Enforcement of Deed Restrictions by Homeowners' and/or Condominium Associations
Many homeowners experience difficulties with their homeowners’ associations, especially when it comes to the association’s attempt to enforce deed restrictions. Homeowners routinely receive written notices from their homeowners’ association regarding violations of the deed restrictions and/or bylaws. Oftentimes, if the violation is not cured, these notices will lead to a lien being placed on the home and an eventual foreclosure of that lien.
Unbeknownst to most homeowners, associations often attempt to enforce deed restrictions in an arbitrary or subjective manner. This practice is known as selective enforcement and is prohibited by Florida law. In the event an association has arbitrarily or selectively enforced any of its deed restrictions, it is prohibited from enforcing those same deed restrictions against any other homeowner. In this same vein, homeowners’ associations are prohibited from selectively or arbitrarily denying permission to homeowners who wish to make alterations to their property.
By way of example, the Florida Supreme Court considered a condominium association’s restriction against residency by children under the age of twelve. The court held that such a restriction was valid and enforceable. However, the condominium association had arbitrarily enforced the restriction—there were at least six children under the age of twelve residing in the condominium community at the time the association attempted to enforce the age restriction against another condominium owner. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that because the association only attempted to enforce the age restriction against some of the condominium owners, it was prohibited from enforcing the restriction against any of the condominium owners going forward.
In summary, associations must enforce their deed restrictions uniformly and objectively while giving a strict meaning to the language of the restrictions. Otherwise, Florida courts are likely to prohibit the association from enforcing such restrictions at all.
If you have any questions or comments about this topic or any other legal issue, please contact the Law Offices of Mercedes Gonzalez Hale, P.A. at (813) 973-8900, or via e-mail at [email protected] or [email protected]. Also, please visit our website at www.mghlaw.com as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages for updates on real estate law.