Question: I live in a homeowners’ association and the declaration of covenants provides that trash cans may not be put at the curb until 7PM the night before trash pickup. I am new to the community and was not aware of this provision and put my trash cans out at 5PM. About a week later I received a notice that the board had levied a fine of $200 against me and that the fining committee would be meeting to consider whether to confirm or reject the fine. I thought that a fine could not exceed $100 per violation. Is the $200 fine levied against me legal? S.H. (via e mail)
Answer: It could be. It will depend on the association’s governing documents.
While your ignorance of the recorded covenants is not a legal defense, I must say you’re your association’s fining practices seem overly aggressive, bordering on overreaching. While not required by law, most associations provide a warning letter as a means of seeking compliance with the governing documents before resorting to fines, especially for minor violations such as this.
Until very recently, both the Florida Condominium Act (Chapter 718, Florida Statutes) and the Florida Homeowners’ Association Act (Chapter 720, Florida Statutes) provided that a fine could not exceed $100 per violation. Chapter 720, Florida Statutes was amended, effective July 1, 2015, to provide that the maximum per day fine can exceed $100 per violation if a higher amount is set forth in the association’s governing documents.
There is a similar dichotomy between the condominium and the HOA statutes as to the maximum fine that can be imposed for a “continuing” violation. For condominiums, Chapter 718 provides that a fine for a continuing violation is capped at $1,000. However, Chapter 720 provides that a fine for a continuing violation may exceed $1,000 provided that a higher maximum amount is specified in the governing documents.
If the governing documents for your community allow fines of $200, and the fine is properly imposed, it is legal, but it doesn’t sound fair.
Written by Joseph Adams
Originally posted at Florida Condo & HOA Law Blog