Homeowner’s associations are very common in Florida. Sometimes, homeowner’s associations are beneficial in providing structure and some protection for homeowners’ property values. The rules and maintenance that homeowner’s associations provide can be invaluable. Unfortunately, with that power can come conflict, which is certainly not pleasant if you are on the receiving end of a notice of a violation of the declaration of covenants from a Florida homeowner’s association. Sometimes the homeowner’s association refuses to enforce rules against other homeowners, but decides that you are in a violation. Other times, a homeowner’s association is not undertaking the required maintenance of the common areas as is required by the declaration.
Fortunately, the Florida Statutes provide a procedure for attempting resolution of a dispute with your homeowner’s association prior to either side filing a lawsuit. Under section 720.311(2)(a), Florida Statutes, “Disputes between an association and a parcel owner regarding use of or changes to the parcel or the common areas and other covenant enforcement disputes, disputes regarding amendments to the association documents, disputes regarding meetings of the board and committees appointed by the board, membership meetings not including election meetings, and access to the official records of the association shall be the subject of a demand for presuit mediation served by an aggrieved party before the dispute is filed in court.” This section means that if an association is in dispute with a homeowner that involves one of the areas listed above, the homeowner must serve a demand for presuit mediation on the association and attend mediation prior to filing suit in court. The same goes for an association who is looking to sue a homeowner in the association regarding one of the listed areas. This section does not apply for actions by a homeowner’s association to recover the payment of assessments from a homeowner.
In order to demand presuit mediation, you will need to send a letter that complies with the form set out in section 720.311(2)(a). If the demand for presuit mediation is not made before filing a lawsuit, then the complaint filed may be subject to the defense of failure to conduct conditions precedent to filing suit. Also, a benefit from attending mediation with the parties to the dispute is that there is the opportunity to resolve the issues without incurring expensive court costs and attorney’s fees. This may lead to resolution of minor homeowner’s association disputes.
If you do end up needing to file a lawsuit in Florida, section 720.305, Florida Statutes will be helpful. Under section 720.305(1), “Actions at law or equity, or both, to redress the alleged failure or refusal to comply with these provisions may be brought by the association or by any member against: (a) the association; (b) a member; (c) any director or officer of an associaton who willfully and knowingly fails to comply with these provisions; and (d) any tenants, guests, or invitees occupying a parcel or using the common areas.” Furthermore, under section 720.305(1), “The prevailing party in any such litigation is entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.”
Section 720.305 sets out the availability of causes of action in a Florida court that are available to the people listed in the statute. Basically, in Florida you can sue your homeowner’s association under any appropriate theory under applicable law. If you are successful in your lawsuit, then you will be entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs from the association.
If you are involved in a dispute with your Florida homeowner’s association, or if you homeowner’s association has served you with a demand for presuit mediation, you should contact an attorney. An attorney will be able to advise you of your rights under Florida law, examine the covenants and declarations of your homeowner’s association, and advise you on whether it makes sense to file a lawsuit or demand presuit mediation. At Richert Quarles P.A., we represent homeowners against homeowner’s associations. If you have a dispute, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
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