Monday, May 28, 2012

Is an injunction the right remedy to stop abusive HOA resident’s behavior?


Behavioral issues are some of the most difficult issues to confront and resolve in a shared ownership community. Sometimes it is virtually impossible to determine where the source of the problem lies. At other times, however, a problem can be crystal clear and the troublemaker undeniable.
A resident in the Lake Dexter Woods Homeowners Association, Inc. was found to be using vulgar, vile and abusive language in the community, threatening other residents with physical harm and generally terrorizing the community. The association went to court to pursue injunctive relief which was granted by the trial court, prohibiting the resident’s behavior. That decision was appealed by the resident in the case of Connors v. Lake Dexter Woods Homeowners Association, Inc., 50 So. 3d 1212 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010).
The Appellate Court upheld the lower court’s decision but expressed some doubt that an injunction could effectively cure the problem. Many associations who face similar problems turn to the civil system to rein in such behavior, hoping to obtain a civil injunction based on a violation of the association’s nuisance provision. However, civil courts are often reluctant to issue such injunctions and even when issued, it can be extremely difficult and costly for an association to enforce the injuction.
Sadly, even when the threatening behavior can be considered criminal in nature, the police are reluctant to act in many cases when the conduct occurs within the confines of a mandatory community association. Here is the catch-22: if an association is aware that one resident is threatening to harm other residents and does nothing to stop the behavior, the association will most likely be sued should those threats become a reality and damage to person or property ensue.
Associations facing these kinds of behavioral problems should reach out to both their local police department and their association attorney to pursue both civil and criminal remedies where available.

3 comments:

  1. This is troubling. What is the legal community doing to advocate for common-interest communities to ensure that effective remedies exist?

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  2. When an HOA decides that residents who write letters asking pertinent questions that involve HOA business consider this abusive, what can a member do. (The board does not respond because this will require having do do some work.) The letter has a shade of inference that they are not doing their jobs and speaks to "Sunshine Law". Do you consider this abusive? There are no threats or vile language ever stated. Just the facts.

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  3. There is the flip side of this issue which is what you point out. Some associations who may wish to avoid any sort of scrutiny or even membership involvement will take everything as abusive even the most basic questions. For the boards without such motivations, they are able to identify truly abusive behaviors and not attempt to squash all kinds of communications.

    As for solving the problem in the future, it is always difficult to effectively regulate human nature. If we give the boards too much power to deal with abusive behavior then we might slip into the territory described by the second commenter where the abused becomes the abuser.

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