Q&A: Collecting from a Habitual Rule Breaker

Q I am a board member of a Maine condominium. One of our unit owners has consistently broken our rules, and continues to do so. What can we do to stop him?

— Mandated in Maine

A If everything else fails, the boardcan fine the unit owner (after first giving him an opportunity to be heard; that is, a chance to explain his side of the story to the board).

The fine, once assessed, is a lien on the unit, lasting for three years. The association can sue him in small claims court to collect the fine, or even foreclose on the unit in the same manner as a bank forecloses a mortgage. If the association succeeds in court, the owner is responsible for the fine and also for paying theassociation’s attorney fees.

The association needs to be careful aboutthis: it must have given the rule breaker an opportunity to be heard; it must show that the rule is valid and that the unit owner violated it; and it must convince the judge that the fine is reasonable under the circumstances. If the board fails to do these things, it might have to pay the unit owner’s attorney fees.

— Joseph Carleton, Jr., Esq.

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  • I realize this Q&A is from 2010 but it is very important that we get a clarification on fines, liens and the rights of owners vs. boards who attempt to implement fines. Please reference Foley v. Osborne which states fines and ultimately liens by boards are unconstitutional.