Community Association Remedies for Rule Violations
Owners of properties within Florida’s community associations are subject to and bound by that association’s governing documents, which include the declaration, bylaws, articles of incorporation, rules and regulations, and any architectural guidelines. An association’s rules and regulations also apply to tenants who occupy a unit or parcel. When residents violate the governing documents, community associations have certain remedies available to them under the Florida Condominium Act and the Homeowners Association Act.
Specifically, Section 718.303, Florida Statutes (for condominiums) and Section 720.305, Florida Statutes (for HOAs) provide remedies for associations and the procedures that must be followed to enforce those remedies. This blog post provides an overview of the statutory remedies available to community associations, along with the statutory procedures that associations must follow to ensure they do not violate the Florida Statues while attempting to enforce their rules and regulations.
Community associations can bring legal action for damages and injunctive relief for failure of a resident to comply with the Florida Statutes and/or the association’s governing documents. Once a violation has occurred, associations may also levy fines against the owner and tenant. An owner can also be fined if his or her guests, tenants, or invitees are responsible for a violation. If violations continue over multiple days, associations can levy a fine based on each day of the continuing violation with a single notice and opportunity for a hearing before a committee.
For condominium associations, fines may not exceed $100 per violation per day, or a maximum of $1,000 for continuing violations, and fines may not become a lien against the unit. For HOAs, fines may not exceed $100 per violation per day and fines cannot exceed $1,000 for continuing violations unless a higher total fine amount is specifically provided in the HOA’s governing documents. For HOA’s fines of less than $1,000 may not become a lien against the parcel.
As another available remedy, associations may suspend, for a reasonable period of time, an owner and/or tenant’s right to use the common element amenities due to violations of the association’s governing documents. This remedy does have its limits. The suspension must be reasonable considering the violation. For example, for minor violations maybe a two week or one month suspension is reasonable. For more egregious or repeating violations, longer suspensions may be reasonable. For certain violations, it may be reasonable to leave the suspension in place until the violation is cured. An association cannot suspend use rights to the limited common elements used by a unit, common elements needed to access the unit / parcel, utility services to the unit / parcel, parking spaces or elevators. A few examples of common element amenities where access can be suspended include the gym, the pool, tennis courts and the clubhouse.
Associations need to be aware of the statutory procedures that must be followed prior to issuing fines and/or suspensions. To illustrate, associations must first provide at least 14 days’ written notice of the violation to the owner and/or tenant. The association must also provide the owner and/or tenant with the opportunity for a hearing before a committee. The committee, often referred to as the covenant enforcement committee, must contain at least three members appointed by the board who are not board members nor persons residing in a board member’s household. The committee must be completely independent from the board. At the hearing with the owner / tenant, the committee must approve of the fine or suspension or else it cannot be imposed against the person. If an association cannot form a covenant enforcement committee due to lack of volunteers, then it cannot impose fines or suspensions.
If an owner is more than 90-days delinquent in paying any monetary obligation owed to an association, such as an assessment or fine, the association may suspend the use rights of that owner, or the tenant, until that monetary obligation is paid in full. A condo association may also suspend the voting rights of a unit owner due to the nonpayment of any monetary obligation over $1,000 that is owed to the association and that is more than 90-days past-due. HOAs can suspend the voting rights of an owner due to the nonpayment of any monetary obligation that is more than 90-days past-due regardless of the amount. An owner whose voting rights are suspended cannot be counted towards establishing a quorum either. The notice and hearing requirements, as previously mentioned, do not apply to suspensions imposed on owners who are more than 90-days past-due on monetary obligations. However, such suspensions must be approved by the board at a properly noticed board meeting and, upon approval, the association must notify the owner of the suspension by either mail or hand delivery.