Q: There is a unit owner in our condominium who continues to harass board members, both in and out of meetings. He also continues to demand the right to see association documents and records that are not open for inspection to members under Chapter 718. We have sent him letters from our attorney and imposed fines, but nothing seems to work and he continues to disrupt the community. Are you aware of any other measures we can take?
A: Your community is taking a common approach, but every so often there is an owner who continues to cross the line and more aggressive action is needed. For owners who refuse to pay a fine, the fine can be successfully collected in small claims court which is a relatively inexpensive process. Any judgment in favor of the association will likely include an award of attorney’s fees. If the association has followed the proper fining procedure outlined in its bylaws and Florida statutes, county judges will generally uphold the fine. The judgment can be enforced against the owner’s assets, which can include a garnishment against bank accounts and wages. Another solution is a change to the association’s bylaws known as a “nuisance amendment”. At your next membership meeting, the Board can ask the members to approve a new provision in the bylaws requiring a “nuisance” or harassing owner to pay the association’s legal fees incurred to correct the improper conduct. If the owner refused to pay, the legal expenses would become an assessment against that owner’s unit and secured by a lien if proper language was drafted. The association would then have the ability to foreclose on a lien, which will really give the association the upper hand against unruly owners.