Question: Our condominium association is small, just thirteen units. Two of the units are abandoned and extremely delinquent on fees. A third unit is occupied but also delinquent on fees. This particular unit owner has reported a code violation for our driveway to the city. Preliminary estimates are for $22,000 to re-pave the driveway. Many of our personal budgets are tight. Some of us are upset that an owner refusing to pay maintenance fees is causing us an assessment. Can the board make a rule that says if any single or group of owners is directly responsible for an assessment, they need to pay it before the other owners are assessed? K.J. (via e-mail)
Answer: Unit owners are responsible to pay for their respective share of the common expenses, which are funded through assessments. Depending on the language contained in the condominium documents, a condominium association may also have the ability to charge a single unit owner for certain expenses. For example, many condominium documents contain a provision which says that the association can perform certain maintenance or repairs if the owner fails to do so, and require the unit owner to reimburse the association. Pursuant to recent case law, it is reasonably clear that such “individual assessments”, even if secured by a right of lien are valid, if properly authorized in the condominium documents.
Under the facts you have presented, it would not be legally proper to require the complaining unit owner to pay for the entire repaving expense. The fact that this unit owner reported the code violation to the city has no impact on the association’s duty to repave the driveway and pay for any related expense. In fact, one does not typically even need to be a property owner to report a suspected code violation. Further, although not clearly applicable here, Florida condominium law contains a prohibition against “SLAPP Suits”, which is an acronym for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” If this law applied, your complaining owner could claim treble damages, which would certainly add insult to injury.