So why does the association have to file a complaint against the unit owner if they already have a lien against the unit? While the automatic lien protects the association with respect to a third party buyer's purchase of the unit from the unit owner, the association cannot execute on this lien. The lien must be reduced to a judgment in order for the association to collect the delinquent assessments which it is owed outside the context of a sale of the unit to a third party buyer. In other words, in order to attach a unit owner's bank account, execute against their personal property or foreclose upon their unit, the association must secure a judgment against the unit owner by the filing of a complaint in Court. After securing a judgment, the association can proceed with the execution and collection of the delinquent assessments by the methods described above.
Notwithstanding the information above, it is important to note that the automatic lien for delinquent assessments is extinguished unless proceedings to enforce the lien are commenced within three years after the assessments become payable. This means that the association must file a complaint within three years after the assessments become due. Associations should be careful to pursue the enforcement of the lien by filing a complaint before the expiration of the three year period so that the association's lien is not extinguished.