Homeowners Associations

Dealing with elderly neighbor in violation of rules

For most violations of rules and restrictions contained in a Condominium or Homeowners’ Association governing documents, the enforcement procedure is fairly simple. A call or letter is sent by management telling the rule or regulation violator to knock it off. If the violation continues, then a certified letter is usually sent from the Association’s attorney to the violator giving him or her one last chance to stop the violation. If that does not work, then the violator is usually sued either in arbitration for some Condominium violations or in local courts for other Condominium violations and for Homeowners’ Association violations.

If successful in litigation, the violator will then get an Order from the Judge to stop or cure the violation. If the violation continues or is not cured, then the violator can be found in contempt of court and fined by the Court or maybe even ultimately incarcerated if the contempt fines are not paid.

However, this fairly straight forward process many times does not work if the violator is elderly and suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s or mental illness. Sometimes, the suffering person will wander around the common areas at odd times, steal things or damage common property, yell and scream at other owners or become a hoarder and live in a filthy unit or home. Often, family members, even spouses, want nothing to do with helping Association representatives try to abate the nuisance to other residents being bothered by their loved one’s actions. They will say they have tried to do all they can do already.

Many times, the elderly person who is losing, or has lost, their normal mental capacity will ignore calls or letters being sent to them by the Association, will avoid legal process of service and, if served, will not get an attorney and will then ignore a court order for compliance or contempt even if issued. Law enforcement usually will not get involved unless there is concrete evidence of a crime or a real threat of violence to others.

So where does an Association board turn to in order to try to rectify the situation when the normal legal routes probably will not be productive?

A starting point locally may be to check out Collier Senior Resources (CSR) which provides information and services for older adults and caregivers. CSR’s website is: collierseniorresources.org.

As stated in their website: “CSR embraces collaboration between like-minded organizations who are focused on older adults and caregivers. With this in mind and thanks to the efforts and support of Collier Senior Resources, the Leadership Coalition on Aging (LCA) includes over 40 local agencies and non-profit organizations dedicated to seniors and caregivers in our community. Consistent with our Mission, we have compiled a comprehensive and growing list of resources for Seniors and Caregivers. Many of the resources listed below are federal and regional; however, we strive to identify and provide resources that are local to help you find the answers to your questions and information you need. Local Resources reflects local providers and agencies committed to helping seniors and caregivers, specific to Collier County and Southwest Florida.”

Some of the listed resources that could be relevant to our person describe above include: Accessible Home Health Care of Naples, Administration on Aging, Alienated Grandparents Anonymous, Inc., Alzheimer’s Support Network, Assisting Hands Homecare, Care Right, Inc., Collier County Services for Seniors, Comfort Keepers, Executive Care, Florida Department of Elder Affairs, Grace Companion Care, Hanson’s Services, Inc., Home Care Assistance of Naples, Interim Health Care of Naples, Moorings Park Home Health, Parkinson Association of Southwest Florida, Seniors Helping Seniors.

As you can see, there are a plethora of local groups and organizations designed to assist the elderly neighbor who may not be quite fully with it anymore and may just need a little assistance and care from people knowledgeable of their condition. Changes are that quicker and better positive results may occur by looking into these type services rather than just trying to rely on the legal system to stop the violations by those suffering from mental conditions out of their control.

Rob Samouce is a principal attorney in the Naples law firm of Samouce & Gal, P.A. He is a Florida Bar Board Certified Specialist in Condominium and Planned Development and concentrates his practice representing condominium, cooperative and homeowners associations in all their legal needs including the procedural governance of their associations, covenant enforcement, assessment collections, contract negotiations and contract litigation, real estate transactions, general business law, construction defect litigation and other general civil litigation matters. This column is not based on specific legal advice to anyone and is based on principles subject to change from time to time.