Do you live in a community governed by a homeowners’ association (HOA)? If so, you’ve more than likely run into a unique set of issues with your living situation – from rules and regulations that affect the usage and maintenance of the property or difficult neighbors within the community. Fortunately, most issues can be resolved amicably, however, there are circumstances when that is not possible. When this happens, there are several ways to handle HOA disputes.
Referencing the HOA Bylaws & The Internal Process
The first step in resolving an HOA dispute is to reference the association’s bylaws, rules, and regulations. These documents should provide an informal and/or internal process for community members to resolve disputes that arise between homeowners and the HOA.
For example, an informal meeting often includes an informal discussion between the HOA President or other board members and the homeowner to determine whether a dispute can be resolved internally and informally. This informal meeting is the easiest option in resolving HOA disputes, however, it requires rational thought from both sides to be effective.
Alternative Means of Dispute Resolution
In cases where the internal HOA process does not resolve the issue, the next step is known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) – commonly in the form of arbitration or mediation (involves a third party who listens to both parties, seeks to find a middle ground and resolution).
In the state of Florida, the law requires both parties to conduct mediation proceedings before a lawsuit can be filed, but only in if the dispute involves:
- Changes to a parcel or common area
- Covenant enforcement
- Amendments or modifications to HOA documents
- Meetings of the board and board-appointed committees
- Membership meetings that aren’t election-related
- Access to records
Meditation is a voluntary process intended to encourage both parties to resolve the issue. While no one can force one side to resolve a dispute in mediation, Florida law has a caveat for refusal to participate in a resolution. Bear in mind: a party who declines mediation cannot recover attorney’s fees in a subsequent lawsuit.
Under Florida law, ADR is not appropriate in certain HOA disputes, and therefore, state court is the only option when a disagreement involves:
- Collection of assessments, fines or other financial matters
- Enforcement of a prior mediation settlement agreement between the parties
- A lawsuit by a party seeking to enforce a prior arbitration award
- Lawsuits for injunctive relief
- Title to property
- Breach of duty allegations against a director
We are litigation experts and are available to answer your HOA dispute questions. Call our top-rated Tampa, FL area real estate attorneys to learn how the legal system may be on your side — 813-252-0239.
Mandatory Arbitration for Certain Circumstances
Florida law requires mandatory arbitration in two types of situations – disputes involving the recall of an HOA board member and the HOA that involves elections. These types of disagreements are handled before the State Department of Business and Professional Regulation and are not eligible for pre-lawsuit mediation, leaving arbitration as the only pre-litigation option.
While mandatory for both parties to participate in arbitration, the proceedings are non-binding. However, the arbitration order is enforceable if a lawsuit isn’t filed within 30 days after it has been entered.
Help Resolve Homeowners’ Association Disputes
Let the legal team of Owen & Dunivan help resolve your homeowners’ association disputes. Whether you are a homeowner involved in a homeowners’ association dispute or a member of the HOA, it is important to understand laws in Florida regarding HOA disputes that are subject to an internal process resolution, mediation or arbitration or litigation.
An experienced real estate attorney can help in all matters of HOA disputes and will help achieve a favorable resolution. For more information on our Tampa law firm or to schedule a free consultation, please call us at (813) 252-0239.