If you are involved in a dispute with your Homeowner’s Association, it is important to understand your rights and obligations, as well as your possible options for pursuing a complaint. Whether your dispute involves a selective enforcement claim, a request for a reasonable accommodation for a therapy pet, payment for water or mold damage to your unit, or another issue, there is a specific process you will need to go through in order to get relief. For example, you cannot just go directly to court with your complaint. As an experienced Florida condo attorney will tell you, the better informed you are as to the procedural steps and hurdles you may have to go through, the more likely you are to obtain a favorable result.
If you have not already done so, you should consult the declaration of covenants, one of the HOA’s governing documents, which should set forth the process for addressing complaints and resolving problems. Be sure that you follow the specific procedural rules set forth in the declaration and other governing documents and submit all required documentation so that the association cannot reject your complaint on technical grounds before even responding on the merits.
Importantly, while Florida law governs the conduct of homeowners’ associations, they are not administratively regulated by any state agency. If you make a complaint to your HOA and they do not respond, you may need to file a lawsuit against the association seeking a court’s determination as to the legality of the HOA’s action. However, before you go to court with your complaint, you will likely have to go through some form of alternative dispute resolution.
Under Florida law, most disputes between condo owners and HOAs must first go through alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”), such as arbitration or mediation. (One exception to the ADR requirement is a claim for damage to a unit based upon the alleged failure of the Association to maintain the common elements or condo property.) Florida’s Administrative Code sets forth certain mandatory rules of procedure for non-binding arbitration. While going through arbitration or mediation may delay the resolution of your complaint, the statute of limitations for any potential lawsuit is “tolled” or paused while the ADR process plays out.
As you navigate the waters of ADR, consider that having an experienced Florida condo attorney on your side who is well-versed in the rights of condo owners will be key to your success. Condo Associations and HOAs in Florida retain large law firms with the money you pay as Association Dues. These law firms are not your friend; they are not there to advise and protect owners but to represent and protect the interests of the Association.
If non-judicial remedies have been unsuccessful or failed to adequately address your complaint, you may bring a lawsuit against your HOA. This must be done in the circuit court in which your development is located. As noted above, most claims must undergo pre-suit mediation prior to filing a complaint.
A suit against an association can seek money damages incurred by a homeowner as a result of the association’s conduct and/or what is referred to as “injunctive relief, ” which is a court order compelling the HOA to act or refrain from acting in violation of its legal duties and responsibilities.
To best support your claim against the HOA, be sure to keep records of any written communications you have with the association. In addition, you should take notes of any verbal communications you have immediately after you have them. Thorough records can help demonstrate when an association has acted arbitrarily or capriciously, which is critical to the success of a selective enforcement claim.
If you are involved in a dispute with your Condo or HOA and have reached a roadblock or you need assistance with next steps, we welcome you to contact us at (954) 966-4909. We serve the legal needs of individual condominium owners, home owners and cooperative owners in resolving disputes with their associations throughout Florida, including Broward, Dade and Palm Beach Counties, as well as Hollywood, Davie, Pembroke Pines, Hallandale, Sunny Isles, Aventura, Miami, North Miami, Brickell, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and Naples. We do not represent associations.
Please note that free case evaluation is by telephone and does not include legal advice. Office consults with legal advice are available on a flat fee basis.