Our home owners association is fining residents.

Additional Information:

We live in a 10 unit condominium complex in Chestnut Hill, and the home owners association is fining residents, but there is no statutory authority to do so.  Do we have to pay the fines?  I don’t want to be in “bad standing” with the HOA. What should we do?

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

The statement in your question that “there is no statutory authority” for trustees to fine unit owners is incorrect.  M.G.L. c. 183A Sec. 10(b) provides, in material part, that:  “Such corporation, trust or association shall have, among other powers,  the following rights and powers:….(3) to…levy reasonable fines for violations of  the master deed, trust, by-laws, restrictions, rules or regulations of the organization of unit owners.

You do not elaborate in your question about how much the fine is or why it is being levied. Certain types of fines can be treated as “common expenses” and in order to challenge those fines you must first pay them and then challenge them in a separate legal action. 

If you do not pay the fines, the HOA may bring legal action against you and seek to collect not only the fines, but also its legal fees which often times is much greater than the fines. In addition, the HOA can seek to collect the fine by putting a lien on your condominium and possibly forcing a sale.

My advice would be to pay the fines and if you contend that they were too large or not reasonably levied, you can challenge those fines in a separate court proceeding. Be careful, however, because the cost of challenging the fee may be larger than the fee itself. If that is the case, make sure you attend all trustee and unit owner meetings and give your input.  You could also attempt to become a trustee yourself so that you will have more control over issues involving the condominium, including fines assessed.

The Condominium Law Attorneys  at Goldman & Pease provide legal representation for matters related to condominium and real estate law in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts and the surrounding communities including Needham, Brookline, Dedham, Westwood, Dover,  Wellesley, Weston  and the entire Boston Metrowest region.