Q. I live in a small condo association with limited parking. Our condo docs clearly state that each unit has one reserved parking space which is numbered with the same number as your unit. The remainder of the parking spaces are clearly marked "guest."
Unfortunately, a large amount of owners and / or their guests do not seem to understand the difference between an assigned parking spot and a guest spot. Frequently, if you go out at night, you will come home to find someone parked in your space. You have no way of knowing if it is a visitor or someone that lives here parking in your spot, which is really irrelevant since they are in a reserved spot anyway. Homeowners don't have a decal or any other identifying mark, and visitors are not required to put anything in their windshield identifying them as being a visitor or with whom they are visiting.
The association really has no set policy for dealing with violators. If you are lucky enough to be able to reach a board member or the management company, they may come put a sticker on the car in violation stating that it will be towed in 24 hours. The violator is rarely there for 24 hours, and therefore goes unpunished except for having to scrape the sticker off of their window. Meanwhile, residents are sometimes forced to park in the grass if someone is in their spot and then end up getting a ticket from code enforcement for being parked in the grass.
I recently called the police regarding someone parked in my assigned and numbered spot and was told there is nothing they can do because it is private property. I assume if I lived in a private home and found someone in my driveway, I would be able to do something about it. Why is a condo not able to do anything? I was also told that they have no way of knowing if someone is trespassing or lives here since homeowners have nothing on their vehicle to identify them as an owner. Other people have been told the same thing.
I (and some of my neighbors) put chairs and benches in our spots if we leave our homes. I have had chairs stolen and others knocked over. Tonight I plan on putting a barricade with caution tape to make sure I have my assigned parking space when I return home. I do not think I should have to resort to this. This has been an issue for years, yet the management company seems unable to come up with a solution. What are our rights as owners? And, what (if anything) should our management company be doing to combat this? I’m stumped for a reasonable answer.
—Peeved in Port St. Lucie
A. “I sympathize with your predicament as I can only imagining how frustrating this must be. At the outset let me share with you that a good portion of my day as a community association lawyer is spent assisting clients dealing with problems and violations involving “The Three P’s: Pets, People and Parking.” Parking problems and parking violations are unfortunately very common in Florida community associations. You are not alone in your frustration!” states David G. Muller, a shareholder attorney with the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff in the Naples/Sarasota office.
“But what can be done? If you have an assigned parking space then you have the exclusive right to park in this space. If someone is parking in your parking space that is a violation and you should ensure that your condominium association is made aware of the violation (which you have done).
“Regarding enforcement efforts, the condominium association, through the board of directors, has various “enforcement tools” that it can utilize to try to address a violation and bring about compliance. These enforcement tools include, but are not necessarily limited to, the pursuit of a fine against the violator and the suspension of certain common element use rights by the violator. You should be aware that there are several procedural requirements mandated by Florida Statutes which must be followed in order to impose a fine or suspend a resident’s common element use rights. Another enforcement tool, which I often refer to as the “hammer” option, is for the board to notify the attorney for the condominium association. The association attorney can send a demand letter to the violator and demand that the unauthorized parking in your assigned parking space stop immediately. If the violations continue, the association has the option to pursue litigation against the violator. In the ensuing litigation the association has the right to seek the recovery of its prevailing party attorney’s fees and costs. The bottom line is that your condominium association has several options to attempt to address these parking violations based on the above-referenced “enforcement tools.”
“Another enforcement tool that your association may be able to pursue is the remedy of towing. Generally speaking, towing is a remedy that I recommend be used sparingly. Since towing is a “self-help” remedy, a judge will often examine the association’s towing process very carefully if the association is sued for wrongful towing. Since towing is not a remedy specifically incorporated within the Condominium Act (Chapter 718, Florida Statutes), the condominium documents would need to confer such authority on the association. Further, the association needs to be aware that Florida has a detailed statute governing the towing of vehicles, which is found at Section 715.07 of the Florida Statutes.
“The above summary addresses various enforcement rights and options available to your condominium association. From what you have described, however, it does appear that the overall “administration” of the parking in your condominium is severely lacking. Your condominium board may want to consider addressing this administrative deficiency by adopting rules to help address this nightmarish parking problem. The condominium association should consult with the association attorney and obtain their assistance in drafting these additional parking rules.
“Your association attorney will need to confirm the goals of the community and confirm that the board has the authority to adopt said rules. That being said, it is very common for condominium associations to adopt rules which identify certain vehicles (via parking sticker or otherwise) so that the association’s management knows whether a given car is or is not supposed to be parked in a given parking spot. The association can also consider adopting rules which require guests to use a specific guest parking pass, which must be prominently displayed. Again, the scope and specific language of the parking rules should be carefully considered, drafted and adopted, but this effort will be well worth it.”