Common Reasons For HOA Lawsuits
In Florida, homeowners’ associations (HOAs) have a lot of power, with the ability to regulate almost every facet of life for the association’s members, because when someone moves in, they are generally required to sign a form displaying the association’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). While the HOA can file suit against a homeowner who breaches the CC&Rs, there are certain situations in which homeowners are able to sue the HOA. Some may amount to nothing, but some homeowner issues can cause real problems for the association if they do not defend against them appropriately.
Discrimination Or Discriminatory Restrictions
One of the most common reasons for Florida HOAs to face lawsuits is alleged discrimination, either in policy, or in treatment. This is known as de jure vs de facto discrimination, and both are illegal under state law. More specifically, de jure discrimination is when a regulation is openly discriminatory against a person or group of people based on a protected characteristic like gender, race, or national origin. Conversely, de facto discrimination happens when a law or rule is made that may be completely neutral on its face, but in practice creates discriminatory treatment for a protected person or class.
For example, Florida’s fair housing law states explicitly that it is unlawful to “refuse to sell or rent […] to any person because of race, color, national origin,” or any other protected characteristic. This is de jure discrimination. However, if a Florida HOA institutes a policy requiring, say, a certain type of sidewalk or pathway to be installed on people’s property, it might be de facto discrimination if it winds up being impossible for disabled people to navigate (despite the requirement applying to everyone in the HOA).
Another extremely common reason that a homeowner will bring suit against their HOA has to do with construction – either over repairs, or over remodeling (for example, if the homeowner wants to modify their home in a way that may be against the CC&Rs). It is true that an HOA has a duty to its homeowners to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition, and repair disputes in particular can be serious – the argument can often be made that leaving repairs undone or half-done, especially in a public place like a common area, creates dangers that make the premises less than safe.
By comparison, remodeling disputes are often more complex, especially if the CC&Rs are silent as to the type of remodel the owner wants to perform. Generally, in Florida, an HOA can often deny an owner request if they believe the CC&Rs support them, but an owner can file suit against the HOA to compel construction to proceed. These suits can also encompass questions of contractors’ rights, fees, and overall liability in the event of something going wrong – all the more reason for the HOA to enlist an experienced attorney to make certain that the association’s covenants and restrictions are being enforced.
Call A Tampa HOA Attorney Today
Homeowners’ associations have duties and obligations that must be met, and in general, must deal fairly with their members. If your association has acted appropriately, but is still being sued, calling a Tampa HOA & condo association attorney from the Seward Law Office can be the first step toward protecting the association’s rights. Contact our offices today at 813-252-6789 to speak to an attorney.