Critics say Florida state law gives HOAs too much unchecked power
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Fox News in Tampa highlights a growing trend in private homeowners associations, particularly large gated communities.
In order to cut down on traffic hazards such as running through intersections without stopping, speeding, or driving on the wrong side of the road, some HOAs have decided to take matters into their own hands.
Valhalla of Brandon Pointe now uses surveillance cameras to catch unsafe drivers in the act, then uses videotapes as evidence to impose tickets and fines upon residents.
HOA fines traffic offenders; videotapes residents
By: Merissa Lynn, FOX 13 News
POSTED:MAY 19 2017 07:41PM EDT
UPDATED:MAY 19 2017 07:41PM EDT
TAMPA (FOX 13) – Charles Rivers and Rachael Bagby both say their homeowners’ association fined them for rolling through a stop sign.
“I admit it, I ran the stop sign,” said Bagby. “I’m not perfect, I’m human.”
Both admit they were wrong for not coming to a complete stop. But neither one of them expected what happened next. They were each fined $100, and the ticket wasn’t given by a police officer — it was from their homeowners’ association.
Florida law allows HOAs to fine tenants for breaking the rules, and that includes running stop signs.
“This can be particularly helpful communities that are gated or otherwise not easily accessible for the police officers to regularly patrol,” said Web Melton, the attorney for Excelsior, the HOA that governs the couple’s Riverview neighborhood.
The HOA keeps its eye on residents who commit traffic violations, like running a stop sign. It also keeps a recording.
Read more (Video):
Homeowners and residents are uncomfortable with these new policies, and rightfully so. Given that association-governed communities are private organizations (corporations), critics caution that HOAs may not be constrained by Constitutional protections of civil rights and liberties.
What is a homeowner or tenant to do if – or more likely, when – the HOA oversteps its authority, and enforces traffic rules in a discriminatory or abusive manner?
According to attorney Web Melton, interviewed by Fox 13, Florida state law permits private homeowners associations to regulate traffic within their communities. Melton says that Valhalla HOA is within its rights to surveil residents on community streets with video cameras, and issue traffic tickets imposing $100 fines for each offense.
But doesn’t this blur the lines between private action and state action?
After all, the state of Florida has enabled HOAs with a new level of authority to provide a public service – traffic control.
In doing so, HOAs relieve public police departments of the duty to patrol and control traffic in private communities. Does the “close nexus” standard apply? Can it be argued that Florida’s HOAs are working in tandem with local and state governments to enforce public policy against speeding and running through stop signs?
Will residents of Valhalla and other Florida HOAs be successful in suing their associations for Civil Rights violations, claiming that security guards acted under the “Color of Law?”
It certainly would not surprise me if the practice of HOAs self-policing traffic violations leads to a whole new trend of Civil Rights lawsuits, in addition to claims of selective enforcement and invasion of privacy.
To explore this topic further, I am including several references:
State Action (Legal Dictionary)
UNDER SCHOOL COLORS: PRIVATE UNIVERSITY POLICE AS STATE ACTORS UNDER § 1983 (Jahnig, Leigh J., Scholarly Commons, Northwestern University, Vol. 110, No. 1, 2015)
Deprivation of rights under Color of Law U.S. Department of Justice
COLUMN: APPLYING THE CONSTITUTION TO PRIVATE ACTORS (NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL) NY Civil Liberties Union
FINDING STATE ACTION WHEN CORPORATIONS GOVERN (Stefan J. Padfield, Temple Law Review, Vol. 82, 703-736, “this paper was presented at the Eleventh Ohio Legal Scholars Workshop, the Central States Law Schools Association annual meeting, and at faculty workshops at Roger Williams and Cumberland Schools of Law.”)