Q. I received a notice of lien and intent to foreclose because I did not pay my fees. I went to the office of the attorney and presented copies of my payments. It did not seem to satisfy the association’s bookkeeper. The board is still claiming that I did not pay. What is my next step? I cannot afford an attorney to represent me.
You must take immediate and direct action. Send a letter to the board that you have presented information on your payments and would like to sit with directors to discuss the bookkeeping records. You will need more than bank statements; I suggest that you go to your bank and have them pull copies of the canceled checks. While your case is important to you, it may indicate some faulty bookkeeping, if not even fraud or theft of association’s funds. Do not delay getting your information correct. If you do, you could lose your home.
Q. Our condominium documents limit occupancy to two persons per bedroom. Our president says that we cannot enforce this rule because of government regulations. Can a condominium limit the number of residents occupying a unit?
I have seen two lawsuits in which it was proven in court that county occupancy codes were superior. I know of other cases in which the condo documents were superior and controlled the occupancy. As there are too many variables in the situation, it is a question that the association attorney should answer. My only advice is to try to keep any problem out of the courts.
Q. In reading your column, I believe that I have a right to live in my mother’s condominium unit even if I am not 55. She died last year and I am her only living survivor. The condominium is an adult community and is giving me problems about living in her unit. I have no children and live alone. What is my next step to prevent an eviction lawsuit?
D.H., St. Petersburg
The Adult Community Law says that there is an allowable 80/20 percent for this situation. You would become part of the 20 percent not required to be 55 or older. The Federal Register says, “Although occupancy by a person under the age of 55 who inherits a unit or a surviving spouse who is younger than 55 years of age are the original examples cited by Congress in justifying the original 80/20 split,…” Remember that the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 was created as an amendment to modify the Fair Housing act from certain familial status discrimination prohibitions granted to housing for older persons. To comply with the law, the association is required to conduct a census every 24 months. That census requires that ONE (1) member (resident, not necessarily an owner) in each home sign an affidavit that they are 55 years of age or older and present proof of age. All other residents must be 18 years of age or older. In addition in Florida (Commission on Human Relations), the board is required every 24 months to file a letter stating their community complies with the federal and state adult community laws and pay a $20 fee to register. Failure to comply with the simple requirements will not exempt the community from enforcing its age restriction. Since you are the sole survivor and you are over 18 and not yet 55, you would be allowed to remain in the home.
Q. Your column suggests that the board establish certain policies of which one would be for rules enforcement. This policy could exempt enforcement of certain rules by the board. We are a small HOA operated by a board and manager. We have opportunities to enhance and improve our documents, but to do this would involve legal expenses and thus continue with the document rules. I asked our manager about your suggestion of a “Rules Enforcement Policy” that could be used by the board and he had never heard of such a policy. Please share whatever additional information you may have such as the source, precedents and other information you may have on such policies.
T.C., Indian Rock
The policies that I reference are not intended to alter the statutes, your documents, or rules and regulations. In business, corporate boards often establish operational policies. Association Boards of Directors need to operate their association the same way. Such policies can be amended as the need occurs. The policies should include, but are not limited to, meetings, collections, record reviews, member communications and complaints, as well as rule enforcements. That policy would be a guide to let the members know what the board would do to enforce such a policy. The policy would give guidance as to turning over the matter to the association’s attorney to force corrections of violations. One of the most important policies that a board can create is emergency operations. Do your board members, management and members know what to do if a hurricane comes through? Maybe rather than calling it a policy, you could call it a work schedule or work procedures. Nothing in the policy would be in violation or conflict with the statutes or your documents.