Hello Cindy and thanks for your posting.
All HOAs in all states have the authority and power to, ultimately, foreclose on the property for unpaid assessments. The rights to foreclose come from the CC&Rs and are recorded restrictions against the home and the owner of the property.
In general, however, how fast or slow the Association may move on foreclosing depends on the laws in the prevailing states. There are several different types of laws in the US, but typically the Uniform Condominium Act (UCA) or the Uniform Condominium Owners Act (UCOA) or some form of these bodies of laws exist in most of the states in the US. Only Florida, California and New York have laws that are completely dissimilar from these commonly accepted laws governing Common Interest Developments or HOAs.
Under most circumstances, the Homeowners Association must first file a lien against the homeowner for failure to pay and the time when that occurs varies from state to state, then the lien is enforced by a judicial action that results in foreclosure. Some states allow homeowners associations to file foreclosure without a court hearing, called a 'non-judicial" foreclosure, which is similar to the powers that can be exercised by a lender. Bankruptcy and foreclosure are the only two actions that the homeowner or the lender may take that forestalls the HOA's ability to foreclose. And in most cases, a foreclosure by the lender will completely "wipe out" the lien and the delinquency of the homeowner against the foreclosing lender, but NOT against the homeowner. In some states--New York, for example--homeowners associations have the power of "super" lien rights, which holds the lender or the person who buys the foreclosed home with an assessment lien responsible for the delinquent assessments.
In my entire 27 years of managing homeowners associations, only one time did the HOA get the property. In most cases, the lender holding the first swoops in and starts their own foreclosure action that trumps and wipes out the little HOA. This can be devastating for an HOA and, in the past, the homeowners associations often did little to collect the fees from the exiting homeowner. Nowadays, with increasing delinquencies, HOAs are actively finding and enforcing their liens through garnishment of the previous owner's wages or attachment and sale of personal property. So, even if the owner is having a hard time paying the assessment, it often behooves them to work out a payment plan or a reduced payment to satisfy the judgment.
Hope this helps!
Grace Morioka, SRES, CID/HOA Expert and Forward Planner
Area Pro Realty
San Jose, CA
co-Author: Homeowners Associations: A Guide to Leadership and Participation