I inherited a condo in Naples FL 3 years ago. I live in Michigan, and get down to Naples as often ans I can. I hope to retire there in a few years. To help with the bills, I have rented the condo out over the last few years, without an issue from anyone. Last week, I received a letter from an attorney representing the HOA , stating I have broken the rules, and are attempting to charge me $200 a rental for the past 3 years, totaling $3000 plus legal fees. They are demanding that I pay this by this Friday, 2-2, to avoid pre-suit mediation. I never received a copy of these rules. The only thing they sent was a copy of an amendment to the rules surrounding this issue, that was dated September 2017.
Shouldn't The HOA came to me first to resolve this first, instead of resorting to legal actions?
You need to hire an attorney to review the facts of this situation and the letter you received from the association’s lawyer. You are responsible to comply with the rules whether or not you’ve actually seen the rules. It is likely a situation that can be resolved with the association, but a lawyer would have to more fully understand exactly what has happened to cause the association to hire an attorney. You should act sooner than later given the deadline in the letter.
You need legal representation in this matter. This is not a do-it-yourself project. The condo lawyers are very experienced and tend to be aggressive. The Condominium Act prohibits new rental restrictions from being enforced against current owners without their consent; however, it is unclear when the rental restrictions were adopted. While the rules are dated September 2017, this could be just one rule of a whole lot of rules updated or it could be a new rental restriction. You need a lawyer to investigate this to find out. Most COAs have, especially in coastal areas, have rental restrictions in place. Some courts require the rules to be recorded in the county records in order to be enforceable so the owners have notice of the rules. Again, it is unclear if your rules are recorded. Hire a good condo/HOA lawyer who can help you settle this matter. Litigating this issue could be expensive.
This communication is not intended to create an attorney/client relationship. It is always recommended you consult an attorney in person to discuss your case.
I agree, you need a lawyer to review all of this and the exact fact. But general rule is "ignorance of the law is not a defense." You are on constructive notice of the rules whether you saw them or not; and could have asked for a copy over the last 3 years; and they are public record recorded on the county public website to download (and perhaps your HOA website). If you illegally rented the units you will have to pay the piper and come into compliance now going forward.
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Interesting; you say you "inherited" a Condo; but this raises many questions. Did it go through probate here, and did the PR of the estate properly transfer title to you as specific devise, or via intestacy? Did you secure title insurance? Did you have a lawyer representing you when you took title?
In any event, if you didn't know before, you do now, whatver you "inerhited" you inherited SUBJECT TO the covenants and restrictions (and reasonably promulgated rules) of the community. That is it. Unles those docs themselves provide for it, they don't have to give you "notice" of anything, sorry (well accept per the fining protocol - you guessed it - in the docs!). That was YOUR responsibility, way back when you accepted title.
And - if you just ASK the Board (in writing), they must let your review them (and if you wish, copy at your expense).
That said, I might add that these days, many HOA's do not HAVE any authority to restrict rentals (not sure about yours); the Board's just DO it ("ultra vires") and no one says anything. But one would have to review your governing docs to be sure one way or the other. And, if you plan to "retire" there, I stongly sugest you review that first paragraph of questions above, Answer those questions NOW, and consult with a good local HOA lawyer to bring you up to date, and get you all the docs you could every want real quick .
Hope this helps.
This communication is not intended in any way to establish an attorney-client relationship, nor provide legal advice; it is submitted by its author simply as a general comment on the facts contained in the Question posed. NOTE: This attorney contributor is NOT actively seeking new clients.
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