Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What to Do If Your Condo Association is Harassing You

I recently answered a question on avvo.com from a unit owner being harassed by their condo association (COA) because they were wanting maintenance and repairs done which were the responsibility of the COA.  I thought I should share my answer here.  This will work for HOAs too except the part about noticing the COA of your intention to arbitrate.  Currently the Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) does not have jurisdiction over HOAs.  Hopefully that will change July 1, 2015 if we can get a bill passed.  

One other point to note, arbitration is expensive.  It's not as expensive as litigation, but it still takes money if you want to be represented by a lawyer.  I don't recommend arbitration without a lawyer and you will see why in my answer below, which is:

Unfortunately your situation is not unusual in Florida.  The associations have too much power to abuse and harass the owners.

First, document everything. Start gathering evidence.  You have a statutory right to inspect and/or copy the records of the association by submitting a certified letter, return receipt with your request stating you are exercising your rights under FS 718.111(12).  The association cannot ask you why you want to inspect the records and have ten (10) days to provide you access.  Use a smartphone or some other device to scan the documents so you can avoid being charged for copies.

You can also submit a certified written inquiry and ask the association questions. This right is provided for under FS 718.112(2)(a)(2) and is unique to condo associations.  HOAs do not have the same benefit.  The association has thirty (30) days to respond.  They have sixty (60) days if they send the request to the association attorney, but they have to provide notice of the request being turned over to the attorney within thirty (30) days.

Next, you should send a certified letter to the association outlining your dispute, the resolution you would like and your intention to submit a petition for the dispute to arbitration before DBPR pursuant to FS 718.1255 if the dispute is not resolved.

Finally, you can file a complaint with the Dept. of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) against the license of the CAM and the CAM's firm, but you must be able to include proof of your allegations or nothing will be accomplished. The link is below.

While you can do all this without a lawyer, I don't recommend it, especially for the arbitration, which has specific procedures for bringing an action.  If you decide to send the letters, you may want a lawyer to review the facts of the case and the letters first so you can make sure you are requesting things which will support your case.  If the request is overly broad you can end up getting nothing useful or nothing at all.

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