There is a rule for banks where they can negotiate the past HOA fees to pay for the last 12 months only. Perhaps it only applies if the bank was the holder of the original mortgage, but i don't know the specific details. Contact a "Real Estate Attorney" and enquire if that rule can apply to your case. You can find a RE Attorney by contacting your local assocition and asking for a list of affiliate attorneys.
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Charles Rutenberg Realty
To answer your question, yes you are obligated to pay it. As Danielle suggested, try to negotiate it down - many Associations will do so. However, not all will. On top of that, there is less incentive to negotiate with you because you are a new buyer and clearly not in distress like the previous owner. Good luck!
Keller Williams Realty Professionals