M.B. from New Haven County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
My son advertised short rental of my condo without my knowledge. The condo was never rented. The Board of Directors found the advertisement and without first warning with no penalties according to the bylaws, they are charging me a $2500 penalty for renting it although I’ve told them it has never been rented. Without my knowledge they took my last 2 maintenance payments and applied them to the fine and then wrote to me that I was delinquent on maintenance payment. I have told then to send me proof or I will make police report for harassment. What can I do? I did not want to go to appeal because there was nothing to appeal, it never happened.
Mister Condo replies:
M.B., this sounds like a series of unfortunate events to me and I am sorry that you and your Board didn’t find a better way to work out this misunderstanding before it came to this. That being said, let’s review what has happened and what you are likely to do next. First off, I am not an attorney so please consider this advice friendly, and not legal. For legal advice, I suggest you seek appropriate legal counsel in the form of an attorney.
If your association has rules about renting or advertising the rental of your condo it really makes no difference who placed the ad and whether it was with your knowledge or not. If the rule was broken and the Board wishes to take action they can. Is this the first time you have broken this rule? Have you ever been cited for breaking this rule before? If either of those scenarios is true then your Board may be acting within their rights to issue you a fine for the violation. If not, you are correct in that they should issue you a warning and request that you appear before the Board. If you do not appear before the Board, they can certainly go ahead and fine you. Even if you do appear before the Board, they have the right to fine you if they conclude that you violated the rule. From what you have stated you did not wish to appear before the Board. With a lack of any counter claim from you, guess what happened? They issued you a fine! Any time you are requested to appear before the Board, it is a good idea to do so. If you are uncomfortable or unsure about the appearance, it is a good investment to hire an attorney to advise you. Once the fine was issued, you were liable for the amount and they have the right to collect it from you before applying money to your common fees. That means you will accrue late fees on your common fees until the fine is settled. As you can see, it is in your best interest to get this matter taken care of as soon as possible.
From what you have stated, I would think you will want to hire an attorney to represent your interests any way. Clearly, there is a problem between you and the Board and communication seems to be severely lacking. Also at question is the legality of the measures the Board has taken against you. For starters, I have never heard of a $2500 fine! Fines are used to prevent improper behavior. At $2500, it sounds like the Board is using the fine to produce association income. An attorney can best advise you if your rights were violated and what legal recourse you may have. Typically, if you hire an attorney, the Board will do the same. Once the two attorneys sit down they can either reach a settlement or determine if a lawsuit is necessary. Keep in mind that a lawsuit can get expensive and even nasty so be ready for the long haul if needed. At some point, you may even need to evaluate if it is just less expensive to pay your fine than to sue your Board. Either way, be sure not to break any other rules of your association so you don’t find yourself in this type of predicament again. All the best!