By Dania S. Fernandez, Esq. / Published December 2018
I’m a board member at a condominium association. There are members in the community who are constantly violating the rules and regulations. Management is frequently sending violation notices, which are continuously ignored. The violations are repeatedly made by the same residents. We are working so hard to make our community a better place to live and cannot seem to break this pattern of violations. Does the law require an association to send a friendly violation notice before fining the violator? What can we do?
No. Start fining and suspend voting rights and common area use. Let’s start with the basics by reviewing Florida Statute 718.303 (3), the applicable statute that regulates condominium associations when levying fines. An association has the right to levy a fine for the failure of the unit owner or its occupant, licensee, or invitee to comply with the declaration, bylaws, and/or reasonable rules and regulations of the association (herein called “governing documents”).
A fine or suspension by the board of directors may not be imposed unless the board provides at least a 14-day written notice to the unit owner and any occupant, licensee, or invitee of the owner sought to be fined or suspended. An opportunity for a hearing before a committee of at least three members must be provided. Here are 10 steps that can be set in motion in your community:
See below a sample policy:
ABC Condominium Violation Policy
A. Association/management identifies the violation.
B. Complete violation record.
C. Send notice of violation to owner/resident via hand delivery, US mail, or certified mail.
D. Notice must contain the following:
1. Description of the violation,
2. Authority in governing documents to cite the issue as a violation,
3. A picture (optional),
4. The required timeframe to correct the violation, and
5. Disclosure of his/her 14-day right to be heard before the fining/grievance committee.
6. Alert fining committee of the violation sent and schedule a hearing.
7. Complete the violation record.
8. Send notice of final decision to owner/resident.
9. If fine is approved, then include fine amount in the account ledger.
10. Send non-payment of fine, collection notice to owner.
11. If delinquent more than 90 days and more than $1,000, then suspend voting rights and common element use.
12. For non-payment beyond 30 days, send legal letter of non-payment followed by small claims lawsuit. Prevailing party is awarded attorney’s fees.
Is the association required to allow the violator 14 days to correct the violation?
No. The allocated time to correct the violation depends on the violation, your community’s governing documents, and the board of directors. The 14-day requirement, per Florida Statute 718.303, was written to provide the violator enough notice to prepare and schedule a hearing to be heard before the fining/grievance committee. This 14-day requirement is not a 14-day grace period to correct the violation. For example, a violator who leaves his/her trash bin outside must correct this violation immediately. Some governing documents may provide a 30-day period to correct depending on the violation, such as a fence repair or exterior painting. Other violations must be corrected immediately, such as misuse of a balcony, cars parked on common areas, pet restriction, etc.
The violator has been sent a violation notice, a hearing was held with the fining committee, and notice was provided to the owner. However, the violator seems to not care and continues in his ways. What do we do now?
Consult with your attorney first. Your next step will be to begin the process of suspension of rights. There is also a process to follow before suspending anyone’s rights. The applicable Florida Statute is 718.303 (4–5). See steps below:
Step 1: Make certain all steps to fining above were followed and documented.
Step 2: Determine if the fine is more than $1,000 and more than 90 days delinquent.
Step 3: Hold a board meeting for the approval of such suspension. Suspension must be an item on the agenda to be discussed and approved by the majority of the board of directors. Suspensions are not required to be heard by the fining/grievance committee.
Step 4: After approval, proof of monetary obligation must be provided to the unit owner or member 30 days before such suspension takes place. Document proof of notice and mailing.
Step 5: Suspension is effective 30 days after notice is provided.
Step 6: Suspension ends upon full payment of the delinquency.
Dania S. Fernandez, Esq.
Dania S. Fernandez & Associates P.A.
For more help on creating a master plan, call or email the Law Offices of Dania S. Fernandez & Associates P.A. Our firm is dedicated to educating and guiding clients in the areas of homeowners and condominium associations, real estate, and insurance claim law for associations. Call us today at (305)254-4492 or visit our website at www.daniafernandez.com.