Documenting and Proving Violations at Trial

Filed Under: Legal Guides

Much is made of maintaining records regarding homeowner delinquencies, including the issues which can arise where the community makes a change in management and the previous letters and accounting records may be difficult if not impossible to introduce into evidence at trial absent testimony from the prior managing agent.

However, many of the same issues and then some can arise with respect to documenting violations of the covenants and ultimately proving them at trial, most especially where extended time has passed from commencement of enforcement until the time the matter goes to trial. I have long recommended that my Community Association clients actively document the status of violations and condition of a homeowner’s property that is in violation with regular, dated photographs and accompanying notes taken contemporaneously with management inspections. A change in management can render maintenance of documentation problematic as management companies often differ in the procedures (and software) they utilize to document and assist their Community Association clients with covenant enforcement.

It is therefore all the more important to establish a detailed policy for covenant enforcement which mandates a specific procedure for documenting violations, including relevant dates. All photographs and notes should be actively maintained in the homeowner’s file, including information regarding the individual who took specific photographs of the property. A well-rounded and detailed policy which mandates the documentation of violations should allow the Association to introduce historical photographs and violation notes\logs as business records of the Association and therefore an exception to the hearsay rule. Ultimately, it may prove necessary to arrange for the attendance of a prior managing agent to testify concerning photographs and other violation documentation. Again, provided the records are maintained pursuant to an Association policy and in a specific format, the Association should be in a position to introduce this documentation as business records without the testimony of a previous managing agent.

As always, consult your Community Association counsel for guidance with respect to proper procedures for enforcement of the governing documents for your Community.