In 2015, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 791. It amended Chapters 718, 719 and 720 with regard to fining procedures and suspension of voting rights for community associations.
The revisions to 720.305 clarify the role of the board and the fining committee in the levying of fines against owners. First, a fine must be initiated by and levied by the board of directors. Second, the law makes clear that the role of the fining committee is solely to approve or disapprove of the proposed fine (or suspension of voting rights). A suspension can be levied for failure to comply with “monetary obligations.”
The changes also clarified that “monetary obligations” which qualify for a suspension of voting rights include a fee, fine, or other monetary obligation. When the voting rights of an owner are suspended, the total number of eligible units is reduced for the purpose of calculating the necessary percentage to pass a proposal.
Other provisions address the issue of who is qualified to be a member of a fining committee. The committee is an independent body of unit owners, “who are neither board members nor persons residing in a board member’s household.” Fines can only be approved by this committee upon 14 days notice, and a hearing must be provided for the owner in front of the committee. Previously, some associations allowed this committee to reduce fines or even investigate the violations themselves. The changes make it clear that the committee’s only role is to approve or disapprove of a fine previously levied by the Board of Directors.
A new subsection was also added to clarify that any authorized suspension provided in the statute applies not only to the member, but also to the tenants, guests, or invitees, and even if the delinquency or failure that resulted in the suspension arose from less than all of the multiple units owned by a member. Therefore, if an owner owns 3 units and is delinquent more than 90 days on even one of the units, the voting rights on all 3 units may be suspended. If there were 100 votes in the association, a vote during the suspension of these 3 units would need a majority of 97 voting interests, rather than 100.
Fining is not the only tool available for Community Associations to bring violators into compliance. If an association wants to levy a fine, it needs to strictly comply with the law. Other ways to enforce the restrictions remain, such as mediation, required for HOA’s, and arbitration for condominium associations. Boards and CAMS should discuss the practical effects of how to proceed in each particular case with counsel and implement a strategy for the community.
Thank you to Judith Tankel, J.D. for compiling this article.