Many of us in Florida choose to live in gated communities because we feel they are safe and because they provide some attractive amenities. Are we sacrificing too much of our freedom for this security? I was appalled today to read about a 70 year old woman in California being fined by her Homeowner Association because she spends too much time in her garage. Marilyn Weber is being fined because she uses her garage as “living space” in violation of the Association Rules. Mrs. Weber is choosing to fight the Association but many of her neighbors are supporting her. All she really is doing is spending her free time in her open garage and enjoying the many brief encounters with her neighbors that happen to pass by or stop by in a visit. Since when did being neighborly become a crime? Please read the story and feel free to comment below or to share some of your own stories involving your Association.
I recently wrote an article this past January titled: Dealing with Homeowner’s Association Architectural Review Committees. One of the things I pointed out is that many “Associations and ACC committee members use their position of authority to exert their will over other owners. This usually results in legal battles that can be costly for both the Association and the owners involved.” I was in Court recently defending a Homeowner being sued by her Association because they didn’t like her choice of building material on a small modification to a house she recently purchased. Despite the fact that the Association Governing Documents didn’t expressly prohibit this particular type of building material the Association took legal action. Moreover, this Association failed to follow its own procedures for rejecting or approving the architectural modification. The point is that the Association clearly had no right to make the claims raised in it’s lawsuit. Despite all of this the Judge tried to make us feel bad for defending our rights. While I understand that nobody wants to have to spend tens of thousands of dollars arguing about a modification that may only cost hundreds, the fact remains that the Association filed the lawsuit which was clearly frivolous and subject to a claim under 57.105 of the Florida Statutes. The case law on the issue states that an Association cannot impose one style over another purely for aesthetic reasons absent some existing pattern or scheme to put purchasers on notice that one style will be allowed.
So, as owners what should you do? Do you fight and spend thousands of dollars or give in and let yourself be bullied? Perhaps we should all head for the hills…or I should say the woods. There are plenty of places where you can live in some of the more remote locations in South Florida but even those rural areas are forming Associations with people ready to step in and bully you into submission. As a trial attorney I never back down from a fight, but it is important to pick your fights carefully!
If you are not sure of your rights seek out legal advice from an experienced Trial Attorney that represents condo owners and homeowners. Your Association keeps expensive Florida Law Firms on Retainer so they can fight you, and they pay these expensive Law Firms with your money. You should not be forced to deal with experienced Property Managers and Attorneys without having someone fighting for you in your corner?
The Law Offices of Herb M. Milgrim, P.A. is a Florida Law Firm that represents Condo Owners, Homeowners and Cooperative Owners that have disputes or are contemplating Litigation or a Lawsuit against their Association. Herb Milgrim is a tough trial attorney with over 20 years of experience. We provide prospective clients with a Free Case Evaluation. You can call us and tell us about your case so we can help you weigh your options before jumping into a fight that could prove costly to both sides. Once we have been retained we review all of the relevant documents and governing Florida Laws and advise our clients on the best course of action. Call us now (954) 966-3909!