Condominium Associations Are Not Powerless Against Rule-Breaking Tenants

Condominium Associations Are Not Powerless Against Rule-Breaking Tenants

A consequence of the struggling real estate market is the increased number of condominium units occupied by tenants rather than unit owners. Not surprisingly, many tenants do not have the same commitment–financial or emotional–to the condominium community as owners. As a result, condominium associations have to deal with non-owner tenants who fail to observe the association’s rules more frequently than before.

Fortunately, the Florida Condominium Act provides associations with a solution for dealing with unruly tenants. Under the Act, an association may levy reasonable fines for the failure of the owner of a unit, or its occupant, licensee, or invitee to comply with any provision of the declaration, bylaws, or reasonable rules of the association.

Additionally, an association may suspend, for a reasonable period of time, the right of a unit owner, or a unit owner’s tenant, guest, or invitee, to use the common elements, common facilities, or any other association property for failure to comply with any provision of the declaration, bylaws, or reasonable rules of the association.

The broad wording in the statute, including the use of “occupant” and “tenant”, operates to put a person leasing a unit from an owner within the scope of the law. However, even though this statute is relatively straightforward, there are a few things that associations must understand before levying a fine or imposing a suspension.

  • A fine or suspension may not be imposed unless the association first provides at least 14 days’ written notice and an opportunity for a hearing to the unit owner, and, if applicable, its tenant.
  • The hearing must be held before a committee of other unit owners who are neither board members nor persons residing in a board member’s household.
  • If the committee does not agree, no fine or suspension may be imposed.
  • If a fine is imposed, it may not become a lien against a unit.
  • A fine may be levied on the basis of each day of a continuing violation; however, a fine may not exceed $100 per violation, or $1,000 in the aggregate.
  • If a fine is levied on the basis of a continuing violation, only a single notice and opportunity for a hearing is required.

Being suspended from using the common elements often motivates tenants to abide by the rules. However, absent an agreement to the contrary, a condominium association may be powerless to create an enforceable debt against a unit owner’s tenant like it can against the unit owner. Since the unit owner will be required to pay the fine, he or she will presumably collect the fine from the tenant, and either compel the tenant’s compliance with the rules or have the tenant evicted.

If a unit owner fails to pay a fine resulting from a tenant’s violation of the community’s rules, the owner may be deprived of other rights associated with ownership of the unit. Under the Act, an association may suspend the voting rights of a unit or member due to the nonpayment of any monetary obligation due to the association which is more than 90 days delinquent.

Before imposing such a suspension, it must be approved at a properly noticed board meeting. Upon approval, the association must notify the unit owner, and, if applicable, the unit’s occupant, licensee, or invitee by mail or hand delivery. The suspension of voting rights ends upon full payment of all monetary obligations currently due or overdue the association.

By virtue of these statutory provisions, condominium associations are not powerless to enforce its rules and regulations against those living within the community, regardless of whether they are unit owners or tenants. As is always the case, associations need to have a complete understanding of how to go about imposing a fine or suspension before actually doing so. Otherwise, the association may face problems that are far worse than living with a rule-breaking tenant.

Clients of Setnor Byer’s Condominium Program enjoy access to various risk management services, such as Setnor Byer’s Risk Management Group and Unit Owners’ Report Line, as well as our affiliate’s Board Member Education Certification, which has been approved by the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes.

If you would like more information, please contact us.