Q: I live in a homeowners association (HOA) where the board does not feel they have the power to lien for unpaid fees because they’ve been told that you cannot lien for a fine. Can you please explain why you have said that the board should file a lien against the delinquent account?
W.I., Apollo Beach
A: You are mixing two subjects, like apples and oranges. Fines usually are placed on units or homes because of improper actions, architectural violations, or other rules infractions. Fines for these actions can only be collected by volunteer payments or a court’s judgment.
Delinquent accounts, where owners do not pay their maintenance fees, can have late-fee payments and interest added. These delinquent accounts plus unpaid fees and interest can have a lien filed against the property and foreclosure action taken to put the owner on the street. When owners do not pay their accounts, actions can be taken to force payments.
When fines are placed for violations against the owners, the Board of Directors must take further action to include court action before enforcement of any payments are made.
In both situations, the board needs legal guidance from the association attorney.
Q: My condominium has a unit owner who has volunteered to clean out the gutters on the one story-clubhouse (about 12 feet off the ground) and do some landscaping. Is there any liability issue that should concern the board?
A: There is no liability as long as he is not injured and does not damage private property or common area property. If you can guarantee that he will not be injured or cause property damage, you’ll be in the clear. Of course you cannot guarantee there will be no accidents or mistakes.
Volunteering is good because it gives retirees something to do. The problem is any accident will create a serious liability for the community and board of directors. Before you let any volunteer do work for the community, talk with your insurance agent and your attorney. I suggest that you thank the individual but recommend that he volunteer for outside groups that need volunteers.
There is another problem for communities that use volunteer work. The savings that result create a shortage in the expense budget. Very briefly, if you do not account for the unfunded volunteer expenses, the budget will not display accurate accounting for expenses.
Q: In connection with our annual meeting, I received a statement made by a candidate that was included with the meeting package. The candidate form included assertions and misstatements. In fact it made claims of transactions that are totally incorrect, lies. My question is whether I have any kind of recourse to her raging and lies?
T.A., North Miami
A: There are no limits or restrictions placed on a candidate when they write their candidate information sheet. The condominium and board of directors have no right to alter the sheet and must include it in the meeting notice information package regardless of the content.
The candidate’s information sheet must be one page and reproduced exactly as the candidate provided. The sheet may be computer-generated, typed on a typewriter, or handwritten. While most of these sheets include the background of the candidate and may state what they would like to do in operations for the coming year, a few candidates make claims or attacks on their opposition.
The only caution that I can provide is that each owner must evaluate the political candidate for what they know. In so many words, you cannot trust what the candidates print or say in the candidate information sheet. The form was originally designed to allow a candidate to present true facts about themselves and the type of director they would hope they become.
If you do not like a candidate and faults or errors in their statements, there is nothing you can do except talk to your neighbors about your feelings towards this candidate. The sad part is that no political candidate can be held liable for statements made. The only recourse is to vote them out and vote other candidates into office.