A Condo Association’s Remedies Against Tenants who Violate the Association’s Declaration, Rules and Regulations
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Every condo association finds itself having to deal with tenants who break the association’s rules and regulations. While the association’s governing documents may allow it to take certain actions against those tenants, the Florida Statutes provide for remedies as well. Specifically, Section 718.303, Florida Statutes, defines the obligations of not only unit owners but also their tenants and explains the remedies available to an association when those tenants violate its rules. This Blog post will discuss in detail a condo association’s statutory remedies against those tenants who violate the association’s declaration, rules and regulations.
First, the Florida Condominium Act makes clear that each tenant must comply with an association’s governing documents and that tenants can be liable for violations regardless of whether such liability is expressed in the underlying lease between the unit owner and the tenant. See Fla. Stat. § 718.303(1) & (3). Second, Section 718.303, Florida Statutes, provides associations with four main remedies against tenants: 1) legal action for damages; 2) legal action for injunctive relief; 3) issuing fines; and 4) suspending use rights. These remedies are not mutually exclusive either, meaning a tenant violation could lead to the enforcement of one or more of those remedies.
A lawsuit for damages would be appropriate when the tenant is liable for the destruction of property that the association is responsible for; i.e., the common elements and limited common elements. A lawsuit for injunctive relief can be filed to obtain a court order forcing the tenant to cease from continuing an act in violation of the declaration, such as making unauthorized alterations to the property. An association, if it is the prevailing party in a legal action against the tenant, is entitled to recover its attorney’s fees and costs. Fla. Stat. § 718.303(1).
When a tenant violates association rules, the association may levy a reasonable fine against the unit owner and the tenant. The fine can be for a maximum of $100 per violation and an additional fine can be levied for each day of a continuing violation, as long as the aggregate fine does not exceed $1,000. Fla. Stat. § 718.303(3). An association can also suspend a tenant’s use rights when that tenant violates the rules. The suspension can be for the common elements, common facilities or for any other association property, with a few limited exceptions as contained within Section 718.303(3)(a), Florida Statutes. In order to properly issue a fine or suspend use rights, the association must ensure it follows the mandatory notice and hearing requirements.
Those aforementioned actions are the four statutorily provided remedies for directly addressing a tenant’s violation of association rules. It is important to note that Section 718.303, Florida Statues, does not list eviction as a remedy that an association has against a tenant. Only a unit owner and his or her tenant have contractual privity with respect to the underlying lease, meaning only the unit owner can evict the tenant pursuant to the lease. However, Section 718.116(11), Florida Statutes, could provide the association with an indirect method for evicting a tenant for rules violations in certain circumstances.
Section 718.116(11), Florida Statutes, allows an association to make a demand for the tenant’s rent to satisfy “any monetary obligation due to the association.” Fla. Stat. § 718.116(11)(a). (Emphasis added.) Notice the statute does not limit an association’s ability to make this demand for only unpaid assessments but includes the broad language of “any monetary obligation,” which would cover unpaid fines for rules violations. The statute continues by stating if the association makes a demand to the tenant for his or her future rent payments to satisfy the unpaid amounts owed and the tenant fails to do so then the association can evict that tenant. Fla. Stat. § 718.116(11)(d). An association must ensure it follows the statutory procedures for properly making the demand for rent and bringing an eviction action, if needed.
By utilizing these available statutory remedies, an association could have an indirect path to evicting a tenant who violates the association’s governing documents. To illustrate, a fine up to $1,000 in the aggregate could be assessed against the unit owner and the tenant for continuing violations. The association can then demand the tenant’s future rent payment to satisfy that unpaid amount and, if the tenant doesn’t comply, the tenant can be evicted. It would be unlikely the tenant would ignore the association’s demand for rent and face possible eviction by the association because tenants are immune from any action by a landlord when associations make a valid demand for rent payments. However, even if a rule-breaking tenant avoids eviction by complying with the demand for rent, the association would still receive payment in full for the fines issued and the unit owner would also learn a hard lesson about ensuring he or she is renting to the right tenants.