Can HOAs And Condo Boards Impose Special Assessments Or Fees?
An HOA or a condominium board can impose special assessments on the property. It has to be in accordance with the Florida statutes, and the governing documents of the association. There are special rules that are in place for imposing special assessments. A special assessment is usually imposed when an unexpected or unbudgeted expense hits the association, or it could be unbudgeted, or under budgeted. A good example is having roofs replaced. We have hurricanes in Florida, sometimes roofs need to be replaced, and special assessments are imposed for those issues. One note is that special assessments can be avoided by having reserve accounts.
Reserve accounts are required in condominium associations in Florida, but they are not required for homeowners associations. However, there are rules in place that if a homeowners association chooses to have reserve accounts they have to follow special rules, but it is not required. That is when special assessments kick in when there are no reserves, or the reserves are not adequate to take care of an unexpected expense.
How Can HOAs or Condo Boards Enforce Rules When Homeowners Fail To Comply?
The association can institute fines, and they can suspend the use rights of owners, but there are statutory requirements that are expected, such as having a finding board in place, where they have to hear the facts, and the owner gets to present their defense before a fine is imposed. If the owner refuses to comply after there has been a fine issued, or a suspension of use rights, the association can file suit in court to obtain an order, which would mandate compliance with the governing documents.
When Should An HOA or A Condo Board Take Legal Action Against A Delinquent Unit Owner?
It depends on the association, and the particular board members that are running the association, but the association tries to work out matters with the homeowners before referring this issue to an attorney. Sometimes, the board directs this, or through a property management company the board has hired. Sometimes, this resolves the problem, and there is a discussion between the property manager, the owner, or the members and the owner, other times it will not work and that is when an attorney needs to be retained.
The attorney’s work can help with payment plans with the owners who are delinquent. Many times, attorneys can work those deals out before you ever get to court, but if those things do not work out then it might lead to litigation.
Is There Ever A Valid Reason For The Homeowner To Withhold The Assessments Or Dues Imposed By The HOA or The Condo Boards?
No, the law is clear that a homeowner or a condominium owner cannot withhold payment of assessments, even if they feel that the board is violating some type of rule regarding maintenance or enforcement rights. It is a little different from proprietor tenant law, where there are certain instances that you can withhold rent, because the property owner is refusing to fulfil an obligation. The case law in Florida is clear that assessments are due, and it is not a defense for a unit owner to allege that the association is not maintaining the common areas, or has violated a rule, that is why the owner is justified in withholding assessments. The homeowner or the condominium owner is responsible for the assessment, even if they have some other claim against the association, and that claim may be valid, but they still owe the assessments.
Is There Any Recourse If The HOA or The Condo Boards Increase Assessments Drastically?
Boards have great discretion in setting assessment amounts. Usually a board will send out prospective budgets before the boards approve those budgets, and that gives an owner the right to comment on, or object to the prospective budget, which would include the assessments. Usually this prevents unnecessary and arbitrary increases, especially if you are talking about unexpectedly large increases. Therefore, when you are used to paying a certain amount, and all of a sudden, the amounts increase greatly, there usually is going to be the board approves some pushback before the budget. So, that tends to keep boards from increasing or hiking up the assessments from one year to another in a large manner. The owner could possibly file suit if the amount that a board approves is so unreasonably high, that a court would likely find that the increase was not justifiable within the board’s discretion, but again, the boards have large discretion in the amounts they can impose.
For more information on Special Assessments Or Fees In Florida, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (772) 242-3600 today.
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