R.S. from Litchfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
My condo association recently sent me a notice to attend a hearing about violations of association rules, namely allowing my dog to roam off her leash and failure to pick up her waste. I was very confused by the notice as my dog is never off her leash and I always pick up after her, carrying special bags for that very purpose. When I attended the hearing and told them this, they informed me that they had “reliable information that that’s not the case” but they declined to present any witness or evidence. I persisted in my denials, and left the hearing in frustration with the promise that I would “be informed of the board’s decision within 30 days”. Can my condo association fine me without providing any evidence that the violation even occurred? Do I not have the right to be presented with the evidence against me and respond to it?
Mister Condo replies:
R.S., first off, thank you for being a good neighbor and taking care to keep your pet on leash and cleaning up when nature calls. I am sure your neighbors and fellow condo community members are grateful for your efforts. Since your question is about due process, let’s talk about the process of deciding to fine a community member.
As a Board Member at my own condo, I can tell you that the process of levying fines is not enjoyable. It usually begins with a neighbor versus neighbor complaint. In your case, it sounds like a fellow resident is claiming to have seen something you say did not occur. The Board asked you to come in and explain your side of the story, which it sounds like you did more than capably. The Board did not issue a fine, they simply let you know that they will make a decision within 30 days, which is not uncommon. It is not a court room with sworn testimony and cross examinations. The only evidence is often “he said, she said” so the Board is in a very difficult position. They have to respond to the complaint and they have to make a decision.
You have the right to appeal the decision if you are not happy with the outcome. Of course, it is possible that the Board will not fine you but if they decide to pursue that avenue, you do have rights. Unfortunately, it is up to you to know your rights and how to make use of them. While you could go to the expense and trouble to hire an attorney, it is unlikely that it will come to that. Certainly, if you perceive a pattern of fines aimed at you for offenses you are not committing, I would advise you to hire an attorney and seek damages.
You have already taken the correct first step by speaking to the Board. It is possible that your testimony was all they needed to dismiss the complaint. If it is possible for you to walk your pet off property, that would be a good way to avoid this potential complaint in the future. Otherwise, stay vigilant in your clean-up duties. Hopefully, the complaint will go away and there will be no more talk of fines. Best Wishes!