As spring approaches many homeowners may decide to take on a home improvement project; however, some of these projects may conflict with the deed restrictions and rules in your community association. Many boards are unsure what to do when an owner installs an item or structure that is prohibited by the association’s governing documents. Often an owner will not remove a prohibited structure in response to the imposition of an enforcement assessment against their account.
When faced with this problem, the board may consider the use of summary abatement to remove the structure or item as an alternative to a lawsuit. The board should first check its governing documents and/or contact our office to confirm the association has the authority to remove the structure or item from the property without a court order. Generally, the association may remove structures or items placed in the common elements without a court order based on the association’s maintenance and repair responsibilities. The association must have specific easement rights in its governing documents to enter an individual lot or an individual unit for the purpose of correcting or removing structures or items that violate the deed restrictions or rules.
As you may guess, some owners will not stand by silently while the association removes the structure or item they installed. For example some owners will verbally threaten board members and contractors, some will stand on or near the structure or item being removed to prevent the removal, and in some cases owners have actually used weapons to stop the association’s efforts to remove the structure or item they installed.
To avoid dangerous confrontations with owners, our office recommends the board contact the local police department or county sheriff’s office prior to entering an individual lot or unit to remove a structure or item. The Board should request that an officer come to the property to keep the peace while the structure or item is being removed.
The association may impose any costs incurs to remove the structure or item against the owner’s account; however, prior to imposing those costs against the owner’s account the board must send the owner a letter containing (1) a description of the structure or item that must be removed, (2) a date by which the owner may remove the item to avoid the assessment, (3) the amount of the proposed the removal costs, (4) a statement that the owner has a right to request a hearing with the Board prior to the imposition of the assessment, and (5) instructions on how to request a hearing with the Board.