Fined for insulting association president

WSVN — The association president and a unit owner got into an argument… then the resident got fined for raising his voice and criticizing the condo president. Is it legal? Let’s find out in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When we met Jose, two things were on his mind… one his 3 little boys.

Jose Mendez: "They don’t stop and since they are boys, they are always getting into something."

The boys are fun… the other thing on his mind that day is frustrating.

Jose Mendez: "I bought this property in 2010. I got it for a pretty good discount."

Jose now rents the condo out and recently, the hot water heater broke at the unit. Jose went over to fix it.

Jose Mendez: "And I went to ask for permission in the form of a parking pass to park on my own space because they don’t allow owners to park there. they say you have to live there."

The property manager at Verabella Falls condos was about to give Jose the parking pass to fix the water heater when the condo president walked over…

Jose Mendez: "And he told her, ‘No you can’t give it to him, he can’t do any repairs.’"

Jose told the president he had the right to park in his own space to fix the leak.

Jose Mendez: "And he got up to my face, a few inches to my face, kind of antagonizing me to do something so I kind of laughed it off and went outside."

The president followed him outside. Jose says they both raised their voices as they exchanged words.

Jose Mendez: "And all of the sudden, he’s being held back and he is trying to attack me."

Jose again walked away, fixed the hot water heater and left. Then a few days later, he was left steaming after this letter arrived from the association, letting him know he had been fined twice for the way he talked to the condo president.

Jose Mendez: "One of them was for causing a disturbance for speaking loudly and the second fine says I insulted and disrespected the president."

The letter also demanded within 48 hours that he retract his defamatory words about the president and the board. To Jose, that meant apologize and applaud the president’s work at Verabella Falls.

Jose Mendez: "They want me to apologize in writing and say that this president has been doing a great job. They want me to put this in writing."

Jose says both men raised their voice and the condo president was not fined… just Jose.

His conclusion…

Jose Mendez: "It’s totally ridiculous."

Jose thinks the fines for the way he talked to the condo president are ridiculous. Howard, do you think they are legal?

Howard Finkelstein: "No… the association documents say you can’t speak loudly, but the purpose of rules like that are so you don’t disturb your neighbors. This happened in an office and right outside the door. Also, the rules also don’t block you from criticizing a board member. And finally, even if it was a violation, it’s selective enforcement since the president didn’t get cited as well. Bottom line, this is illegal, ridiculous and they cannot fine Jose."

We talked to the property manager who witnessed the exchange between Jose and the association president. She confirmed the president was not fined for shouting… a few days later left her job.

A new management company was brought in Jose says they told him they talked to the board and the fines were dropped.

We tried to speak to the new property manager… they did not respond. We also asked to speak to the board president but did not hear back from him either.  

Jose Mendez: "They made it seem like they were doing me a favor and remove the fine this one time, which they weren’t and I made them aware."

The first resident vs association battle in this year was a doozy… and odds are, since it’s South Florida, we will probably hear about an even crazier one down the road in 2016.

Jose Mendez: "I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without your help. My other alternative was to hire a lawyer and take this to court. No other option. It would have cost me thousands of dollars and a few months."

Glad it worked out Jose… and Jose knew what they were doing was illegal because he read all the association documents. If you don’t have your condo or homeowner documents, get them before you need them. The association can charge you for them, but only what it costs them to copy and hand you the documents. Or borrow a neighbors documents.

Documented a problem that you don’t want to associate with? Ready to make some noise? Contact us. And we will be fine with fixing things. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
E-mail: helpmeHoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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On Twitter: @helpmehoward7