Based on the responses I’ve received from my recent blog entries and presentations on fines and suspensions of use rights, it’s clear that these topics are "hot issues" in resident owned communities throughout Florida.
Although the Florida Statutes governing condominium, cooperative and mandatory homeowners associations all recognize an association’s power to fine or suspend use rights of unit owners or parcel owners (or their tenants or guests), I’d suggest ROCs consider the costs and benefits of instituting these procedures. Board members in community associations should weigh numerous factors when considering whether to use fines and suspensions, including the following:
Do the association’s members want to give any of their neighbors the power to fine them or suspend their rights to use the common facilities? I’ve been in several communities where the membership has clearly and convincingly expressed the concern that a member may be fined solely because of a grudge or other "agenda" of one of his or her neighbors that happens to serve on that fining or suspension committee. Regardless of the type of safeguards that an association tries to build into its rules or policies governing the operation of that committee, many residents simply don’t want to give any of their neighbors the power to assess fines against them that may reach $1000.
And what about the homeowners in a resident owned manufactured housing cooperative or condominium that are not shareholders in the cooperative or condominium association? Those homeowners are not "unit owners" under Chapter 718 or 719 of the Florida Statutes and are thus not governed by the fining and suspension provisions of those Chapters. Their responsibilities are governed by Chapter 723 of the Florida Statutes and the rental prospectus. It’s doubtful that many rental prospectuses allow the park owner (in this case, the cooperative or condominium association) to fine a non-shareholder homeowner or suspend his or her use rights–and even more doubtful that any such provision in a rental prospectus would be deemed legal and enforceable under current Florida law. How does an association’s board of directors justify a situation where the non-shareholders (who are not subject to fines or suspension of use rights) are treated more favorably than the shareholders? I can certainly see that situation creating a great deal of controversy and making it more difficult for the association to market and sell membership shares in the cooperative, or units in the condominium, to prospective purchasers.
Those are just two points to consider when deciding if a community should institute or maintain a fining and/or suspension procedure.
Remember–just because a community is allowed to have a fining and suspension committee doesn’t mean that the community must have one.
Finally, for those long time followers that recall my entries on the "music police," here’s a link to a story that appeared this week in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on a federal lawsuit filed by our friends at Broadcast Music Inc. against a tavern in the Manatee county community of Ellenton.
And on that cheery note, my best wishes to everyone for a very happy and healthy holiday season!