Q. I am on the Board of Directors for a homeowner’s association which has some homes in bank foreclosure and the owner is not maintaining the property. The homeowner’s association wants to perform maintenance on the exterior of the home, including pressure washing the roof and driveway, and wants to maintain the lawn, including trimming the hedge and trees. The governing documents dictate that these are the responsibilities of the owner. Can the homeowner’s association undertake these tasks and more importantly can they charge the owner for the cost of the maintenance?
A. Abandoned, distressed, and unkempt properties within homeowner’s associations have been a source of growing concern throughout Southwest Florida. The answer to your question will be found in the association’s governing documents. Many association’s governing documents provide the association authority to exercise “self-help” measures, including performing maintenance on any unsightly homes so that the standards of the community are adequately maintained. If the governing documents allow the association to access the property and perform the maintenance, there is usually authority to also charge a special assessment to that property for the costs of the work. If the governing documents provide this authority, we advise that the association send the owner a letter stating the specific remedial actions the association intends to undertake, the date and time that they will be on the property to undertake those actions, and whether or not the cost of the same will be charged against the property. Prior to undertaking such action, we advise that the association seek legal counsel’s assistance to ensure that there is legal authority to proceed. Further, the association should also consider the occupancy status of the property as some residents could be confrontational if someone enters their property.