It has long been recognized that liens are statutorily created rights and consequently are strictly construed. What this means in English is that you can’t simply substantially comply with the lien filing laws. If you want your lien to be valid it must meet all of the statutory requirements and be filed timely. The Florida Court of Appeals reaffirmed this long standing view when it held that substantial compliance with the Florida HOA Act was deficient. (See, Dwork v. Executive Estates of Boynton Beach Homeowners Association, Inc., No. 4D16-1698 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. May 24, 2017).

As a result the fines and lien were not enforceable. In the case, the trial court found that although the association failed the provide adequate notice (13 days instead of the required 14 days) before fining, the trial court awarded damages to the association for the more than $8,000 in fines based on the equities weighing in favor of the association and against the owner. The owner appealed and the appeals court held that since the act was not strictly followed, the unit owner was denied due process. As a result the lien was invalid and the fines could not be collected as they were not properly imposed.

Lesson: Courts will enforce the law, but only when the Association (the Board) strictly follows the law and the association documents. You can’t just get close and you generally can’t argue that equities are in your favor if you failed to follow your own documents. So if you are going to fine someone, make sure that you strictly follow your documents.