I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear about your situation.
HOAs are not-for-profit organizations, so any increases in the dues should be explained by the budget. They're required to give copies of the budget to all members under Fl. Stat., Section 720.303. If the board is going to increase the amount of money going into the reserve each month, then they should be able to produce the formulas they used to arrive at those figures (as required by the statute). A provision in the by-laws that allows the board to increase dues at will would likely be void as a matter of public policy. And any member of the organization could sue the board for breach of their fiduciary obligation to the community if they're taking funds that aren't needed and holding onto them without creating proper documentation to show that it's allowed. The board can levy special assessments if there is no maintenance reserve, when repairs are needed. When the board is considering levying a special assessment, they must notify the members that they are going to be discussing this at a board meeting so you all have the ability to decide whether to attend.
That same statute requires the association to keep copies of any bids received in connection with work for one year as official records, but not longer than that. Section(###) ###-####/a> does require the board to get bids if the cost of a project exceeds ten percent of the total budget. They're not required to accept the lowest bid, but they do need to seek and accept bids, and keep them on file. They have some judgment in determining which bid is the best one for the community. Owners do not have a right to vote on competing bids, but you can submit a written request to see them now. You may want to ask for a copy of the budget, too, so you can determine when bids are required.
You should be aware, though, that you can and will be sued by the association attorney if you do not pay the amounts owed, and you will have to pay the association's attorney's fees on top of the amount they are asking for. That's important also, because if they sue you to get the money, they can foreclose your home. Another option that many people utilize when fighting the HOA is to pay the amounts asked for, write "under protest" on the check, and then file a lawsuit for a refund. That way, if a judge disagrees that they behaved improperly, you don't lose your home.
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