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FINES NOT THE WAY TO ENFORCE ASSOCIATION RULES

Q: What penalties can be placed on homeowners association members if they do not follow the HOA rules and regulations? Our rules and regulations do not provide for penalties.

A: Some documents do allow fines for penalties, but I do not recommend this. I recommend that the board establish a rules enforcement policy. That policy should include a process by which two or three letters are sent to the owner concerning the violation.

If the owner does not correct the violation, then the matter goes to the association attorney. The attorney will then send a correction letter. If the owner still does not correct the problem, the attorney files court action. Funny thing is that all you have to do is take one or two owners to court and then most owners will know the board means business. If you choose to penalize with fines, you must have a fining committee to review the matter and then recommend that the board fine the unit owner. The problem begins if the owner does not pay the fine as the board has no powers to collect it.

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No rules for inspections

Q: I live in a nice villa complex. Inspections for compliance with the rules and regulations are conducted twice a year by the architectural review committee. During this inspection, are committee members allowed to come on to your property, or must it be done from the right of way? There appears to be a disparity in the manner in which homeowners are cited, even though the committee operates from a checklist.

A: I like this question as it has a valid way to inspect, using a checklist. However, I can only give you my opinion of how I would conduct inspections.

I have had several discussions in past years with other managers and boards of directors about how to do inspections. Some will disagree with me, but this is my opinion of how inspections should go: It is important that you have a checklist or inspection report.

I also suggest more frequent inspections, such as weekly or every other week depending on the size of the community. I never step on the property unless there is an emergency. I do my inspections from the street and can cover most of the sides and front of the homes. Sometimes from rear streets I can see the rear of the home.

There are exceptions, such as when there are complaints from next-door neighbors. I will then walk along the lot line to see the area of complaint. I do my inspections this way because it makes sense to me - not because of any national standard or legal reasons. I expect that any rule violation may go to court, so I take actions that I can present to the judge. I think it would be stronger evidence if the violation is visible from the street than if I had to walk on the property to see the violation.

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Reserves nonrefundable

Q: I am in the process of selling my condominium and I have close to $5,000 vested in the reserves. Can I request to get my money back?

A: No. Reserves are not a deposit. The money you paid was part of a debt obligation for the unit. Reserves make your unit more valuable to a buyer.

Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115 or you may e-mail him at CAMquestions@cfl.rr.com. Please include your name and city.

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