E.A. from Fairfield County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I am a tenant and my landlord is the condo unit owner. I was recently charged by the condo association for violating a parking rule. They gave warning by emailing my landlord and said we owe an automatic fine. There was no written notice given to us and no hearing. We denied the accusation and demanded evidence. They provided an incorrect permit number as evidence. Later they confirmed my car make/model and license plate which they had on file anyways. They said they’ll put the fine on hold until a hearing. I provided pictures of my parking permits, none matching the number they claimed was violating permit number. They can show no picture evidence and are relying on the word of a board member.
Is such a charge without evidence and providing an incorrect parking permit tag # reasonable? Could we take them to small claims court if they do not drop the fine? Can they issue an automatic fine before a hearing?
Mister Condo replies:
E.A., the Common Interest Ownership Act, also known as CIOA, has a lot to say about the correct methodology for applying, appealing, and contesting fines from a community association to one of its members. CIOA is designed to protect both owners and renters from being cited for violations of association rules without fair warning, hearings, and the ability to contest the fines. No community association enjoys fining its members. It is a tedious process that ultimately builds ill will between residents and the Board that is made up of volunteer community members.
I am not the one to play jury here but I can tell you that based on what you have presented here, you would likely prevail in court. However, that seems like an awful lot of trouble for what I am guessing is a very small fine. I would weigh the cost of going to court with the amount of the fine before I made the decision. However, by taking this Board to court you will be sending a message from yourself that you are aware of your rights and you aren’t afraid to use them. Good luck!