What you can do when good neighbors go gaudy
What happens when someone decides they want to put up gaudy decorations on their front lawn or decides to let the yard “go back to nature” rather than mow it and keep it in shape? What do you do when a house in the community has a van parked out front where they allow their friends to sleep? If you are part of an HOA, you can take action against these types of infractions of the HOA covenant. It's not a fun thing to do, but it can be necessary.
These covenants are in place for a reason. They provide a sense of stability and quality within the community, which is why all residents agree to follow these rules. When they don't, the HOA has no choice but to take action as unpleasant as it might be. The following are some of the options that HOAs have available at their disposal.
First, You Must Notify
When someone is in violation of the covenants, they may not even realize it, or there may be a reason behind the violation, which they can then explain and remedy. According to Florida law, there needs to be a letter mailed to the alleged violator that is properly addressed, identifies the alleged violation and the required fix, provides the time period for completion and warns of the consequences for non-compliance.
Imposing a Fine
If the individual does not comply with the requirements set forth in the covenant, the most common method of enforcement is imposing a fine. Associations have the ability to levy fines against the owner of the property, so long as they first meet the aforementioned notification requirements and that the fine is reasonable and not excessive. Of course, the amount of the fine can vary based on the type of infraction to the covenants. The amount is predetermined and should be the same for all members of the community that make the same violation.
Imposing a fine is an inexpensive and relatively quick way to get action, particularly when compared with other remedies. However, it is important to ensure that the cost of the fines is neither too high nor too low. If they are too high, people may not be able to pay, which would lead to further enforcement actions. If they are too low, people in the community will not take them seriously. There may be occasions, however, where any reasonable fine will not fix the underlying problem.
Put a Lien on the Property
What happens if you impose a fine, but the owner doesn't pay? How do you go about collecting the fines? Most of the time, owners will pay and they will remedy the problem as soon as they are able. However, that's not always the case. Sometimes, you may need to place a lien on the property. According to the HOA statute in Florida, it is possible for HOAs to convert a fee into a lien if the fine is greater than $1,000.
If there is no compliance, an HOA in Florida also has the opportunity to pursue action through the county court or the circuit court to enforce compliance with the violations, as well as to collect fines. The time involved with going to court is certainly greater, but it could be the best course of action depending on the circumstances of the HOA and the errant owner. It has the benefit of being highly effective against the owners because they do not want to have to spend time, and money, going to court.
These are the most viable options available when trying to enforce HOA covenants. HOAs that continue to have trouble with enforcement may want to contact a PeytonBolin attorney for assistance.