K.B. from Fairfield County writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have been assessed a fine for not mailing in an information form to the property manager by a certain date. Approximately 64 days later I received a statement that I owed $320 in fines ($5 per day) because the office claims it was not received. I completed and mailed this form prior to the due date but I was never informed it was not received. I have never received a formal notice of violation, nor given an opportunity for a hearing. What can I do?
Mister Condo replies:
K.B., I am sorry that the failure of the property manager to receive a form has lead to this unfortunate situation. Stories like this upset me on many levels. Let’s start with what went right and what went wrong and how you can remedy this situation.
Associations in our state are not allowed to simply issue fines to unit owner without proper procedure. From what you have told me, they did not follow that procedure, which should relieve you from any fine. When a unit owner is reported to commit an infraction, like not returning a form, the association must issue a written warning and a summons for the unit owner to appear before the Board to explain. After the explanation is offered (or if the unit owner does not appear), the Board may then decide to assess a fine for non-compliance.
A fine of $320 for not turning in a form on time is outrageous. In my opinion, no court would uphold that type of penalty for such a minor infraction. Fines are meant to deter bad behavior, not supplement the income of the association. If they refuse to remove the fine, I would file an action against them in Small Claims court. Further, your Property Manager should have known better than to issue this fine. Is your Property Manager licensed? I’d check with the state’s Department of Consumer Protection website to find out – http://www.ct.gov/DCP/cwp/view.asp?a=1622&Q=501002&PM=1. If not, file a complaint against the Property Manager for practicing without a license.
Finally, if the association doesn’t release you from this fine, I would do two things. First, I would hire an attorney and bring suit to protect your rights. Second, I would elect new leaders. If these folks aren’t following the laws on proper community association governance, they have no business leading your association. Rules enforcement is noble and required for community association governance. However, knowing the proper procedure for rules enforcement is the only way to govern an association properly and not harass the unit owners who have many rights when it comes their community association living experience. Good luck!