Roommate stays on after owner's death
Q: One of our condominium owners passed away some months ago. She had a roommate who paid her $500 a month to help with the mortgage payment. Her children chose to walk away and let the unit go into foreclosure. Her unit was heavily mortgaged and has a negative value. The unit is several months delinquent and it appears that no payments will be made. Her roommate is staying in her unit, using our water and our cable as well as the other common area facilities. Is there anything we can do?
A: The board needs to engage an attorney to file a lien against the unit and start foreclosure action. While it may take a few months, it will result in the eviction of the roommate. Depending on your documents, the attorney may be able to file an eviction against the roommate.
Personal, common areas separate issues
Q: My homeowners association board has been sending me letters demanding that I repair dead grass areas in my lawn and pressure wash my house. I hired a professional lawn service, and I painted the rust stains. The board continues to demand more results but has refused my requests that the common area be maintained in the same manner as the board requires of me. What course of action would you recommend for a homeowner dealing with a contentious board?
A: While you have a right to complain about the way the board is maintaining the common areas, you have two separate matters on your hands. As to your home and the violations noted by the board, you may want to ask for a meeting to discuss the solutions they want. As to the common areas, I suggest you write a separate letter with specific information on the problem areas and ask them to discuss them at the next board meeting. The bottom line? Document your concerns and questions and try to work with the board.
Take title to get property paying soon
Q: You recommend that the board take strong and fast action on delinquencies. We have placed liens on properties but the first mortgage exceeds the market value of the property. We are reluctant to take them to foreclosure because a purchaser would be responsible for the mortgage, delinquent fees and other costs. Under these conditions a successful foreclosure by the association seems impossible. The association could not afford to pay off the mortgage and the bank has little interest in acquiring the properties. Is there a way out of this dilemma?
A: Your goal should be to get the property paying as fast as possible. Don't wait for the bank to foreclose as that can take years. By taking the title, the association will have more options to getting the property paying faster. You will need an attorney's advice, but you could rent the property, ask the bank if it will accept the deed to the property (saving them legal cost of future foreclosure), or, if it's acceptable to the bank, you could put the property up for a short sale.
It's hard to enforce fines unless you're willing to go to court
Q: I am a director in a homeowners association. We have some owners who do not follow the rules and I would like to present to the board a motion to fine these owners. Our president says we cannot place a lien on a rule violation, only for nonpayment of fees. I would like to form a fining committee but how do we enforce the fine?
A: You need to read Florida Statute 720.305 for the requirements of a fining committee. First, you must have the power to fine in your documents. Then you need to alert the owner to the rule violation and provide reference to the violation. You may include suggestions to fix the problem and a time to make the corrections. The fining committee must be made up of independent owners not related to board members. You must provide notice of meeting and ask the violating member to attend. It should be a closed meeting where the committee will allow the violator to defend his or her position. If the committee does not impose a fine recommendation, the matter is closed. If the committee recommends a fine, then the board must approve the fine at a board meeting.
I never recommend fines as a way to correct a rule violation. The reason is simple: If the owner does not pay the fine, you must take him to court to collect. If the association has omitted any section of F.S. 720.305, then the judge will toss out the case. On the other hand, if you take owners to court for violations, word will get out that the board will enforce violations.
Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115. Please include your name and city.