The firm’s latest Miami Herald “Real Estate Counselor” column appears in today’s edition of the newspaper and is authored by partner Eduardo J. Valdes. The article, which is titled “Appellate Ruling Shows Potential Pitfalls of Fining, Enforcement Missteps by Community Associations,” focuses on a recent case that highlights the significance of the reasonable checks on enforcement actions against unit owners prescribed under Florida law and associations’ own governing documents. Eduardo’s article reads:
. . . A recent ruling by Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal demonstrates the potential legal liabilities and costs for associations that fail to meet the mandated prerequisites for the imposition of fines as well as suspensions from community amenities or board seats.
The decision stemmed from a dispute between unit-owner Dale L. Gillis and the Jackson Shores Townhomes Association in Sebring, Fla. In early December of 2017, the day after conducting a site inspection of association property and finding violations on Gillis’s property, the property manager for the community sent a violation letter informing him that he owed a fine of $100 for the alleged violations. The letter also included an invoice for the $100 fine with instructions indicating payment was due by the end of the month.
Gillis responded by objecting to the fine, but eventually the association suspended his access to community amenities and removed him from the board of directors based on his refusal to pay. He filed suit against the association, but it prevailed after a non-jury trial.
Apparently undeterred, Gillis then filed for and was granted an appeal before the Second DCA. In the subsequent unanimous opinion, the appellate panel focuses on pertinent provisions of Florida law and the association’s own governing Declaration of Covenants.