Article and Video Courtesy of
MY FOX Channel 13 -- TAMPA
Published September 16, 2009
VALRICO - A Hillsborough County judge has
ordered a homeowners' association to turn the water back on.
Sarah, a homeowner in the Riverwalk
Townhomes, has not had running water for a month now. She's way past due
on her homeowner's fees.
So the Riverwalk Townhomes
Association passed an amendment to their covenants. It
allowed them to cut water and cable, for those who are
But during a hearing, Judge
Stoddard ruled to turn it back on.
He said the amendment was not
proper and went against county, state and federal laws.
Nicki Fernandez, Sarah's
attorney, said the judge felt the HOA was trying to force
Sarah out, by cutting off her utilities.
"There's a lot of homeowners' associations
going through this, and there's a lot of people behind on their
maintenance. But going to these drastic measures, somebody has to step in
and say hey you can't do this," Fernandez said.
But Fernandez wondered if the actions were partly
"The legal theory is, what they're really
trying to do, is push her out of her house by cutting off the
utilities, which is improper and goes against Florida law,"
But the judge faulted Sarah just as much. He
told her she needs to pay her bills, and ordered Sarah to pay three
months worth of water, about $165.
He also says she must pay the court filing
fee. That fee may end up going towards the outstanding HOA fees.
The judge ordered both sides to go
to settle the rest of the debt. Bob Tankel represents condo and homeowners
association across the state. He says HOAs are often caught in the middle.
They're only trying to collect what's owed to them.
"The association has a dilemma and
they were trying a creative way to work around it. The judge
obviously felt otherwise, and found fault in the way the
association's bundling of services is provided," said Tankel,
who does not represent Riverwalk.
Tankel says the bundling of services
is usually determined by a developer or the county, not the HOA. The
associations are unfairly seen as the bad guys.
of the problems is HOA's are routinely seen as condo
commandos," he said.
said this ruling won't change the way he directs his clients. He suggests
they go through whatever legal means necessary.
Association cuts resident's water pipe