Condo owner gets water back

HOA had shut it off

Article and Video Courtesy of 
MY FOX Channel 13 -- TAMPA

Reporter Tanya Arada
Published September 16, 2009

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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 behind.

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 personal.

"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," Fernandez said.

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 through 

mediation 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.

"One of the problems is HOA's are routinely seen as condo commandos," he said.


He 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