Legal Standards for Unclean Hands for Florida HOA Violations
A typical HOA violation hearing led by the HOA's board allows individuals to present their case for an unbiased decision by the HOA board. This concept stems from the basic set of rules embedded in different areas of the law.
Furthermore, fairness and equality dictate that some legal standards be met in a typical HOA board hearing with reference to the HOA bylaws. This includes recognizing maxims of equity, such as coming in front of a hearing with clean hands—to ensure equitable remedies. Read further to understand the legal standards for unclean hands for Florida HOA violations.
Basis for “Clean Hands” Doctrine
"One who comes to equity must come with clean hands". The "clean hands" doctrine is based on this maxim of equity. In a nutshell, it requires a court (tribunal) to deny equitable relief to a party violating good faith with respect to the subject of the claim.
The three elements of unclean hands in Florida include:
- Unconscionability/ Bad Faith
What to Expect from a Typical Florida HOA Violation Hearing
Running an HOA hearing is an important aspect as general HOA management. Different aspects must be considered to ensure a flawless hearing and for HOAs to act lawfully. According to law experts, due process of law—in its purest forms—requires:
- An opportunity to defend
Homeowners in Florida must comply with the terms of the Declaration, By-laws, and any other rules or regulations. Rules and regulations are regularly amended, unlike Declarations and bylaws. It is important for these routinely amended rules and regulations to be published to ensure every homeowner can access them.
In the context of a violation, a notice of violation is a letter advising that a particular conduct violates the Declaration, By-laws, or Rules and Regulations. A documented prior notice complaint against a resident must exist before a hearing.
If the board can verify the violation independently, the initial complaint's identity is less vital. However, the identity can't be kept confidential for different types of complaints such as noise violations. If so, the unit owner (accused) will be denied the opportunity to confront their accuser, and the HOA board will proceed on a violation by hearsay.
HOA Violation Hearings
HOA violation hearings are generally held before and decided by the board or a grievance committee, depending on the provision of the governing laws. These matters aren't open to the public.
When standing before the grievance committee or board, the defendant can choose to have an attorney at their discretion. However, this means that the HOA will also have an attorney present. The secretary needs to record notes and ensure decisions are made within a Board meeting and a record of votes is taken.
Additionally, third-party dispute resolution programs can be introduced to give both parties an objective and unbiased view. Decisions of the HOA board hearing are made in writing.
The HOA board should enforce all restrictions, covenants, rules, and regulations fairly and consistently. The rules and their applications must be reasonable. HOA boards must recognize that 'automatic fines' simply don't exist.
More importantly, they must always follow due process. While a violation hearing is a procedural requirement, it shouldn't be viewed as a nuisance, but as an opportunity to resolve a violation. For such a reason, fairness and equity must be observed at all times during an HOA violation hearing.
Legal Standards for Unclean Hands for HOA Violations
Generally, unclean hands legal doctrine operates as a defense to a complaint. If a defendant proves the plaintiff comes with unclean hands, the complaint will be dismissed.
In an HOA violation hearing, the accused must prove that the complainant misled them in some manner or otherwise contributed to the violation. The questionable character/ deed can either be moral or legal in nature.
How to Prove Unclean Hands for HOA Violations in Florida
It isn't a requirement that the complainant engages in the same violation as the accused. If the accused brings the unclean hands defense, the complainant could also be found to come with unclean hands. This is despite the violation not being identical to the breach attached to the accused homeowner.
The "unclean hands" defense typically has nothing to do with the other party's moral character. Instead, it is a specific conduct/ violation. The accused person simply stating that the complainant is a bad person isn't sufficient to justify the affirmative defense.
It is important for the deciding 'tribunal' (board) to provide opportunities for both parties to present their cases and raise their defense. The result is a fair HOA hearing that upholds the bylaws and general principles of legal fairness.
How to File a Complaint and Ensure Fair HOA Violation Hearing with DoNotPay's Help
Here’s how to file a complaint with your HOA using DoNotPay:
- Choose and describe the nature of your complaint (neighbors, maintenance, etc).
- Explain how this problem has negatively affected you and how you want the HOA to address the problem.
- Tell us how long you've been a member of this HOA.
- Confirm your home address so we can generate state-specific legal arguments on your behalf!
Sign up today and get HOA complaint assistance from DoNotPay.
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DoNotPay can also help you with the following:
- Filling HOA complaint forms
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Besides dealing with HOA complaints, DoNotPay can help with:
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