Client Alert: Community Associations Self-Help Rights or Injunctive Relief

Based on a recent opinion from the Second District Court of Appeals, Community Associations should consider self-help/abatement rights to cure violations before filing a lawsuit for injunctive relief.

On April 13, 2022, the Second District Court of Appeal decided Mauriello v. Prop. Owners Ass’n of Lake Parker Estates, Inc., 337 So. 3d 484 (Fla. 2d DCA 2022).  In Mauriello, the association sought an injunction against  property owners to remedy a violation of the Association’s declaration of covenants for failing to maintain their lawn and landscaping. At the trial court, the property owners unsuccessfully argued the association was not entitled to an injunction because it had an adequate remedy at law, citing to the declaration provision allowing the association itself to remedy the violation and assess the cost of the remediation to the property owners.

Subsequently, the property owners sold the property, and the new owners remedied the violation. The new owners’ remediation of the violation mooted the main issue in the litigation. The association dismissed the case as moot and requested prevailing party attorney’s fees against the property owners based on the violation remediation after filing litigation. The trial court awarded the association prevailing party attorney’s fees, and the property owners appealed. The Second District Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the association did not prevail in its action to enjoin property owners from violating the lawn and landscaping maintenance requirements when the association failed to first exercise the self-help/abatement rights, as set forth in its declaration of covenants.

In doing so, the Second District Court of Appeal extended its holding in Alorda v. Sutton Place Homeowners Ass’n., 82 So.3d 1077 (Fla. 2d DCA), which held an association is not entitled to an injunction requiring an owner to obtain insurance where the association had the right to obtain insurance and recover the cost of the insurance from the owner. In Mauriello, the Second District Court of Appeal determined that the association had failed to state a cause of action for an injunction. Injunctive relief requires, in part, the plaintiff not have an adequate remedy at law, meaning, “[i]f monetary damages would fully compensate a loss,” then there is an adequate remedy at law. Amelio v. Marilyn Pines Unit II Condo. Ass’n, Inc., 173 So. 3d 1037, 1040 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015). In Mauriello, the association sought an injunction. However, because the declaration of covenants in Mauriello stated the association may perform the maintenance at issue and seek payment from the owners, the Court held that the association’s right to cure the violation at the owner’s expense and seek payment was an adequate remedy at law; therefore, the association would not be entitled to an injunction.

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