JONATHAN MITCHELL DWORK a/k/a JONATHAN M. DWORK, Appellant,
EXECUTIVE ESTATES OF BOYNTON BEACH HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., Appellee.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit,
Palm Beach County; Peter D. Blanc, Judge; L.T. Case No.
M. Wolfson of Wolfson Law Firm, LLP, Miami, for appellant.
J. Sosin of Sosin Law, PLLC, Boca Raton, for appellee.
M. Dwork ("appellant") asks this court to decide
whether Executive Estates of Boynton Beach Homeowners
Association ("HOA") was obligated under section
720.305(2)(b), Florida Statutes (2013), to provide him with
fourteen days' notice of a hearing on alleged violations
of maintenance requirements before imposing fines, or whether
HOA could be entitled to money damages for unpaid fines so
long as it substantially complied with the statute's
notice provision. We find that strict compliance with the
notice provision of the statute was a necessary prerequisite
for HOA to impose fines. Accordingly, because HOA provided
appellant with only thirteen days' notice of the hearing,
we reverse the money damages awarded to HOA for the unpaid
owns and resides in a single family house within HOA's
development. HOA's governing documents require all
homeowners to keep their roofs and driveways clean and their
fences in good condition. HOA notified appellant of his
violations of these requirements multiple times over the
preceding years, but he neither fixed them nor responded to
any of the notices. In 2013, after an inspection confirmed
the continued existence of these maintenance violations, HOA
informed appellant of the violations by certified letter and
provided a thirty-day cure period to bring the property into
compliance. Not receiving an answer, HOA sent another
certified letter providing for an additional fifteen days to
comply. Appellant was completely unresponsive to HOA's
repeated attempts to contact and notify him.
23, 2013, HOA sent appellant another notice by both regular
and certified mail informing him that thirteen days later on
June 5 a hearing would take place before the fine committee
to consider his maintenance violations. In compliance with
its bylaws, HOA also posted the notice on a bulletin board at
the development's clubhouse. Again, the copy of the
notice sent by certified mail was returned unclaimed. The
fine committee meeting commenced as scheduled on June 5, with
the committee voting to impose fines on appellant for three
violations. HOA's board ratified the committee's
decision on June 25. Two days later, HOA sent appellant
another letter, informing him of the committee's decision
and that starting on July 2, he would be fined $25 per day
for each of the three violations if they were not remedied.
As was the practice, appellant neither responded to the
letter nor remedied the violations.
September 5, 2013, HOA's attorneys mailed appellant a
letter demanding payment of the fines and informing him that
a lien would be recorded on his property if the fines
remained unpaid. Appellant neither responded nor remedied the
violations. On January 27, 2014, HOA's attorneys mailed
appellant another letter informing him that they were
recording a lien on his property for $7, 500.00 as the full
amount of the accrued fines, which was the maximum allowed
($2, 500.00 fine for each violation), plus fees and costs
incurred, totaling $8, 135.00. This certified letter also
went unclaimed. On January 29, 2014, the clerk recorded the
lien on appellant's property in the public records.
Appellant never contacted HOA regarding the lien.
then filed a two-count complaint against appellant for
foreclosure and damages, as well as attorney's fees and
costs. The first count sought to foreclose on the claim of
lien for fines imposed as assessments for violations of
HOA's declaration of covenants, articles of
incorporation, and rules. The second count sought a judgment
for money damages in the amount of $7, 500 for failure to pay
those same fines. The cause went to a non-jury trial in April
2016, whereupon the court entered final judgment. On the
first count, the court denied foreclosure since the
thirteen-day notice provided to appellant by HOA did not
comply with the fourteen-day notice provision of section
720.305(2)(b) or HOA's declarations and bylaws, thereby
rendering the HOA unable to enforce its claim of lien against
appellant's property. However, despite HOA's failure
to strictly comply with the statutory notice provision, the
court awarded money damages to HOA on its second count,
reasoning that the "equities of this cause [were] with
[HOA] and against [appellant]." The court also granted
HOA entitlement to reasonable fees and costs. This appeal
is a matter of statutory interpretation, we review the
application of section 720.305 de novo. Miles v.
Parrish, 199 So.3d 1046, 1047 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).
time when HOA sent appellant the hearing notice, section
720.305(2)(b) provided that "[a] fine or suspension may
not be imposed without at least 14 days' notice to the
person sought to be fined or suspended and an opportunity for
a hearing before a committee."
the first count for foreclosure on the claim of lien, the
court properly denied relief. Pursuant to section
720.305(2)(b), HOA was required to provide appellant with
at least fourteen days' notice of the fine
720.305(2)(b) is protective, and the notice requirement
functions as a condition precedent to the attachment of a
lien. This time requirement for the notice is no mere
technicality. Failure to provide sufficient time to prepare a
defense to a claim of violation deprives the homeowner of due