By Kenneth R. Harney
September 23, 2012WASHINGTON ― Here’s some encouraging news for condominium unit owners, sellers and buyers: The biggest source of funding for low-down-payment condo mortgages, the Federal Housing Administration, has revamped controversial rules that caused thousands of buildings across the country to lose their eligibility for FHA financing.
The revised guidelines, which were issued Sept. 13 and took effect immediately, should make it easier for large numbers of homeowner associations to seek certification by the FHA. The certification process is intended to provide the FHA, a government-run mortgage insurance agency, with key information about a development’s legal, physical and financial status. Without approval of an entire development ― regardless of whether it’s a small complex in the suburbs or a massive high-rise in the center city ― no individual unit can be financed or refinanced with an FHA mortgage.
One of the most significant changes the FHA made involves personal legal liability for condo association boards and officers. The previous rules required officers to attest that they had “no knowledge of circumstances or conditions that might have an adverse effect on the project or cause a mortgage secured by a unit” to become delinquent, of “dissatisfaction among unit owners about the operation of the project or owners association” or of “disputes concerning unit owners.” The penalty for officers who “knowingly” and “willfully” submitted information to the FHA that was found to be false: fines of up to $1 million and 30 years in prison.
Although the previous rules focused on entire buildings, individual unit owners seeking to sell often have taken the brunt. The Community Associations Institute, the condo industry’s largest trade group, welcomed the relaxation of the FHA rules, predicting that “this will spark home sales and help tens of thousands of condominium communities begin to recover from the housing slump.”
Not surprisingly, many board officers declined to take on what they interpreted as lifetime legal responsibility for such details as whether the condominium fully complied with state and local environmental and real estate requirements. Although the FHA insisted that the associations were overreacting, the new certifications contain much less scary language. The penalties for intentional frauds against the government remain the same, however.
Among other key rule changes:
Source: L.A. Times
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