Planned communities are extremely popular in Florida, which means many of the Sunshine State’s residents must abide by the covenants, conditions and restrictions of a homeowners association. These rules are designed to protect property values and maintain certain standards, and they often place restrictions on things like the colors property owners can paint their homes and the kind of vehicles they can have in their driveways. Many HOAs also have language in their governing documents that state property owners are responsible to pay for repairs when they or their guests damage community property like clubhouses, swimming pools or fitness centers.
Demand for payment
While these rules may be clear, enforcing them is another matter. When community property is damaged and the individual or individuals responsible can be identified, the first step HOAs usually take is imposing a special reimbursement assessment on the property owner involved to recoup the cost of repairs. Things get more complicated when the property owner refuses to pay. If property owners deny responsibility, claim that they had no control over their guests or question the amount being charged, HOAs have three basic options. They can drop the matter and absorb the repair costs, seek to resolve the matter through mediation, or take legal action against the property owner.
When HOAs refuse to back down and efforts to resolve the matter amicably are unsuccessful, taking the property owner to court may be the only option left on the table. However, while the HOA law in this area may be unambiguous, establishing proof by the preponderance of the evidence could be difficult. There are also court costs and attorney fees to consider. If the damage is minor and inexpensive to repair, filing a lawsuit may not make financial sense.
Avoiding HOA disputes
Attorneys with experience in this area could help HOAs to avoid these issues by ensuring that their community documents make the responsibilities of property owners clear. Attorneys could also suggest HOAs take steps to prevent contentious disputes over repair costs by providing property owners with documents explaining how the money will be spent.