Q: In our HOA, we have a tenant who consistently breaks the rules. The landlord is indifferent because he is receiving rent, but the neighbors are very frustrated. What can we do?
B.G., Ft. Myers
A: This is a common question and ultimately requires a detailed review of your governing documents to provide a specific recommendation. Generally, however, there are a few potential solutions.
First, if your documents require the Association to approve or deny lease renewals, you could simply wait until the lease is up for renewal and then deny the request. This only works, however, if you have express authority to deny leases for prior violations in your community and provided the Board has consistently denied leases under similar circumstances. The neighbors may have to wait a bit, but that wait is likely shorter than the duration of an eviction procedure.
Second, you could fine the owner. Landlords rent the home for revenue, so reducing the net revenue will catch the landlord’s attention. The owner is generally responsible for the acts of his/her tenants, so you could fine the owner $100 per violation or up to $1,000 for a continuing violation or even more depending on the language in your covenants. This only works, however, if you have the appropriate fine committee established and have consistently enforced the rules being violated by this particular tenant.
Third, you could attempt to terminate the lease and evict the tenant. This can be helpful if it is a long-term lease and is highly dependent on the language in your covenants. Because the Association is not a party to the lease, it is important that your documents designate the Association with the authority to file such a lawsuit. Depending on your jurisdiction, this may still not be enough and the Board should be aware that a contested eviction action can take months for resolution.
There are other potential and creative remedies, but the general response is that your ability to remove the bad tenant is highly dependent on the strength of your covenants. Thus, the first recommendation is to discuss the matter with a licensed Florida attorney to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your documents in this context.
Steven J. Adamczyk Esq., is a shareholder of the law firm Goede, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC. To ask Mr. Adamczyk questions about your issues for future columns, send your inquiry to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.