Homeowner and Condominium Law
HOA and Condominium associations and their boards are faced with the often-thankless job of ensuring the association’s purposes and bylaws are carried out, that homeowners uphold their contractual obligations, and that the new owners are fully informed of and agree to the responsibilities of ownership. Problems can arise when the board is uncertain of its legal rights and responsibilities, when condo owners refuse to make on-time payments, or when new residents are provided with a contract that is not clear and agreeable with both the association and the new owner.
An experienced homeowner and condominium law lawyer can provide boards with assistance at every critical juncture: from drafting contracts for new owners that clearly spell out rights and responsibilities to taking legal action against delinquent owners, or when the board is uncertain if it is able to take certain actions.
Avoiding Future Problems Through Careful Contract Drafting
As a homeowner or condominium association, you want to be welcoming to new owners and encourage your community to be full of residents. At the same time, however, you want to ensure that those new owners understand what is expected of them as members of the community. Unspoken expectations that go unmet can lead to future hostile arguments and expensive litigation. Many of these disputes can be avoided entirely through the careful drafting of the contract new owners must sign.
Experienced condominium law attorneys know the issues that associations and boards frequently face: owners who want to modify their property in ways that would negatively affect neighboring property values, owners who default on their payments, or those owners who balk when dues must be raised are just a few of the problems association boards must contend with. By drafting contracts that are both thorough and easy-to-understand, associations ensure that new owners will understand their rights and responsibilities as new owners. By ensuring new owners understand and sign well-drafted contracts, the chances of prolonged, expensive litigation is greatly reduced.
Where a contract provision no longer serves the needs of the association, careful drafting of amendments to these contracts is necessary to ensure the contract continues to serve the best interests of the association.
Into the Future: What a Board Can and Cannot Do
The board of homeowners and condominium associations are tasked with ensuring the bylaws and governing documents of the association are carried out and enforced. Sometimes the action a board must take is clear and unambiguous: the board must collect a delinquent payment, or it must take action when mold is discovered in a unit. Other times the path forward is not so certain: should the board raise dues to pay for expensive community repairs? Can the board take action on a subject matter that is not found in the association’s bylaws?
These are important questions and concerns that should be answered by a knowledgeable association law attorney. A board that acts outside the scope of authority granted to it by the association bylaws and governing documents is inviting potential lawsuits from disgruntled owners. Even where the question is not whether the board can act but whether the board should act, the advice of experienced counsel can help the board thoroughly evaluate the various options and confidently decide on a course of action.
In the event a board is faced with a legal challenge, an association attorney should be able to represent the board in court and defend its actions, so long as those actions taken were within the board’s legal right to take.
Enforcement of Obligations: Collections and Liens
Some owners may elect to stop paying their scheduled assessments or may default on their mortgage altogether. When this occurs, all of the owners of an association are affected. Regardless of the reason for the missed payment, the costs of maintaining the common elements of the condominium complex are spread amongst the paying members, resulting in higher assessments. This, in turn, can create a never-ending cycle of increased assessments followed by defaults or missed payments.
It is therefore vital that association boards retain experienced and aggressive counsel to assist them when payments go unmade. An HOA/condo law lawyer will be familiar with the legal process for collecting the outstanding debt, including taking the debtor to court if necessary. The lawyer will also know what enforcement actions can be taken to ensure the amount owed is actually paid, such as placing a lien on the delinquent owner’s assets or garnishing wages.
Contact a Florida Homeowners and Condominium Law Attorney Today
At Spink, Shrouder, and Karns, P.A., we have represented associations and boards caught in a variety of predicaments. Whether the board needed its contracts reviewed and updated or the association was facing a lawsuit brought by a disgruntled owner, our knowledge and experience has ensured our clients receive the best possible outcome. When you have a association-related question, contact our office today at (954) 329-0001 for a free initial consultation.