The Finer Points of Fining a Unit Owner- Part 2 of 2: The Hearing, this is not Law and Order or Judge Judy
By: Andrea Dunn
The hearing date is set. Felix has been notified and the Board has done everything right. What’s next? The hearing. Many board members are not fond of the hearing. It is unknown what is going to be said, what evidence is going to be presented and, quite frankly, the idea of sitting in a small room with people yelling at you is not appealing. I’m here to help.
The hearing can be held at either the beginning or end of a regular board meeting or can be done separately at an executive session. The executive session allows the hearing to be with just the board, Felix and his witnesses and the association’s attorney. If the hearing is being held at a regular board meeting, the agenda of the meeting sent to the unit owners needs to list the hearing. A quorum of board members needs to be present at the hearing.
The hearing commences. It is best for the board to start the meeting and go over the basics: why Felix is here, how Felix got notice of the meeting and how the hearing is going to proceed. THIS IS NOT A DEBATE, NOR IS IT JUDGE JUDY.
The board is there to listen to Felix and hear testimony of any witnesses and review any evidence presented. If the board wishes to ask Felix questions after evidence is presented, they may do so. I recommend keeping questions to a minimum so that the hearing does not get prolonged or veer out of control. Do not allow Felix to go on and on. He needs to address the specific violation and not his personal opinions about Oscar.
After Felix has completed his testimony and presented his witnesses and evidence, the board should thank him for coming and tell him he is free to go. Tell Felix the board is going to discuss the matter and will issue him a decision in writing within 30 days. The board should then, if they are conducting the meeting at a regular board meeting, go into executive session to discuss the matter. Unit owners are not to be present in executive session and minutes are not kept during executive session. The board discusses the matter and decides to issue a fine of $50.00 for blocking Oscar’s parking spot on June 8th. The board also decides that any further documented instances of Felix blocking Oscar’s parking spot will result in a fine of $50.00 per occurrence. The board concludes executive session and goes on the record with the decision and the secretary records the decision. The property manager or attorney then sends Felix a decision letter reiterating the basics: what rule was violated, what notices were sent, the date of hearing and the fact that he attended. The decision letter will inform him that the board found him in violation of the rule and that a fine of $50.00 was issued and any further documented occurrences will result in additional $50.00 fine per occurrence. Felix will also be informed that should any further action need to be taken, he may be liable for costs and attorneys fees.
If Felix decided to not attend the hearing, the board still makes a decision and sends a decision letter. Felix’s attendance does not effect the board’s ability to issue a fine and he was informed of this in the hearing notice letter.