Condominium Associations

Regulations requiring civil discourse in your community

For whatever reason we are getting more and more complaints from Associations that a resident is yelling and cursing at other residents either in person, on the property, or by use of nasty e-mails. Such conduct is very disturbing to many and they then ask us what they can legally do about it to get the person to stop.

Although most Condominium and Homeowners’ Associations have “nuisance” provisions in their governing documents which allows the Association to take legal action if a resident is causing a nuisance as defined in their documents, usually the nuisance provision only concerns matters such as playing music loud after hours or having loud parties with lots of noise and cars.

However such nuisance provisions usually do not cover people using profanity or personally acting abusive or threatening against other residents while on property or in e-mails or letters.

In order to beef up the nuisance language to cover vulgar and nasty behavior, we have found adding something like the following to the Declaration of Condominium or Declaration of Covenants will do the trick: “No owner, tenant or guest may disturb any other owner or resident with the use of profane, obscene, threatening or abusive comments either orally or in writing or by their conduct on the property that is abusive or threatening.”

Such an amendment will require a membership vote. However, once approved, it will be much easier for the Association to bring legal action against the owner for violation of the new nuisance provision by the owner or their guest or their tenant. If such legal action becomes necessary, per statute, the owner will be responsible for the Association’s prevailing party attorney’s fees.

Although it still is pretty rare for a community to have many residents who act is such an unsavory manor, we see that the ones who do seem to be getting bolder and bolder with the intensity of the vulgarity, rudeness, aggressive and threatening manner.

Sometimes we will see that nasty e-mails are written late at night, when the drafter can hide behind their video monitors and then the next day when they are confronted in person, they act a bit more pleasant.

Others don’t seem to give a flip and will spew venom loudly and often at anyone or everyone.

Many times Board members or management will try to talk with the vile folks in a reasonable manner and many times such attempts at being civil will go nowhere. Directors need to understand that usually they are not usually dealing with an individual with a normal personality. Maybe no one ever taught them that they can get win more with honey than with vinegar. The Directors have no legal obligation to respond to nasty e-mails and letters from fellow residents.

Sometimes law enforcement has to be called to remove these bad actors from Association meetings, prevent them from joining the meeting, or to protect residents being threatened. Residents should not hesitate to contact the police or sheriff’s office if they are physically threatened or assaulted. Usually law enforcement will have a chat with them so they understand that such behavior must stop and if warranted, they will be arrested.

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.