Are Fines for Speeding Legal?

·3 min read
Attorney David G. Muller is a shareholder with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, P.A.
Attorney David G. Muller is a shareholder with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff, P.A.

Q: My community has set up various speed monitoring devices along the most travelled road. The board is now fining residents for speeding violations. Is this legal? What is the process for imposing a fine and can these fines result in a lien? D.V.

A: Fines can be levied for violations of the governing documents, including speeding violations. Whether a fine can be recovered by the recording and pursuit of a lien depends on several factors, including the amount of the fine and what type of community association you live in.

Condominium and cooperative fines are capped at one hundred dollars per day and one thousand in the aggregate for continuing or ongoing violations. Homeowners’ association fines are likewise capped at one hundred dollars per violation and one thousand dollars in the aggregate, with one important difference. The declaration, articles, or bylaws for a homeowners’ association can authorize higher fines (this option is not available to condominiums and cooperatives).

Fining is retroactive and can begin accruing from the first day/time a violation is alleged to have occurred. There is no legal requirement to give a warning letter or opportunity to correct a violation before a fine is levied, although many associations do so as a matter of policy, especially for minor or first-time violations.

The board typically initiates the fining process by placing the matter on the agenda for a regular or specially scheduled board meeting to consider levying a fine. A majority vote of the board at a meeting where a quorum is present would be required to levy the fine, which should be levied as a specific amount.

After levy by the board, a hearing must be offered. The hearing is conducted by an independent committee appointed by the board. The committee, sometimes called “fining committee” or “compliance committee,” must be comprised of at least three (3) members of the association who are not officers, directors, or employees of the association, or the spouse, parent, child, brother, or sister of an officer, director, or employee.

At the fining hearing, the committee must afford basic due process and allow the accused to be heard, state his or her case, and challenge evidence against him or her. Ongoing or continuing violations only require a single notice and opportunity for hearing before the committee.

The committee’s sole decision is to either “confirm” or “reject” the fine levied by the board. If the committee rejects the fine, the matter is concluded. If the committee confirms the fine, the fine is deemed to be imposed. The association must provide written notice of the fine by mail or hand delivery to the owner and, if applicable, to any tenant or invitee of the owner. The fine becomes due 5 days after written notice is given.

Unpaid fines cannot by law be secured by a lien for condominium or cooperatives. In homeowners’ associations, the statute provides that a fine of one thousand dollars or more may be subject to a lien. Some argue that the governing documents need to also include the authority to impose the lien for unpaid fines, some argue the contrary, there are no appellate court decisions on the topic. You might also be interested in knowing that there are already two Bills filed for the 2022 Florida Legislative Session that address HOA fines. One Bill (SB 1362) would state that homeowners’ association fines cannot be secured by a lien. The other (HB 6103) would remove the statutory authority of homeowners’ associations to fine altogether. It will be interesting to see what happens to these Bills during the upcoming 2022 Legislative Session.

Collection of fines typically requires a suit in small claims court, and the loser of the case would normally be responsible for the winner’s attorneys’ fees.

The provisions of your individual association’s governing documents and the application of current laws is also an important issue, which should be addressed with the association’s attorney. Likewise, if the matter is contested in court, the judge will likely require proof from the association that its speed monitoring devices are reliable and properly calibrated and maintained.

David G. Muller is a Board-Certified Attorney in Condominium and Planned Development Law with Becker & Poliakoff, P.A. in Naples. Send questions to Attorney Muller by e-mail to dmuller@beckerlawyers.com.

This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Are Fines for Speeding Legal?

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