaller units but is listed in the condo documents as a larger one. We have been paying the lesser amount, and the association has cashed the checks while telling us we need to pay the difference. Now they are threatening us with interest and late fees. What can we do? — Ron

A: For now, at least, you need to pay the amounts in your condominium’s declaration. By not paying the specified amount each month, you are subjecting yourself to late fees, interest and even possible legal action by your community.

When people short-pay their association, it will accept the payment and apply it to delinquent balances, charges and interest before the current month.

The check you write this month is being used for the older, outstanding charges, making your delinquency grow. This causes your debt to snowball, especially when your community’s attorneys are brought in to collect. You will have to pay their fees too.

I understand the instinct to stand up for yourself, but like most things, there is a right and wrong way to do it. You cannot withhold dues, even partially, because you disagree with something the association does.

Simply ignoring the rules, even if they are mistaken, and doing your own thing is bound to make matters worse.

I once saw someone lose their condo to foreclosure over what started as a disagreement over $6 of maintenance dues and spiraled out of control year after year.

You need to pay the amount in your condo documents while fixing the problem.

You will need to prove to your community that the condo docs are mistaken. You may need to hire a professional to measure and report on the actual size of your unit.

Once your community knows of the mistake, a vote by the majority of the unit owners can correct it.

When that happens, you should be entitled to a refund of the overpayments.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at
www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

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