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Seattle Times business reporter Elizabeth Rhodes posts the answers to your real estate questions as they pop up during the week. Join this ongoing discussion, which also features reader reaction to real-estate articles appearing throughout The Times.

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October 16, 2008 8:00 AM

Who pays homeowners association special assessment?

Posted by Elizabeth Rhodes

Q: My sister wants to sell her home. Her homeowners' association just said that all residents must pay for their neighborhood's water-system improvements. If her house sells before this improvement money is due, who's obligated to pay it -- my sister or the new owner?

A: Commonly that's negotiated with the new buyer, says Bev Bothel, manager of Windermere Real Estate's downtown Bellevue office.

"We've seen it go both directions," she says. However "nine times out of 10, the seller pays for it before or at closing."

What's non-negotiable is disclosing the existence of this financial obligation both on the required Form 17 disclosure statement and on the purchase-and-sale agreement. Once the info is out there, the buyer or buyer's agent usually requests the minutes of the HOA meetings. Those minutes should contain the financial details.

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