Does the Board of Directors have the authority to fine its members is this community?
The Shores of Jupiter is a lovely community in the beautiful town of Jupiter, Florida in North Palm Beach County. I have lived in The Shores of Jupiter since 2004. As a REALTOR® I have been selling homes in The Shores of Jupiter since 2014. How the HOA Board conducts the business of the Association is very important to me. (These are my opinions and not the opinions of any of my past and present broker.)
My husband is a building inspector and licensed general contractor who mainly works as an expert witness in a range of cases involving building codes, construction, contract law, HOA cases and unlicensed activities. Together we have a lot of knowledge about HOAs and contract law.
Prior to 2016, The Shores of Jupiter HOA Board seemed to be conducting the association’s business according to the Declaration of Covenants. Something changed around that time that caused the Board of Directors to start operating outside the Covenants. Seems that in 2015 there was an update in Florida Statute 720 that lead the Board of Directors to believe that the State had granted them the authority to issue fines so they embarked on the development of a Compliance Committee and a Fining Committee without input from the members.
It took them until 2020 to get the process in place. At which point the Board of Directors started enforcing individual pet peeves. They added rules and removed rules from the Architectural Control Committee document in direct contradiction to the Declaration of Covenants. When homeowners who receive a violation notice point out that the rule they “violated” is not consistent with the Covenants the Board of Directors’ response it either ignore the homeowner, tell the homeowner that they are currently updating the ACC document, or tell the homeowner if they don’t like the way things are being done they can run for a seat on the Board or volunteer for one of the committees and if the homeowner did not correct the violation they will be subject to fine and foreclosure.
Right at the beginning of the COVID pandemic when everyone was trying to figure out how to deal with the new normal the Board of Directors sent hundreds of letters to homeowners threatening fines and foreclosure for minor things like dirt on the sidewalk, roof or driveway; garden flags; and yard swings. Each “violation” notice was sent in a separate letter and threatening a $100 fine per day. Many got more than 1 letter. I got 3. One for the sidewalk, another for the roof and yet another of the driveway.
One of the Homeowners/HOA members posted on NextDoor complaining about the rash of letters. Many other members replied with similar complaints. Many were upset by the nasty tone the Board had taken on particularly incensed by insensitivity the Board had toward the homeowners during a pandemic. The Director of Compliance Committee chimed in. I replied to his comment stating that the Board of Directors had no authority to issue fines because that authority is not granted to them in the Declaration of the Covenants. He responded to me in a private message.
See the entire conversation with the head of the Compliance Committee here (The original post has since been deleted):
This is the part that got me and my husband to start researching law and consulting attorneys who we know: “We’re prepared to use money allocated and budgeted for litigation. Have ample funds for that, not a big deal.”
I have since learned that new homeowners are being forced to sign an agreement to be fined. It makes me wonder if the Board of Directors know they do not have the authority to fine but went ahead with it anyway. After all if the Covenants allowed for fines why would they need to have new homeowners agree to it in writing?
Consequently my husband and I have sent a letter to the management company and each member of the Board of Directors and the HOA’s attorney demanding that they start conducting the HOA business according to the Declaration of Covenants and apologize to the members for threatening and issuing fines. Also we have demanded that they stop changing the rules without input and votes of the membership.
Our next step is to turn this whole matter over to the Attorney because we do no want to be accused of harassment by any of the members of the Board of Directors.
For both personal reason, enjoyment of our property rights, and professional reasons, protecting the people who buy and sell homes in this community, we want to the HOA to run according to the Declaration of Covenants. The current Board of Directors has made a huge mess of things and it will take a while to clean it up. This cleanup should be done by consulting professionals otherwise our HOA will be exposed to numerous lawsuits. “Ample funds” will soon be depleted necessitating increased assessments to all of the members.
Thank you for reading. I will be posting updates as I intend to make this issue as transparent as I am able to.
It is my desire to be completely transparent about this as I am trying to avoid misinformation so I have included a link to a pdf of the letter sent to the RealTime Management and each member the Board of Directors.