Florida Condominium Law: What are the Legal Requirements Associated with Fines Imposed by Condominium Associations or Homeowner Associations

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Florida Condominium Law: What are the Legal Requirements Associated with Fines Imposed by Condominium Associations or Homeowner Associations

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One of the significant benefits of living in a Florida condominium or deed-restricted community is the ability of the association to adopt and enforce community standards in order to maintain property values and avoid the problems associated with neighbors who allow their homes to fall into disrepair or fail to abide by the rules creating a nuisance for the entire neighborhood, as identified by Stevens & Goldwyn, Fort Lauderdale real estate attorneys and homeowner association lawyers.

When a violation is observed, in most instances a friendly letter from the association, typically from the community association manager, resolves the matter, but not always. In some cases, the association must take further action to resolve the violation in order to comply with the association’s rules enforcement policy, and to uphold community standards and condominium bylaws. Some remedies include assessing fines, suspending member privileges and commencing legal action against the homeowner to enforce the governing documents. The following are the requirements under Florida law to asses a fine.

The first step is for the board to adopt a policy determining which violations will trigger a warning letter and which violations upon initial discovery, or in the event the warning letter is ineffective, will trigger the assessment of a fine. The best practice is for the policy to be explicit and detailed as to which violations are actionable.

In some communities the board may wish to adopt a policy of issuing an information-only courtesy letter prior to the issuance of a formal warning letter. For example, in the first instance of a violation of any sort by an owner, the board may direct that the manager simply sends a letter advising the homeowner of the noticed violation, provide the homeowner of the noticed violation, provide the homeowner with a copy of the applicable governing documents and offer guidance to the homeowner on how to bring the property into compliance. Some communities have found this friendlier first step with not even a threat of a fine to be more appropriate with an escalation if the educational approach proves unsuccessful.

The policy, once adopted, becomes the guide to the manager. Thereafter, when the manager observes a violation, they should prepare and deliver a courtesy “information only” letter, warning letter, or notice of fine assessment in accordance with the adopted policy, the matter should be brought to the board’s attention for clarification and instruction.
Once a notice of fine is issued by the manager due to a violation, the fine is considered to be “assessed” by the association. It does not matter if the notice of fine is issued as an initial response or after prior warnings have been ignored. At this point the specific requirements allowing an association to fine members under Florida law and if applicable, under the governing documents are implicated.

About: Stevens & Goldwyn are homeowner’s association lawyers and that specialize in homeowner law for condo and housing associations across South Florida. Real estate lawyers and property lawyers are highly effective in navigating complex association matters; association directors, members, and managers who believe they may have evidence of HOA violations under this new law should consult closely with highly experienced association legal counsel in order to determine their next steps.

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since: 02/2017
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