In most Gateway communities the maximum fine a Home Owners Association can levy against you for breaking one of their rules is $100. In Daniel’s Preserve, it’s now ten times that much.

According to multiple Daniel’s Preserve residents the HOA board recently increased their fines from $500 to $1,000 with the specific goal of being able to place a lien on the property – and then, possibly, to foreclose – in order to collect on the debt for the fine.

Florida law does specify that in order for the HOA to place a lien the accrued debt must be $1,000. But in most cases a $1,000 fine is only possible if a homeowner refuses to correct an action for weeks and the fines build up.

Apparently the $500 fines weren’t enough of a hammer for the HOA board, so they’ve now empowered themselves to go straight to placing liens for first offenses.

There is some “good news”, if you can call it that. While the minimum fine in Daniel’s Preserve is now $1,000 … it appears that $1,000 is also the maximum fine for a single violation as well.

Section 11.4 of Daniel’s Preserves declarations states: Fines shall be in such reasonable and uniform amounts as Association shall determine. No fine may exceed $5,000.00 and any fine of $1,000 or more may be secured by a lien on the Lot or Home of the Owner.

Florida Statute 720.305(2) says: A fine may not exceed $100 per violation against any member or any member’s tenant, guest, or invitee for the failure of the owner of the parcel or its occupant, licensee, or invitee to comply with any provision of the declaration, the association bylaws, or reasonable rules of the association unless otherwise provided in the governing documents. A fine may be levied by the board for each day of a continuing violation, with a single notice and opportunity for hearing, except that the fine may not exceed $1,000 in the aggregate unless otherwise provided in the governing documents.

So while the Daniel’s Preserve governing documents allow for a single fine of over $100, they do not specify the maximum aggregate fine – which would normally mean that Florida’s $1,000 legal maximum would take effect.

But as we have seen in other communities, HOA boards often believe they are above Florida law. So who knows if they’ve attempted to collect more than $1,000 from a homeowner for a single infraction. But if history tells us anything, they almost certainly have.

So next time you get a paltry $100 fine from your HOA, count yourself lucky. It could be a lot worse.

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

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