Gateway Sun

The HOA board of the Timber Ridge community recently attempted to change their governing documents to give themselves the power to, at their own discretion, evict renters who violate the association’s rules.

Even in situations when the infractions are relatively minor and the property owner does not want their tenant evicted.

Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes outlines the exact process a landlord must follow to evict tenants. It’s part of long-established landlord-tenant law. But landlords and Home Owner Associations are two very different things.

So how could an HOA evict someone who is renting your property?

There is one clearly defined situation under Florida law when they can. If you as the property owner owes your HOA money, the HOA can legally force your tenant to pay their rent directly to the HOA to satisfy your debt to the Association. If your renter does not comply the HOA can evict your renter.

Here is the relevant part of Florida Statute 720.3085(8): The association may issue notice under s. 83.56 and sue for eviction under ss. 83.59-83.625 as if the association were a landlord under part II of chapter 83 if the tenant fails to pay a monetary obligation. However, the association is not otherwise considered a landlord under chapter 83 …

Chapter 720 is dedicated to laws involving Home Owner Associations.

Notice how the above quoted section specifically refers to provisions in Chapter 83, since that’s the section of law necessary to evict somebody.

However, while Chapter 720.3085(8) does grant the HOA the power to evict your tenants to satisfy a “monetary obligation”, it also limits the HOA’s ability to act with the same powers that you have as a landlord in any other situation.

Timber Ridge HOA President Dan Ziegler doesn’t see it that way.

“The HOA Act was never envisioned to be a the last word on HOA operations or even what is lawful or not lawful. Each HOA Declaration contains numerous matters that simply are not even addressed in the Act – an HOA’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions is a ‘common-law’ instrument, not a statutory document like a condominium Declaration. The important question then is not whether something is allowed under the HOA Act, but whether it is specifically prohibited,” said Ziegler.

But it says right in the above quoted piece of law that the HOA “is not otherwise considered a landlord under Chapter 83”, and again Chapter 83 defines the eviction process.

Wouldn’t that language mean the HOA is precluded from acting as the landlord in most situations?

Ziegler obviously doesn’t think so.

His HOA board wanted to include the following statements in their new governing documents:

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– Any lease or rental entered into without notice in violation of the above provisions shall, at the option of the Board, be treated as a nullity, and the Board shall have the power to evict the lessee and all other residents by summary proceedings without securing consent to such eviction from the Homeowner.

– If the Homeowner fails to bring the conduct of the tenant into compliance with the governing documents, the Association shall have the authority to act as agent of the Homeowner to undertake whatever action is necessary to abate the tenants’ noncompliance with the governing documents, including without limitations, the right to institute an action for eviction against the tenant in the name of the Association.

– A covenant on the part of each occupant to abide by the rules and regulations of the Association and the provisions of the governing documents, designating the Association as the Homeowner’ agent with the authority to terminate any lease agreement and evict the tenants in the event of breach of such covenant, shall be deemed to be included in every lease or rental agreement, whether oral or written, and whether specifically expressed in such agreement or not.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The above statements are only partial sections of the proposed governing documents that are relevant to this story.

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Ultimately the residents of Timber Ridge voted to reject the new governing documents.

Two sources have told the Gateway Sun that some board members are livid that the residents would defy the board.

Everybody agrees that tenants should behave themselves. And when they don’t the Florida Statutes allow for fines and denying access to community privileges and amenities. But the law does not allow for HOAs evicting tenants for misbehavior.

Ziegler’s stance that anything his board can think of is allowed (as long as it’s not specifically prohibited by the statutes) is chilling. And it should serve as a warning to anybody who wants to buy a home in Timber Ridge what life will be like for them.

HOA boards have the ability to establish the culture in a community. Attempted power grabs like this one by the Timber Ridge HOA only serve to build mistrust and discontent.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I am not an attorney and this article does not constitute legal advice. I can, however, read the law.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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