Member Can't Prove Nonmembers Were Voting at Meetings
Unfortunately, sometimes a member of the community you manage might make accusations that you’ll have to deal with. And it could lead to litigation. But before you panic, remember that to prevail, the member has to be able to back up her argument with evidence. A Florida case highlights the fact that accusations against an association are simply not enough.
There, a homeowner in an association claimed that there were nonmembers of the association who were paying assessments and casting votes at member meetings. He asked a trial court for a declaration that this violation of governing documents was taking place and an injunction, ordering the board of directors to put an end to the practice. The trial court denied these claims, concluding that the homeowner failed to identify the nonmembers or prove how many existed.
The trial court also found that the homeowner lacked standing to assert this claim. Although he claimed that having nonmembers voting and paying assessments could subject him and other homeowners to a lawsuit stemming from decisions that had been influenced by those votes and things paid for by the assessments, no lawsuit had ever been threatened or filed. “Thus such speculation is insufficient to establish standing,” said the trial court. That is, the homeowner didn’t meet the requirements to even bring a case against the association. The homeowner appealed.
A Florida appeals court upheld the trial court’s ruling. On appeal, the homeowner argued that he presented sufficient evidence that there are six nonmember lots, nonmembers satisfy the quorum requirements at meetings, and nonmembers have voted on increasing assessments. But the appeals court agreed with the lower court and the association that he had presented insufficient evidence as to which homeowners were nonmembers of the association and failed to provide other necessary documentation to support his claims.
The appeals court pointed out that the trial court had ruled against the homeowner based on the speculative nature of his claims. The appeals court also spelled out that “merely the possibility of legal injury on the basis of a hypothetical state of facts which have not arisen and are only uncertain in the future,” is not enough for an injunction or declaratory relief [Hall v. Southcreek Homeowners Ass’n, February 2018].