If your community association is served with a complaint or subpoena, you must promptly forward it to the community association’s legal counsel. As explained in this article, receipt of a complaint or subpoena triggers time sensitive legal obligations that can expose your community association to serious liability.

With respect to complaints, Florida Courts generally deem their filing the start of litigation. Depending on what rules apply to the complaint in question, your community association may only have 20 days to prepare and serve a response or an answer to the complaint. Moreover, if your community association fails to timely serve a response or answer to a complaint, it may have a “default” entered against it in the related court case. A default not only severely limits the ability of the community association to defend itself in court, but it also empowers a court to rule that all well-pled factual allegations have been “admitted” by the community association.

In most instances, you will turn over the complaint to your insurance agent, asking him or her to immediately forward to all your insurance carriers for evaluation and providing of insurance defense counsel and coverage in accordance with your insurance documents.  Failing to provide timely notice to your insurance carriers of a claim or lawsuit may result in denial of coverage, regarding of your insurance policy, for failure to inform the carrier of a claim in a timely manner. 

Moreover, even when insurance counsel is assigned, you may need your association counsel to file a motion for extension of time to respond to the complaint, if your carriers or their assigned defense counsel are slow in responding to the complaint or filing a response.  You should work closely with you association counsel to make sure all required responses are timely filed or extensions requested.

In the event your community association was only served with a subpoena, you still must act quickly, as service of a subpoena also triggers multiple deadlines and obligations. For example, some subpoenas may not only require your community association to prepare and serve an objection within a few days, but it may also require the community association to prepare to attend a hearing to resolve that objection. If no objection is served, a subpoena may require the community association to produce certain materials or an employee for examination by a certain deadline. Some subpoenas may even require the community association to designate a corporate representative and prepare them for an examination as to certain topics, wherein their testimony is considered binding on the community association.  If your community association fails to timely object or adhere to a subpoena, it may result in a waiver of rights or objections. And, in some cases, failure to timely object or adhere to a subpoena may even result in a court order finding your community association in contempt of court and requiring the community association to pay attorneys’ fees and costs to the party that issued the subpoena.

Ultimately, while complaints and subpoenas can vary in content and form, they all generally require quick and calculated action. Accordingly, you should always consult your legal counsel with respect to a complaint or subpoena as soon as possible so as to ensure compliance with Florida law and that your community association’s interest are well served.


Nico Jimenez

Attorney at Law, Becker
Miami | bio