Before levying fines, an association must first (i) adopt a fine schedule, (ii) publish it to its members, and (iii) then hold a properly noticed hearing levying a fine. Fines must be reasonable and should not be viewed as a means of raising revenue but rather as a mechanism for encouraging compliance with rules. Once a fine is levied and goes unpaid, following are methods for collecting fines.
1. Suspend Privileges. Sometimes the best option is to suspend a person's privileges until the fines are paid.
2. Small Claims Court. Associations can sue for fines in small claims court. The benefit is that there is very little expense involved and an abstract of judgment can be recorded against the owner's property.
3. Superior Court. If the fines are over $5,000, associations can file an action in superior court. If the association is awarded a judgment for the fines, an abstract of judgment can be recorded against the owner's property.
4. Judicial Foreclosure. Because the prohibition on fines in liens only applies to trustee sales, associations may include monetary penalties (fines) in actions for judicial foreclosures.
Nonjudicial Foreclosure. Fines cannot be collected through nonjudicial foreclosures (trustee sales) despite any authorizing language that might be contained in an association's governing documents. (Civ. Code §5725(b).) Monetary penalties cannot be treated as assessments and cannot be included in delinquent assessment liens that are foreclosed nonjudicially. Fines can be included in liens that are foreclosed judicially.
Late Charges & Interest. Associations cannot levy late charges and interest on unpaid fines.
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