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What are the responsibilities of an HOA fining committee?

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As the economy has begun to improve, associations all across South Florida, and indeed the rest of the country, have started to take a closer look at their rule books and began to start issuing warnings, fines, and even liens against people whose property may not be the best looking house on the block. These violation letters were, in general, put on hold during the Great Recession, but are now becoming a sad reality in many developments.

It is these violations, and the fines associated with them, that have led to many the argument at monthly board meetings. Although most people who live in community associations understand that the rules and regulations are meant to help protect their property values, and create a nicer, well groomed look for the development, they feel that they should apply to everyone else; just not them!

In the state of Florida, a fining committee is the last arbiter that the person who is accused of a rules violation has. It is the layout of these committees, which are beginning to play a larger role in associations throughout the state, that is the subject of today's question and answer column.

Q: I am told that all HOA’s must have a compliance committee of at least 3 persons NOT related to anyone on the board or management. Also I read somewhere that this committee has the sole discretion as to whether to fine the offender and that this committee does all the mailing ,etc. concerning the committee.

We do not have a compliance committee although they have tried several times but, the board has the manager send out the letters ( which I am told never got done) so no committee. I would love to know if we must have one and if the committee is self sufficient because I was asked to head it BUT I will not and told them so if the manager is in charge of anything. I have not received a response in about 4 days so I am assuming the board does not want a committee that will discuss issues with them only and do all that is needed by themselves.

Thank you in advance,

Phyllis

A: I think the writer is referring to a fining committee (often called a compliance committee, violation committee or rules enforcement committee).

The way the law works, the board (or mgmt) is notified or discovers a violation. They tell the homeowner about the violation and ask for corrective action. The asn can also say that if there is no corrective action, a fine may be levied. By law, the homeowner is entitled to a hearing before a committee of other owners (not board members or board member spouses) to "plead his case" before a fine is actually levied and imposed against them. I always recommend the board appoint a fining committee (if they can get owners to serve) and to schedule the fining committee hearing an hour or half-hour before the next board meeting (depending on the timing it may be the 2nd board meeting). If the homeowner doesn't show up, he or she has essentially waived the right to a hearing and a recommendation to the board may be made whether or not to start levying fines.

Here it sounds like mgmt didn't send out letters to the violators telling them the date, time and place of the fining committee, so there are no hearings scheduled. That particular committee's role is to conduct the hearings (hear from the homeowner), so if there are no hearings there really is no need for committee meetings. However, the association needs those willing volunteers ready to conduct a meeting if it becomes necessary, so just because you haven't had a meeting/hearing in a while doesn't mean the association doesn't need you to continue to serve.

-Lisa A. Magill, Attorney at Law

The West Palm Beach HOA examiner would like to thank Lisa Magill for her help in this, and other matters over the past few years. She is employed by the law firm of Becker and Poliakoff, and helps to maintain theCALL (Community Association Leadership Lobby) website, where you can find all of the latest information impacting your community association.

Be sure to subscribe to this column, and stay abreast of issues involving you, the homeowners of Palm Beach County. If you've had any issues with your HOA that you'd like me to try and delve into, and possibly write about later, please let me know. Also, if you'd like to join the discussion on Twitter, you can find me at http://twitter.com/#!/faborplumbs. While you’re at it, please read my articles about local getaways,motorsports, elections, and restaurants.

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