Can the Community Development District Force Me to Remove My Boat if I am Not in Violation of Any Rules?

Note: The DearEsq free 'ask a lawyer' site is offered as a free informational service to the public and is not intended as legal advice. Laws vary from state-to-state, and in addition every situation is unique, and relevant facts may not be known. The answer to the question posed below may not apply to in your state or to your situation. For legal advice in your state and your situation you should consult with an attorney in your state who is familiar with the rules and laws in your state.

“I live in a development that is made up of several smaller developments.  Each development has an HOA that is responsible for their development.  Then we a have a master HOA that rules over all the common areas of all the developments like pools, parks, roads and the lake.  The city has designated them the Community Development District. I live on the lake and have received several letters telling me to remove the boat that I built from the lake. The letters say the boat is in violation of section 4.4 of the Rules Governing.  This rule deals with 3 things anchored boats, what to do with a boat that is tied to the lake bank in the event of a hurricane and what to do with a boat tied to a dock in the event of a hurricane.  My boat is currently tied to the lake bank behind my home and we are not under a hurricane warning.  So I am not in violation of this rule.  I spoke with the attorney for the CDD and he has made it clear that the CDD officers did not want my boat in the lake.  He said that if they need to they would make a rule that would require me to remove my boat. The letter goes on to say if I do not remove my vessel the district will remove and dispose of it at my expense. Can the CDD force me to remove my boat if I am not in violation of any rules?  Can the CDD remove my boat?  What is the best course of action to take going forward?”

Your HOA should hopefully have some sort of dispute resolution system written into its documents, and you can use that to try to resolve this dispute between you and the HOA.  Even if they don’t you may want to suggest mediation or some other less formal (less expensive) option before taking the matter to court.

If you’re correct in your reading of the HOA rules that you are not currently in violation of them, then you have a fairly good chance of winning should the HOA remove the boat (or fine you for not removing it) right now.  Keep in mind, though, that courts tend to be very reluctant to overturn HOA decisions, preferring to defer to the HOA’s interpretation of its own rules.  In any case, as the attorney pointed out, they can take the step of passing a new rule (for example, “no boats on the lake”) before removing yours, at which point your chances of winning in court become much more remote.

Your options for stopping the new rule are legal and political.  On the legal side, you’ll need to consult with your own attorney, who can advise you whether there are any laws in your state which would restrict the HOA from passing a new rule like the one they plan to, or which would “grandfather” you as a prior use if they did.  You should also find out about the cost of litigation with the HOA, because sometimes even if you expect to win, it’s not worth the cost.

On the political side, you and your neighbors are the ones who elect the HOA board(s), and if you can get enough neighbors on your side, you can put political pressure on the board to change its mind, or vote ’em out if they don’t.