Collecting Delinquent Association Dues
Who Can Sign the Warrant in Debt for a Home Owners Association?
In our previous blog post (Jan 9, 2012) we commented on the relative pros and cons of proceeding with a warrant in debt versus an HOA lien for delinquent dues or assessments.
If an association decides to file for a warrant in debt, it is important to start off on the right foot. In particular, a warrant in debt is considered a “pleading”, a legal document that as a general rule has to be signed by an attorney licensed to practice law in Virginia. The major exception to that rule is that a party representing himself/herself, may sign a pleading himself/herself — in legal parlance, this is referred to as a party appearing pro se, which means “in his own behalf”.
What about associations that are almost always corporations? Can they appear pro se?
Virginia Code section 8.01-271.1 provides that a corporation officer, such as the president, vice president, secretary or treasurer may sign and file a warrant in debt. It also permits a regular employee, when authorized in writing by a corporate officer, who has been authorized by the board of directors, to sign and file a warrant in debt. If permitted by the HOAs articles of incorporation or bylaws, a corporation may appoint somebody as an assistant treasurer and assistant secretary of the corporation for purposes of handling collection of delinquent dues and assessments.
If a person without authority signs a warrant, the error cannot be corrected after the warrant has been filed with the clerk. Some recent Supreme Court cases have held that statutes which permit steps to be taken after the fact to relate back to the original filing of the initial pleading, do not apply to situations when the pleading was signed by an unauthorized person.
In all situations it is important to get started on the right foot. When filing warrants in debt, it is more than a good thing, it is a legal imperative.