Military family returns to find HOA collecting rent from squatters

By Deborah Goonan

This is yet another nightmare story of outrageous abuse and power wielded by homeowners’ associations. This story involves:

  1. Exploitation of a military family while deployed and on active duty
  2. Unresolved construction defects, specifically Chinese drywall
  3. The HOA allowing squatters to break into their home and pay rent to the Association

You can watch the video and read the transcript here.

So many questions come to mind. Why hasn’t the Chinese drywall been replaced? How did the squatters get into the house without any of the neighbors noticing? Or did the neighbors notice, but simply didn’t want to get involved? Did the management company even attempt to notify the owners about their “tenants”?

Without knowing the facts and details, we can assume that the Chinese drywall made the home uninhabitable. The Tuppers have been living overseas for four years, while on military assignment.

Does it surprise me that the assessments have not been paid? Not really. I doubt I would continue to pay the mortgage and HOA assessments on a house I couldn’t live in. Who would?

But why would the HOA management company compound this nightmare by accepting a bogus lease from squatters, and then collect rent from them? Or was this all a ruse deliberately planned as a way to obtain revenue from this house from hell? Who will be liable if the evicted squatters develop health problems tied to the toxic drywall? Could Association members end up paying for the inevitable lawsuit?

It’s all legal, right?

By the way, as outrageous as it seems, if the homeowner is delinquent on assessments, it is perfectly legal for the Association to collect rent from a tenant in the state of Florida. I’ve copied the applicable portion of the statute below, for those who would like to read it. I’ve highlighted the key points in blue. Also, let me correct an inaccurate statement made by the Sheriff, who said that the HOA cannot evict a tenant. That’s technically not true. If the tenant fails to pay rent to the Association after being notified to do so, the HOA can indeed evict the tenant!

After eviction, the HOA commonly moves in a new tenant who will pay the rent directly to the Association. Is it legal? That’s debatable, like so many other shady real estate practices in the industry.

References:

Channel 10, WTSP news coverage

http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/local/2015/07/21/squatters-move-in-pay-hoa-rent-without-homeowners-knowledge/30497097/

FL Statute 720.3085

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0720/Sections/0720.3085.html

(8)(a) If the parcel is occupied by a tenant and the parcel owner is delinquent in paying any monetary obligation due to the association, the association may demand that the tenant pay to the association the subsequent rental payments and continue to make such payments until all the monetary obligations of the parcel owner related to the parcel have been paid in full to the association and the association releases the tenant or until the tenant discontinues tenancy in the parcel.

1. The association must provide the tenant a notice, by hand delivery or United States mail, in substantially the following form:

Pursuant to section 720.3085(8), Florida Statutes, we demand that you make your rent payments directly to the homeowners’ association and continue doing so until the association notifies you otherwise.

Payment due the homeowners’ association may be in the same form as you paid your landlord and must be sent by United States mail or hand delivery to   (full address)  , payable to   (name)  .

Your obligation to pay your rent to the association begins immediately, unless you have already paid rent to your landlord for the current period before receiving this notice. In that case, you must provide the association written proof of your payment within 14 days after receiving this notice and your obligation to pay rent to the association would then begin with the next rental period.

Pursuant to section 720.3085(8), Florida Statutes, your payment of rent to the association gives you complete immunity from any claim for the rent by your landlord.

2. A tenant is immune from any claim by the parcel owner related to the rent timely paid to the association after the association has made written demand.
(b) If the tenant paid rent to the landlord or parcel owner for a given rental period before receiving the demand from the association and provides written evidence to the association of having paid the rent within 14 days after receiving the demand, the tenant shall begin making rental payments to the association for the following rental period and shall continue making rental payments to the association to be credited against the monetary obligations of the parcel owner until the association releases the tenant or the tenant discontinues tenancy in the unit. The association shall, upon request, provide the tenant with written receipts for payments made. The association shall mail written notice to the parcel owner of the association’s demand that the tenant pay monetary obligations to the association.
(c) The liability of the tenant may not exceed the amount due from the tenant to the tenant’s landlord. The tenant shall be given a credit against rents due to the landlord in the amount of assessments paid to the association.
(d) The association may issue notice under s. 83.56 and sue for eviction under ss. 83.5983.625 as if the association were a landlord under part II of chapter 83 if the tenant fails to pay a monetary obligation. However, the association is not otherwise considered a landlord under chapter 83 and specifically has no obligations under s. 83.51.
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