In the proverbial “tool belt” of enforcement options available to an association for violations of the rules and regulations, the imposition of fines and suspensions is one that we frequently get questions about due to the procedures that must be followed. If the process is not followed properly, it may result in invalidation of the fine or suspension, and can also result in potential legal exposure to the association.
Whether you live in a condominium, cooperative, or homeowners’ association, owners and their guests, tenants and invitees are bound by the association’s governing documents, which may include the declaration, articles of incorporation, bylaws and rules and regulations. When owners or their guests, tenants or invitees violate the governing documents, associations have certain remedies available to it under Florida law. In many circumstances, a friendly letter from the community association manager is sufficient to resolve the matter. In other circumstances, a more formal “notice of violation” will bring an end to continuing violations. However, in some instances further action is required to enforce a violation.
Florida law for condominiums, cooperatives, and homeowners associations authorizes an association to assess fines and to levy suspensions to enforce the governing documents of a community. All three types of associations (condominiums, cooperatives, and homeowners associations) have the ability to impose reasonable fines, or to suspend for a reasonable period of time, the right to use common elements, facilities or association property for failure to comply with provisions of the declaration, the bylaws, or rules and regulations of the association.
Sections 718.303 (for condominiums), 719.303 (for cooperatives) and 720.305 (for homeowners’ associations) provide fining and suspension as a remedies available to the association, and also provides the procedures that the association must follow to enforce such remedies.
Generally, the board must appoint an independent committee (often called the fining committee or compliance committee). The committee cannot be comprised of officers, directors, or employees of the association, or the spouse, parent, child, brother, or sister of an officer, director, or employee. If a violation is to be considered for a fine or suspension, the board meets at a duly-noticed meeting, reviews the matter, and “levies” a fine or suspension, if deemed appropriate. After the board levies the fine or issues a suspension, the person to be fined is then entitled to a hearing before the committee. Notice must be received at least 14 days in advance of the hearing. If the association does not hear from the party to be fined or suspended, or the individual does not actually appear at the hearing, the hearing should still be held. At the hearing, the committee must afford basic due process and allow the accused to be heard, state their case, and challenge evidence against them. The committee must then either “confirm” or “reject” the fine or suspension. If the committee rejects the fine or suspension, the matter is over. If the committee confirms the fine or suspension, the board then “imposes” it. After the board has imposed the fine or suspension, a letter should be sent advising of the amount of the fine and the date due. With regards to a suspension, a letter should be sent advising the length of the suspension.