The Legalities of Association Fines

I’ve seen associations that do not comply with the law that empowers them to “fine” owners. So here are some of the legalities of association fines in Florida:
1). Was the fine imposed by the President, the Board, the Manager, or the violations committee? The Board must levy the fine and the committee must either approve or reject it.
2) Was a fine included as part of a lien on your property? If so, did you know:
a) condos cannot fine more than $1,000 in the aggregate, while home owner associations (HOAs) can fine more than $1,000 in the aggregate only if that authority is specified in the governing documents, and
b) condos cannot include a fine in any amount in a lien, while HOAs can include a fine in a lien but only if the amount is $1,000.00 or more, and
c) to evade the law, some associations will call a fine “an individual assessment” and then include it in their lien, but a fine is still a fine, no matter what name they give it. A lien containing a fine that can’t be part of a lien is an illegal lien and unenforceable.

Other procedural requirements apply to the Association.  If you have any questions, be sure to consult with an experienced attorney.

January 23, 2017.

PS.  An important court decision in May 2017 concluded a notice of the hearing sent to the owner 13 days before the hearing when the law requires “at least 14 days” notice rendered the entire hearing and fine illegal.

Effective July 1, 2018, condominium and homeowner associations have new guidance on how to impose a fine or suspend the right to use common property. Unfortunately, the law is still not clear in all respects.

Initially, the Board may “levy” a fine or propose a suspension of use rights but at this point, it is really only a proposed fine or suspension.  A written notice of the proposed fine or suspension must be sent to the owner (and tenant or other invitee, if applicable) at least 14 days before the Violations Committee hearing.  The committee can only confirm or reject the fine or suspension; it cannot approve a different fine or suspension. If a majority of the committee does not approve the fine or suspension, it does not become effective.  But if a majority does approve a fine, the fine is “imposed” and the statute says payment is due 5 days after the meeting.  A written notice of the decision must be sent to the owner (and tenant or other invitee, if applicable).  Since some owners do not attend the hearing and the notice may not even be received for 5 or more days after the meeting (even if it is mailed the day after), the payment due date has already been identified as a provision that needs to be changed in the next session of the Legislature.

This is only a summary of the statute.  As always, I urge you to consult with experienced association counsel about this important process.