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QUESTION/ANSWER BY JOHN H. GETTINGER, ESQ.

Question:

Our by-laws state that fines can be levied when residents violate certain covenants, by-laws or rules and regulations. Now I've been told that these fines aren't sanctioned or collectible. Is that true?

Answer:

Since your covenants provide the board with the power to levy fines in the event of a homeowner's violation of the association's covenants, by-laws or rules and regulations, any fines levied by the board are "sanctioned and collectible."

However, you should be aware that the amount of the fines levied by the board is subject to judicial review and must be reasonable. If, however, the power to levy fines was adopted by the board as a rule (and is not found in the covenants or by-laws), then the fines would not be sanctioned or collectible.

You should review the association's covenants and by-laws to determine how fines may be collected. If they provide that fines are collectible in the same manner as outstanding assessments and if they permit the board to file a lien against a homeowner's lot, then, in addition to seeking to obtain a money judgment, the board may file a lien and foreclose on such lien in the event that fines are not paid in a timely manner. In the case of a New York condominium, pursuant to ยง339-z of the Condominium Act, the board of managers has the statutory right to file a lien for unpaid common charges. Moreover, if the association's covenants or by-laws permit the board to recover attorneys fees and court costs in connection with the collection of outstanding assessments, then the board may be able to recover these expenses in connection with the collection of outstanding fines.

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