Homeowner & Condominium Association Dispute
Florida is home to over 14,000 homeowners’ associations (HOAs) comprising more than 2.7 million units. And when it comes to condominium associations (COAs), you’ll find nearly 13,000 condo projects covering more than three million units in just the south Florida counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe alone.
At their best, HOAs and COAs uphold property values and a high standard of living by setting standards and enforcing them, through litigation if necessary. At the same time, associations also receive their fair share of criticism for being overly strict in the rules they create and their manner of enforcement. Dealing with HOA and COA disputes requires a thorough working knowledge of Florida Statutes (Chapters 718 and 720) as well as a great deal of experience interpreting commercial contracts and complex legal documents. In many disputes, understanding the language in the association’s governing documents is every bit as important as knowing the laws that apply to HOAs and COAs.
Attorney Joshua R. Alhalel of Alhalel Law handles a wide range of business, commercial and general civil litigation and possesses a wealth of experience resolving complex disputes through negotiated settlements, litigation, trials and appeals.
Below are some of the main areas of dispute that arise in HOAs and COAs that can lead to litigation if not otherwise resolved.
Enforcement of Association Rules
Policies, rules and procedures of HOAs and COAs are typically initially put forth by the property developer in the form of a declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs). These CC&Rs are likewise typically revised or replaced by the association’s board of directors at the point where the development shifts from developer to owner control. CC&Rs are likely to contain many use restrictions that bind members at the time they buy property in the community. These may include deed restrictions, age restrictions, pet restrictions, roof type restrictions, fence height and fence type restrictions, requirements for lawn care, exterior paint color restrictions, street parking or overnight parking rules, rules regarding the placement of garbage cans, and satellite dishes, and everything from basketball hoops in the driveway to swing sets in the backyard.
The HOA’s chief means of rule enforcement is the imposition of fines, which might or might not be preceded by a warning letter and might or might not include a bill for expenses assumed by the association to correct the violation. Fines that mount up or go unpaid could lead to a lien on the property and eventual foreclosure by the association. Alhalel Law works with parties to resolve association rule enforcement issues efficiently and effectively without going to court whenever possible.
Collection of Delinquent Assessments
Community associations run off of the monthly dues they collect from unit owners. These dues go to essential services like sanitation/trash pickup, landscaping, utilities, and maintenance and upkeep of community facilities like swimming pools and activity centers. Assessment collection is vital to community upkeep and to maintain the property values for every association member.
In addition to monthly dues, members sometimes get charged special assessments to cover emergency repairs due to hurricanes or deferred maintenance. The HOA/COA reserve fund should cover these costs, but it’s not uncommon for members to waive annual assessments for the reserve fund to avoid having to pay annually, and then they later resent it when they get hit with a huge special assessment to cover large expenses.
Whether due to inability or unwillingness to pay, the collection of delinquent assessments is vital to the association. Issuing fines and late fees might help in some situations but might only worsen the problem in others. Alhalel Law can help with legal tools from demand letters to lawsuits as well as eviction in certain cases.
Whether the association is levying fines to enforce association rules or trying to collect delinquent assessments, in both instances HOAs and COAs have the legal authority to place liens on units and parcels for unpaid fees. Once the lien is recorded, it encumbers the property so that the owner cannot sell without first paying off the lien. This provides a strong incentive for the property owner to pay the amount due.
HOAs and COAs don’t have to wait around for the property owner to pay the lien; the association can actively enforce the lien by foreclosing the property and selling it, using the proceeds to pay the amount they are owed.
Foreclosure is a judicial process where both parties can present arguments as to why the foreclosure should or should not happen. In some cases, the owner can make a qualifying offer to the association before the court enters judgment. If the association accepts the offer, the owner can pay the amount secured under the lien and avoid foreclosure.
Help With HOA and Condo Disputes in Miami
Alhalel Law represents HOAs and COAs, as well as homeowners and condo unit owners, in proceedings involving the enforcement of association rules, collection of delinquent assessments, lien foreclosures, and other matters related to homeowners’ associations and condominium associations. Call 305-563-9060 to discuss your needs with a knowledgeable and experienced Miami community association lawyer.