A condominium is a way of organizing ownership in real property. Condominiums are used when portions of a larger piece of real property may be portioned into smaller “units,” and then the owners of such units share in the use of areas common to each owner (i.e., “common areas”), such as hallways, elevators, heating systems, etc.
To control the exterior of the condominium and the common areas, the Washington Condominium Act requires the formation of a Condominium Association comprised exclusively of the owners of the condominium units. RCW 64.34.300. The Association may “[a]dopt and amend budgets for revenues, expenditures, and reserves, and impose and collect assessments for common expenses from unit owners.” RCW 64.34.304(1)(b).
It is commonly known that an Association has a lien on units for unpaid assessments. However, RCW 64.34.364(12) also provides that the owners of units that have not paid their share of the assessments have joint and several personal liability for the assessments assessed and due during their ownership.
Conveying a unit to a new owner only discharges liability for assessments that come due after the conveyance. The new owner, perhaps surprising to him or her, is jointly and severally liable for all of the unpaid assessments of the previous owner, although the new owner may seek recovery from the previous owner for the assessments due up to the date of conveyance. Further, judicial foreclosure of a mortgage or deed of trust does not relieve the prior owner of personal liability for the assessments accruing against the unit prior to the date of sale.