Florida community associations are always seeking to implement the most cost-effective options at their disposal to collect unpaid dues and compel unit owners/residents to comply with their rules and restrictions. Condominium associations used to have very few practical remedies at their disposal to address delinquencies and violations. They could file lawsuits or arbitration actions, but the costs of pursuing these cases can be a significant expense, and the imposition of fines requires the use of a fining committee and can be difficult to collect.
As a result of legislative changes to the state’s Condominium Act a number of years ago, associations are now able to suspend the rights of an owner, tenant or guest to use common elements and facilities if the owner of the unit is delinquent more than 90 days in paying a monetary obligation to the association. Condominium associations may also suspend, for a reasonable period of time, the right of an owner and/or resident to use common elements and amenities for the failure to comply with any provisions of the association’s declaration, bylaws or rules.
As with the imposition of fines, suspensions for rule and covenant violations may only be imposed if the association provides the owner/resident with at least 14 days advance written notice of the committee hearing. The committee must be composed of other unit owners who are neither board members nor persons residing in a board member’s household, and suspensions may not be imposed without the majority consent of the committee.
The effectiveness of these suspensions depends on whether communities have the types of amenities that would be sorely missed by residents, such as pools, tennis courts and fitness centers, and if they have the on-site personnel and monitoring capabilities that would be required to enforce the bans. Monitoring and enforcement of the bans against these residents will typically require concerted efforts by on-site staff as well as association directors and members.
The suspension of use rights against delinquent or unruly owners and residents can present its challenges, but it may also serve as one of the most effective collections and enforcement tools for associations. Board members and property managers should work closely with highly experienced legal counsel to discuss and develop their strategies regarding covenant and rule enforcement.