When owners choose to live in a community with an association, they implicitly agree to comply with all of the provisions contained in their association’s governing documents. In those documents there are almost always restrictions on certain things such as the size and type of pets they are allowed to have, the color of paint they can use for exterior surfaces and even the type of vehicles that can be parked in their driveway. Break one of these rules by say, parking a semi truck in their driveway, and they should expect to hear about it from their association by way of a violation notice and subsequent fine.
Once a violation has been issued and a resulting fine has been approved, the next obstacle from the association’s standpoint, especially in these challenging economic times, is how to actually collect on the fine. The question has recently been raised as to whether an association can place a lien on an owner’s property for accrued fines as an association has the ability to do for unpaid assessments. The simple answer to this inquiry for associations in Florida is generally, no.
Florida Statute 718.303(3), which governs condominium associations sets forth quite concisely that:
- The association may levy reasonable fines for the failure of the owner of the unit or its occupant, licensee, or invitee to comply with any provision of the declaration, the association bylaws, or reasonable rules of the association. A fine may not become a lien against a unit.
Florida Statute 720.305(2) which governs homeowners associations sets forth in relevant part that:
- The association may levy reasonable fines of up to $100 per violation against any member or any member’s tenant, guest, or invitee for the failure of the owner of the parcel or its occupant, licensee, or invitee to comply with any provision of the declaration, the association bylaws, or reasonable rules of the association. A fine may be levied for each day of a continuing violation, with a single notice and opportunity for hearing, except that the fine may not exceed $1,000 in the aggregate unless otherwise provided in the governing documents. A fine of less than $1,000 may not become a lien against a parcel.
Based on these cited provisions, the only instances where a fine may be able to become a lien is when a homeowners association fine is equal to exactly $1,000 (see additional commentary below) or where a homeowners association’s governing documents specifically provide that fines can exceed $1,000 in the aggregate. Absent such language, it would be contrary to statute for a condominium association or homeowners association in Florida to lien an owner’s property due to unpaid fines. So, while liens (for assessments) are fine, fines (for violations) are not liens.