Community Association Counselor

Laura M. Manning

Roberto C. Blanch

Nicole R. Kurtz

See bios at bottom of page

Last Updated 11/22/2023

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(November 16, 2023)

Communities Adding Pickleball Should Consider Mitigating Noise Disruptions 

By Laura M. Manning

Powered by the Community Associations Institute, is one of the most comprehensive and insightful online sources for helpful news and information for leaders of homeowners and condominium associations. One of its most recent articles is on the growing popularity of pickleball in communities across the country, and it discusses how some associations are responding to issues related to the noise that the sport generates. 

A recent survey of nearly 700 community association managers and board members conducted by the Foundation for Community Association Research found that more than 66 percent of the communities represented in the survey already have or are committed to building pickleball courts. However, of those communities that are embracing and incorporating the fast-growing sport, nearly 58 percent have implemented limitations and restrictions. These include court reservations, scheduled open-play sessions with paddle racks for player queues, and set schedules for when courts are available for play during the week and on weekends. 

“As the popularity of pickleball continues to soar, so do concerns over the noise,” reads the article by CAI contributor Hazel Siff. “The sound of pickleballs hitting paddles and bouncing on the court, often described as a distinct ‘pok,’ has become an issue within some community associations. Residents living near pickleball courts are citing significant noise disturbances.” 

The key for associations is to find the right balance to satisfy the sport’s enthusiasts while also mitigating any impacts on residents’ quality of life. 

Designated playing hours for pickleball courts is probably the most common approach. By setting specific times during which a community’s courts are open for reservations and/or open-play sessions, residents of units that are impacted by the noise will know when to expect to hear it and when it will cease. 

Noise dampening wall and fencing systems for pickleball courts are also now beginning to become available. Several new offerings are now starting to appear in online advertisements, and communities that are considering the addition of pickleball but are concerned by the potential noise disruptions for residents should research these options and consult with knowledgeable and reputable vendors. 

It would also be advisable for boards of directors to present and discuss their options with all the interested unit-owner members at their board meetings prior to taking any votes on bringing pickleball to their community. By including all the pertinent voices in these discussions and taking their input into account, directors and property managers will be able to add this fast-growing and popular new recreational amenity to their communities as smoothly as possible.


(November 2, 2023)

New Florida Law Prohibits HOAs From Regulating Some Backyard Storage, Installations or Displays 

By Roberto C. Blanch

A new Florida law that was enacted earlier this year and is now in effect addresses the storage, installation or display of certain items in the backyards of homes located within HOA communities. 

Florida Statute 720.3045 was created during the recent legislative session as part of House Bill 437 and prevents associations from restricting the installation, display and storage of “any items” on a parcel that are not visible from the parcel’s frontage or an adjacent parcel, unless same is prohibited by general law or local ordinance. It further allows homeowners and residents of such parcels to install artificial turf within such areas of the parcels and maintain recreational vehicles, campers, boats and other items in such areas. 

The law is of particular importance for HOA communities, which often have restrictions against the storage of items within owners’ lots. Regardless of whether items are visible from other owners’ parcels or where they are stored, many communities have covenants and restrictions against the storage of boats, trailers, sports equipment and other items. 

For sprawling communities with park areas, golf courses, walkways and ponds, the new law seems to allow for backyard storage that is visible from these and other common areas, so long as the stored items are not visible from the parcel’s front or adjacent parcels. 

The law specifically reads as follows: 

. . . Regardless of any covenants, restrictions, bylaws, rules, or requirements of an association, and unless prohibited by general law or local ordinance, an association may not restrict parcel owners or their tenants from installing, displaying, or storing any items on a parcel which are not visible from the parcel’s frontage or an adjacent parcel, including, but not limited to, artificial turf, boats, flags, and recreational vehicles. 

Given its plain language and the fact that most Florida HOAs include provisions in their governing declarations to automatically adopt and incorporate new and amended state laws, a majority of the state’s associations will no longer be able to restrict the storage of items that are not visible from a parcel’s frontage or adjacent parcel. 

For some HOA communities, this will represent a significant adjustment. Their boards of directors, property management and legal counsel will need to carefully consider the new law in any future decisions over enforcement actions regarding the storage of items.


(October 19, 2023)

Navigating Florida’s Challenging Property Insurance Marketplace for Community Associations 

By Laura M. Manning

The property insurance crisis in Florida is causing significant upheaval among the state’s HOAs and condominium associations. While they are paying the highest premiums in the country for coverage, more than 15 insurers have left the state in recent years. Citizens Property Insurance, the statebacked “insurer of last resort,” is Florida’s largest property underwriter, and it and the state’s other carriers insist that the risks from hurricanes and climate change are too much for them to bear. 

In response, the state legislature earlier this year adopted several significant reforms championed by the insurance carriers. These include the prohibition of assignments of benefits, which the industry says incite inflated estimates by contractors reflecting overcharges and unnecessary work. Lawmakers also eliminated bad-faith claims filed by policyholders that are based on the appraisal award/acceptance of judgment, and they enabled insurers to include mandatory binding arbitration for dispute resolutions as part of their policies if they also offer a coverage option without this provision. 

Florida condominium associations are required to maintain adequate coverage to protect the association property and community common elements, and their board members have a fiduciary responsibility to secure the coverage. 

Optional, but very highly recommended, is liability insurance for directors/officers/ employees of the association. Directors and Officers Liability Insurance (aka D&O insurance) serves to defend and protect directors from lawsuits. Officers and directors are also shielded by indemnification provisions of the Florida law governing not-for-profit corporations as well as the articles of incorporation of their association, but the D&O insurance should also be considered essential. It provides effective protection for directors from personal liability for monetary damages for any statement, vote, decision, or failure to act to the extent they were carrying out their duties as directors of the association. 

For the most part, Florida community associations and their boards of directors are cognizant of the financial hardships being caused by rising insurance costs and the corresponding increases to owners’ monthly dues. However, going without adequate property coverage is simply not a permissible option under state law, so associations have no choice but to secure the coverage and have all the owners pay their fair share. 

It is too soon to tell whether this year’s reforms will have a significant impact, and insurance rates for associations as well as practically all Florida property owners are expected to continue rising in the immediate future. For associations and boards of directors in search of areas in their annual budgets where they can cut costs, insurance is very unlikely to be one of them in today’s market. The best approach is to work with highly reputable and experienced insurance agents and brokers to secure the best possible terms on the exact level and types of coverage needed for each community


(October 5, 2923)

Important Annual Meetings, Votes for Associations Require Effective Outreach for Maximum Participation 

By Roberto C. Blanch

For many South Florida condominium associations and HOAs, this year’s annual meeting will be more momentous than most. Budget increases to account for rising insurance costs as well as looming milestone inspections and structural integrity reserves will be on the agenda for many communities. To the extent that owner input and involvement at such meetings is desired, then community association managers and directors would be well advised to focus their efforts now for a highly attended and effective meeting. 

First, all of a community’s owner members must be made aware of their association’s annual meeting if they are expected to attend, so a review of the efforts to get the word out may be in order. The statutes and governing documents for the community will dictate the minimum requirements to properly notice such meetings, which may include hard copy notices with the date, time and location for the meeting to be mailed or electronically transmitted to each owner and posted at a conspicuous location on the association property. 

However, maximizing the likelihood of attendance at meetings often times depends on greater efforts, such as more prominently posting flyers at various locations and distributing them at all the board and committee meetings leading up to the annual meeting. 

Additionally, efforts aimed at optimizing owner attendance and participation at membership meetings may include associations making good use of the community’s website and social media pages, which could prominently feature the critical information pertaining to the annual meeting and the agenda items to be discussed and/or votes to be held. These efforts could also include an online suggestion/ feedback box, which may provide owners a convenient option for sharing their input on the matters that are important to them – with the objective that attendance may be encouraged should the agenda include items of greater popular interest throughout the community. 

For the meeting itself, associations may also wish to consider providing an option for virtual attendance via an online video conference. Again, this convenient option will entice many owners to participate in the meeting from wherever they are rather than being unable to attend. Many individuals have become accustomed to such online gatherings after the COVID pandemic, so the numbers of virtual participants in association annual meetings are sure to grow for the foreseeable future should this type of technology be used. It should be noted that if a virtual attendance option is to be considered, directors and managers should consult with legal counsel to ensure that the appropriate steps are taken in advance to ensure that the votes for those members attending virtually may be properly cast and counted. 

Community associations facing votes on important amendments or other matters at their upcoming meetings also need to focus their member communications on electronic and proxy voting options, if available, and the process for casting a vote by proxy or other acceptable means, such as electronic voting. Association’s seeking to maximize voter turnout and participation should make it as easy as they possibly can for their owner members who are unable to physically attend the meeting to complete the process in order to submit their ballot. With that in mind, voting by proxy or electronically may not be available for all communities nor for all votes. As such, it is imperative that directors and managers consult with association legal counsel to be apprised of the technical requirements applicable to the successful implementation and use of such voting methods. 

Those associations which are facing significant decisions and changes at their upcoming annual meetings may wish to consider focusing their outreach efforts on reminding owners as to the importance of their participation and vote. For these communities, the meeting represents the most important annual gathering for having the voices of their members heard and for the casting of their ballots. Associations wishing to increase voter participation should remind the owners that by participating and voting, they will be doing their part for their community and fellow owners, who should all reply in kind in order to maximize the turnout and take part in pivotal decisions for the future of their enclave.


(September 21, 2023)

Noteworthy Changes Under New “Homeowners’ Association Bill of Rights” Law

By Laura M. Manning

 Florida’s new “Homeowners’ Association Bill of Rights” (HB 919) law presents important changes for HOA communities and their boards of directors. The law, which only applies to HOAs and goes into effect on Sunday, Oct. 1, focuses on transparency and accountability, with provisions addressing kickbacks, conflicts of interest and fraudulent voting activities. 

As part of the state’s efforts focusing on the integrity of association directors, the new law mandates the removal of any officer/director who is charged with forgery related to elections, theft or embezzlement of HOA funds, destruction of records, or obstruction of justice. Board members are mandated to disclose any activity that could be perceived as a conflict of interest at least 14 days prior to voting on an issue or entering into a contract that is subject to the conflict, and they are expressly prohibited from accepting anything of value from those providing or proposing to provide services to the association. 

For HOA directors who were appointed to the board by the community’s developer, they will be required to disclose to the association their relationship with the developer as well as any activity that would be considered a conflict of interest. 

The new law also focuses on fraudulent voting activities in elections. Actions such as providing false information, using bribery or intimidation, and altering ballots are officially classified as misdemeanors punishable by law enforcement. 

HB 919 also clarifies that notices for fines for violations of the declaration, association bylaws or reasonable rules and regulations must be sent at least 14 days prior to a fining or suspension hearing, and they must state the description of the alleged violation, the action to cure the violation (if applicable), and the date and location of the hearing, which the owner may attend via telephone or the internet. 

Other changes address meeting notices and official association records. All posted notices for board meetings will be required to specifically identify agenda items, and the official roster of association members must include their “designated” mailing address, which is their property address unless they have provided a different one in writing. 

These changes, most of which mirror those that have already been added to the state’s laws governing condominium associations, will help HOAs to strengthen their safeguards against the potential for any fraud, theft and abuse. With the help of highly qualified and experienced legal counsel and property management, their boards of directors will be able to understand and comply with these and all other laws focusing on association fairness and integrity.


(September 7, 2023)

CAI Provides Excellent Advice on Community Association Collections Policies 

By Roberto C. Blanch

The “Ungated” blog from the Community Associations Institute, which is the leading organization representing the interests of communities with associations, is among the best sources that the industry has to offer for timely information and advice on association topics. Its post from Aug. 25, which is titled “Communication counts: Developing a collections policy for community assessments,” bears particular mention for its specific suggestions that have been proven to be highly effective for associations seeking to collect delinquent debts from unit owners. 

The article focuses on the importance for associations to have a uniform collections policy, which helps to ensure that all owners receive equal treatment. It states that effective collections policies will typically have timelines for owners to make payments prior to the matter being referred to an attorney for legal action. 

The article provides the following general framework for one example of an effective policy: 

• If an owner is 15 days delinquent, a first-notice letter will be sent by the board or community manager. 

• If there’s no response within 45 days, a second delinquency letter will be sent. This is a good time to double check for an up-to-date email or address for the owner. 

• If 60 days elapse, and there’s no response, the policy may note that the matter will be turned over to an association attorney, who will send a demand letter. The next step may be recording a lien or, filing a lawsuit against the owner — or as a last resort, foreclosing on the property. 

CAI’s blog post concludes with input from a Michigan attorney who indicates that the speed and seriousness of the process are vital for effective collections of past-due accounts. It also notes that collections policies must comply with the requirements of community governing documents, state statutes, and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. 

Effective collections policies and strategies by community associations are essential for their financial and administrative wellbeing. While the CAI article may provide one example of an effective policy, community association directors should consider consulting with their legal counsel to evaluate whether a more aggressive policy is feasible and in keeping with the provisions of the association’s governing documents as well as applicable Florida law. 

Florida associations are currently confronted with various factors that may result in an increase in assessment default rates among their memberships. These often include raising their budgets due to increased insurance costs along with the the upcoming new inspections and reserves requirements, which will likely result in increases to maintenance costs and higher interest rates that could impose strains on the costs of financing and owning real estate. 

As a result, associations should protect against potential increases in assessment defaults by ensuring that their collections policies and procedures are as effective as possible. By working with highly qualified and experienced attorneys who focus on association collections, condominium and HOA communities can develop and implement highly effective policies and tactics to keep owners’ arrears to a minimum. 

To read this and other important articles for associations, visit CAI’s Ungated blog at, and we encourage all association directors, members and property managers to enter their names and emails in the subscription box in the blog to automatically receive all of the organization’s future posts.


(August 24, 2023)

Best Practices for Community Associations Responding to Disability Accommodations Requests 

By Laura M. Manning

The federal Fair Housing Act bars community associations from refusing reasonable accommodations to their rules or policies requested by disabled owners to enable them to enjoy the full use of their residences. Requests for accommodations that represent fundamental changes to associations’ existing policies, or those that infringe upon the rights and privileges of other owners, in some cases may not qualify as reasonable under the requirements of the Act and may be negated. 

Community associations should always tread very carefully and only with the guidance of highly experienced legal counsel in their handling of requests for disability accommodations. Inevitably, some requests will challenge a community’s restrictive covenants, such as those for service animals in enclaves that ban pets. The key for associations is to strike a balance between upholding such rules and adhering to their legal obligations to make reasonable accommodations. 

The associations that do it best are those that make highly effective use of communications with the requesting residents during the review process. Bear in mind that for owners/residents whose disability is plainly obvious, only a cursory review and approval process should be in order. It is only in cases in which a disability is not readily apparent that associations may and should request supporting information. 

In such cases, due to the sensitive nature of discussions involving disabilities, associations must ensure that the owner/residents’ privacy is protected and keep all communications confidential. Those who are not directly involved in the accommodations review and approval process should not be privy to any information on these requests. The entire process should include a timeline for any review and follow-up documentation, and depending on the information initially presented, a final decision should typically take no longer than 30 days from the date of the initial request. During the review process, association directors and/or their qualified representatives may wish to personally meet with the requesting individual to discuss and explore different options and parameters that may meet their needs while also adhering to the community’s rules and standards. 

Once an accommodation is officially approved and in effect, associations and their representatives should follow up with the disabled individual to ensure it met their needs, and their input should be documented and maintained together with all other pertinent records regarding the review and approval. 

By working with highly qualified and experienced attorneys and management consultants, community associations can develop and implement their own policies employing these and other best practices for all the disability accommodation requests they may receive.


(August 10, 2023)

Florida Lifts Pitbull Ban: Options for Associations 

By Roberto C. Blanch

On October 1, 2023, a groundbreaking legislative decision will take effect, ending the ban on pit bulls and other prohibitions in Florida that restrict dogs based upon breed, weight or size. With this new development, many community associations that previously relied on local ordinances to restrict ownership of specific dog breeds such as pit bulls will need to re-consider the pet restrictions included within their governing documents and their reliance upon laws restricting certain breeds of dogs in the event the boards within such communities still wish to attempt restricting certain breeds. 

Florida’s decision to no longer allow bans on specific breeds marks a significant shift in pet ownership policies within the state. For years, pit bulls have been a breed targeted by various community associations due to perceived safety concerns, leading to their exclusion from many communities. 

However, this legislation disallows local governments and public housing authorities from establishing regulations that target specific breeds, weights, or sizes. It is important to note that local governments and public housing authorities may still address any welfare or safety concerns caused by attacks on a person by a domestic animal. 

Once the law goes into effect on October 1, 2023, community associations that wish to maintain their prohibition of pit bulls which rely upon a local government’s restriction of such breeds will need to amend their governing documents to include specific language regarding the restriction on specific animals or breeds. Some associations already have such restrictions in place, but many rely on local ordinances to enforce dog breed bans, which will no longer be valid once the state law goes into effect. 

While the local government or public authorities’ ban on pit bulls and other dog breeds is being lifted, it is essential to emphasize the importance of being a responsible pet owner. Regardless of the breed, pet owners should prioritize proper training, socialization, and supervision to ensure the safety and well-being of their pets and their community. 

Responsible ownership is critical to maintaining harmonious living conditions for all residents, whether they have pets or not. It also important to note that, under Florida law, dog owners are liable for damages suffered by a person who is bitten by their dog.


(July 27, 2023)

Community Associations Institute Releases Updated Reserve Study Standards 

By Laura M. Manning

With the new state requirements for the funding of reserves taking effect in the next few years for many Florida condominiums, association boards of directors and property managers across the state are beginning their planning process by contracting for and implementing a structural reserve study. Such studies, which should be conducted by highly experienced and qualified specialists, closely examine the current physical and financial state of communities as well as the maintenance, repair and replacement costs of all their elements to provide specific recommendations for the long-term funding of reserves. 

Given the increased focus on reserves in Florida and many other states, the Community Associations Institute released updated Reserve Study Standards in May to provide communities with an improved framework for effective planning. The organization, which is the leading voice for the associations industry, has been intensely focused on reserves and other condominium-safety initiatives for the last two years since the tragic partial collapse of Champlain Towers South that claimed 98 lives. 

For the most part, the changes in the new standards emphasize structural maintenance and inspections. They are the result of the work of a task force that began reviewing the standards more than one year ago. 

The revisions emphasize the importance of comprehensive structural inspections as part of the reserve study process. They recommend engaging qualified professionals to conduct thorough inspections that provide accurate and detailed assessments of the condition of structural components such as roofs, load bearing walls and building envelopes. The results should provide valuable insights into the condition and maintenance requirements of structural components to help communities ensure the long-term stability of their physical infrastructure. 

The standards also encourage associations to develop and implement maintenance plans that address identified issues promptly and prevent the escalation of potential problems. They recommend proactive maintenance practices to enable associations to extend the lifespan of structural components, reduce the likelihood of costly repairs, and ensure the safety of community members. 

The new standards also include recommendations for associations to provide opportunities for staff and board members to enhance their knowledge in structural assessments, maintenance strategies, and best practices. The goal for all these educational and informational efforts is for associations directors, property managers and other professionals to become capable of effectively managing structural assets and implementing proactive maintenance plans. 

To review the new standards and many of CAI’s other resources and recommendations involving reserves and the structural integrity of condominiums, visit the organization’s website at


(July 13, 2023)

Key Regulatory Compliance Dates to Watch for Condominium Associations 

By Roberto C. Blanch

Keeping ahead of all the legal and regulatory obligations for community associations is one of the most fundamental and important jobs for boards of directors and property managers. Here are several significant deadlines that Florida condominium associations should not miss: 

Milestone Inspections 

For condominium and co-op buildings that are three stories or taller, a milestone inspection must be performed by December 31 of the year in which the building reaches 30 years of age, based on the date the certificate of occupancy for the building was issued, and every 10 years thereafter. For buildings that reached 30 years of age before July 1, 2022, their initial milestone inspection must be performed by December 31, 2024. Those reaching 30 on or after July 1, 2022, and before December 31, 2024 must perform the initial inspection before December 31, 2025. However, the local enforcement agency may determine that local circumstances, including environmental conditions such as proximity to salt water, may require that the milestone inspection must be performed by December 31 of the year in which the building reaches 25 years of age. 

Structural Integrity Reserve Study (SIRS) 

Condominium associations must have a structural integrity reserve study completed for each building on their property that is three stories or taller at least every 10 years after the condominium’s creation. Associations under unit-owner control and in existence on or before July 1, 2022 have until December 31, 2024 to complete their structural integrity reserve study. Those that are required to complete a milestone inspection on or before December 31, 2026 may complete the structural integrity reserve study simultaneously with the inspection. 

Budgets & Reserves 

For association budgets adopted on or after December 31, 2024, there are eight items required to be reviewed under the structural integrity reserve study, and associations cannot waive or reduce reserves for these particular items. 

Two-Way Radio Communication Enhancement Systems 

By January 1, 2025, all high-rise buildings, as defined by the Florida Building Code, are required to comply with minimum radio strength for fire department communications and two-way radio communication enhancement systems as required by the Florida Fire Prevention Code. Existing highrises that are not yet in compliance with the requirements must apply for an appropriate permit for the required installation with the local government agency having jurisdiction by January 1, 2024, and they must demonstrate that the building will become compliant by the January 1, 2025 deadline. 

From milestone inspections to fire safety compliance, these important deadlines for all Florida condominium associations are not to be missed. Compliance with these and all other statutory and regulatory requirements is of paramount significance for condominium communities, and boards of directors would be well advised to rely on the guidance of highly qualified and experienced association legal and property management professionals.


(June 29, 2023)

Nuisance New Residents at Jacksonville HOA Community: Nesting Canadian Geese

By Laura M. Manning

 My colleagues and I have written about various wildlife incursions in Florida HOA and condominium association communities over the years in this column and our firm’s blog at We’ve covered community associations contending with alligators, crocodiles, wild hogs, vultures, and other destructive and potentially dangerous wildlife, but a recent report by Fox 30 Action News in Jacksonville is a reminder that not all nuisance animals pose an immediate safety risk requiring fast attention by associations and their boards of directors. 

The station’s report focuses on the issues that the Ironwood Village HOA is currently having with a flock of wild Canadian geese that have decided to make the Jacksonville community its permanent home and nesting grounds. Residents have complained to the association and on the community’s Facebook page about the geese eating their lawns and flowers, and creating a nuisance with their droppings and honking. 

However, not all are in agreement as to how it should respond. 

Community resident Andy Ghelerter tells the station’s reporter that for him the geese have only presented a minor traffic issue when they are slowly waddling across the streets. The story also includes an email from the HOA to one of the residents indicating there is not much it can do, as the geese are a protected species and a majority of the HOA’s members voted against destroying the eggs and nests. The association has also instructed all the homeowners and residents not to feed the geese, calling them an “environmental hazard to the area.” 

Those communications and the vote of the membership would indicate that the community’s board of directors and property management have been addressing the issue and considering their options. They should not stop there, as the continued growth of the colony that has made their enclave its permanent year-round home probably cannot go unchecked forever. 

As with most issues of such a specialized nature, bringing in the experts should be the HOA’s next order of business. For most serious wildlife incursions into communities such as this, one of the first calls should be to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

The state agency maintains five regional offices that are easily found on its website at www.myfwc. com. Contact the office for your county and correspond with its director or senior staff members about the issue, and inquire whether it would be possible for its wildlife officers to become involved by visiting the community to assess the situation and offer their input. 

In addition, research and contact local wildlife trappers and experts to have them visit the community to offer their suggestions and possible services. These professionals as well as the FWC officers can be invited to present their information and answer residents’ questions during the association’s board meetings, and decisions regarding future courses of action should take all the experts’ and residents’ input into account. 

For community associations, wildlife incursions can present serious safety and nuisance issues that should not go unaddressed. By listening to residents as well as the information from qualified experts, and perhaps also working in conjunction with neighboring communities as necessary, associations will be able to develop and deploy the most effective possible action plans for contending with whatever mother nature has in store.


(June 15, 2023)

Excellent Response by HOA President to John Oliver’s HOA Diatribe

By Roberto C. Blanch

John Oliver’s brand of irreverent “investigative comedy” has made Last Week Tonight a hit weekly show for HBO/Max, and in early April the show set its sights on homeowners associations. 

Much to the chagrin of a good number of individuals within the community association industry and many of the professionals who serve it, the show presented numerous examples from local news outlets of questionable actions taken against owners or residents on behalf of their HOAs and condominium associations. It painted a fairly horrific picture of associations, describing them as “widely loathed” and accusing them of wielding “surprising power” to “wreak havoc in people’s lives.” 

As I and several of our firm’s attorneys have written over the years in our blog at www., associations have engendered a negative image in the minds of many Americans for broad-range restrictions and overzealous rules enforcement. Reports by local TV stations and newspapers of incidents such as those cited by Oliver seem to have become too common, and it has been suggested on more than one occasion that many communities need to do a better job of ensuring their enforcement decisions and actions are as reasonable, uniform and transparent as possible. 

In preparing to write a reflection on the recent segment, we came across an excellent response that we believe bears reading. The op-ed appeared on May 28th in the pages of The Desert Sun daily newspaper covering Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley in California, and it was authored by HOA president David Scott. 

After highlighting some of the many benefits of associations, Scott writes: “That’s not to say that all HOA boards are led by knowledgeable people with the ethics to manage and to keep their focus on the interest and actions to benefit the other homeowners, but we experience the same ethics and decisions from our politically elected officials in our local, state and federal governments. Everyone talks the good talk, but can’t walk the talk once elected. 

“The difference being, it’s easier to remove bad board members from an HOA than remove a politically elected official. 

“With regards to rules, Mr. Oliver, our society is based on rules and regulations at all levels to avoid disorderly and or harmful conduct and to keep things operating smoothly. Are there consequences for breaking the rules? Yes, and there should be. Living in an HOA helps manage the neighborhood we live in as well as the value of our property. When was the last time you lived in a neighborhood without an HOA and your neighbor’s house was called the “trash house” because of poor taste, overgrown vegetation, delipidated structure, and just plain junk in the yard that can’t be controlled by the city? 

“I don’t necessarily like all the rules in life, but we all have choices and voices with our elected officials and the same goes for HOAs. Oh, did I mention that every homeowner also has a choice when purchasing a home? If you don’t like rules, don’t purchase in an HOA. Pretty simple if you ask me.” 

Scott goes on to point out that, unlike what the show portrayed, HOAs are not seeking the worst possible outcome for homeowners, and some work with homeowners to provide them with payment plans to catch up when they are behind on dues. 

The op-ed is definitely worth reading, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to copy link below to access and share it. It is important to keep in mind that the overwhelming number of stakeholders with whom we have worked are well-intended volunteers, managers or property owners who strive to achieve the best results for their respective communities. While ignoring the outliers is not encouraged and efforts should persist to eliminate the negative implications of their actions, we should not allow the bad apples in the community association world to overshadow the many successful experiences most individuals have had with and in their community association. contributors/valley-voice/2023/05/28/i-disagreehoas-are-not-a-sneakily-common-force-in-dailylife/70261513007/


(June 1, 2023)

Condo Association Faces Possible $20k Fine After Cutting Down Oak Without Permit 

By Laura M. Manning

The Jungle Den Villas condominium association board of directors thought they had followed all of the proper procedures when they paid a landscaping company to cut down a large laurel oak tree. The Astor, Florida, community’s directors had found the decaying tree to be dangerous; it was dropping limbs on the dock and its roots were damaging the seawall. 

The company the association hired agreed and, according to the board president, its owner assured him a permit would not be necessary with its arborist’s report. Unfortunately, that proved not to be the case, and the Volusia County Department of Growth and Resource Management issued the community with a violation notice indicating it could face more than $20,000 in replacement costs. The association would either be required to plant more trees or pay up. 

In a subsequent report on the matter in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the landscaping company’s owner explains that an arborist’s assessment before removing such a tree is usually sufficient for residential properties, but he denies saying a permit was not necessary. He noted that the customer is responsible for permitting, which is indicated in its written agreement with the association. 

In Volusia County and most Florida municipalities, multi-family condominium developments are not exempt from local tree-permitting requirements, which are aimed at mitigating the impact of tree removals. They typically require permits for tree removals that are contingent upon payments combined with the planting of new trees on the property, and noncompliance comes with potentially significant code enforcement actions. 

In this case, based on the size of 55-inch diameter oak tree, the total replacement price if no trees are planted by the community comes to more than $20,000. The association responded by obtaining an after-the-fact permit for the tree removal, and it is now working with the county on planting replacement trees. 

The lesson here for Florida community associations and their directors and property managers is to always err on the side of caution when it comes to any tree removals. Property owners will be held responsible for any required municipal permits regardless of any assurances from landscapers, which will usually be shielded from potential legal liabilities by their written customer agreements. Calls and consultations with both tree-permitting municipal officials and private landscapers should always be the order the day prior to the whirring of any chainsaws.


(May 18,2023)

Reports of Crocodiles at Miami Condo Enclave Spotlight Association Response 

By Roberto C. Blanch

A recent report by 7News (WSVN-FOX) about crocodiles near the bayfront Nirvana Condominium in Miami’s Upper East Side neighborhood spotlighted residents’ concerns and the association’s response. It illustrates how it is essential for associations to take appropriate actions whenever they are made aware of potentially dangerous wildlife incursions in their community. 

“It’s scary . . . There’s a big croc here, and its potentially dangerous for dogs and the kids . . . We’re just worried about the dogs and especially the safety of the little children,” said residents who spoke with the station’s reporter. 

The residents tell the station they have spotted the crocodile for months, and building management and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have been made aware of the situation. In response, members of the FWC have visited and investigated, and Nirvana’s property management sent an email alerting residents and instructing them to stay away from the water after dark. It also warned that they should be especially cautious when kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming in the bay. 

This email and the outreach to the FWC are great first steps. Property management or other association representatives should also obtain and consider the recommendations from the agency’s wildlife officers, and they should contact professional trappers for their expert advice and input. The installation of permanent warning signs, physical barriers and other measures may also be in order. 

It may be argued that associations, such as Nirvana Condominium, that have been made aware of dangerous wildlife on their property, or those that should reasonably be aware of it, have a duty to take appropriate actions. They should seek guidance from qualified legal counsel, notify the FWC and request any possible intervention and input from its wildlife officers, and seek the help of qualified wildlife professionals. In some cases, working in conjunction with the associations for neighboring communities will also be necessary. 

For community associations, any signs and reports of dangerous wildlife on their property should be met with an immediate and robust response. The safety and security of residents should always be paramount, and crocodiles, alligators, wild hogs and other wild animals found in Florida are an obvious peril that require immediate attention and remedial actions.



Florida Senate Passes Bill Addressing Concerns Over Last Year’s Condo-Safety Reforms

By Laura M. Manning

 Florida condominium associations and those who provide them with expert guidance have experienced some confusion and questions over aspects of last year’s condo-safety reforms, and the state Senate has responded with the passage of key amendments to address some of these concerns. While a companion bill remains before the House, Senate Bill 154, which was passed unanimously, deals with the new requirements for inspections and financial reserves. 

Under last year’s reforms, milestone inspections are required for buildings that have been occupied for 30 years (25 years if within three miles of a coastline), and additional inspections are required every 10 years thereafter. The new bill allows buildings within three miles of the coastline to be inspected after they have been occupied for 30 years, but it enables local officials to require inspections after 25 years of occupancy depending on “local circumstances, including environmental conditions such as proximity to salt water.” It also clarifies that the required milestone inspections apply only to residential condominiums and mixed-use buildings. 

If enacted, the bill would also allow local officials to extend inspection deadlines if building owners have entered into contracts with architects or engineers but have been unable to complete inspections in time. In response to complaints from associations over the lack of available qualified inspectors, it also permits for inspections conducted by design professionals working under engineers or architects as the registered professionals in charge. 

Last year’s reforms also called for condos that Switch & Save Up to $250/Year On Your Talk, Text and Data Plan! © 2023 Consumer Cellular Inc. Terms and Conditions subject to change. New service activation on approved credit. Cellular service is not available in all areas and is subject to system limitations. All other products are trademarked by their respective manufacturers. Phones are limited to stock on hand. Savings calculation is based on a comparison of Consumer Cellular’s average customer invoice to the average cost of single-line entry-level plans o­ ered by the major U.S. wireless carriers as of May 2022. CALL CONSUMER CELLULAR 888-995-3720 are three stories or higher to conduct structural integrity reserve studies for repairs to features such as roofs, load-bearing walls and fire-protection systems. The bill extends the deadline for the completion of these studies to Jan. 1, 2025 and clarifies the components that must be included in the structural integrity reserve study. Finally, the bill clarifies that for a budget adopted on or after December 31, 2024, members will not be able to vote to waive reserves for components included in the structural integrity reserve study. 

Our firm’s community association attorneys will be continuing to follow the companion bill that is now before the House. To stay up to date on this and other timely topics, we encourage association directors, members and property managers to visit our blog at and enter their email address in the subscription box to automatically receive all our future articles



Maintaining Orderly Board Meetings Essential to Effective Community Association Governance

By Roberto C. Blanch

The community association board meeting is where the rubber meets the road for practically all matters that come before an association and the community it serves. Order and civility are essential for effective meetings, and their erosion will only snowball into growing dysfunction and disharmony. 

The effective use of Robert’s Rules of Order as the general format for association board meetings serves a solid platform on which to build upon for successful and orderly meetings. Board meetings adhering to Robert’s Rules generally include a call to order, the establishment of a quorum, a review and approval of the previous meeting’s minutes, new business, old business, and adjournment. 

Some associations also add an open forum for input and discussion from owners in attendance at the meeting, but as further addressed below, efforts to streamline agendas and make meetings more efficient may result in the removal of such an item to the extent it is not required in accordance with the association’s governing documents. 

However, following this meeting format is just a starting point. Many factors may contribute to effective and efficient meetings. For example, it has been suggested that the manner by which the directors themselves are seated at meetings may contribute to effective meetings. Some have found it helpful to arrange the board members so they are seated in a “C” formation -- with the open end facing the attendees -- citing that this seating arrangement helps to avoid the misperception that the board members are only speaking to the unit owners in attendance but not to each other. 

Maintaining civility during interaction with attendees is also a factor to be considered. Directors should avoid speaking and interrupting individuals’ remarks during discussions. Directors and all others in attendance should be mindful of the need to listen attentively to all the remarks, take notes if necessary, and hold their own questions or comments until after the remarks are concluded. 

Agendas should also be crafted in a manner that promotes efficiency. Directors need to remain focused on the agenda items for discussion and avoid straying off topic. Allowing meetings to devolve into discussions of non-agenda items can be a recipe for disorder and confusion, so any important new topics that come up should be set aside and added to future meeting agendas and discussions. 

Long meetings should also be avoided. Often times, directors are overly ambitious with regard to the amount of business they desire to accomplish at a meeting, resulting in meetings that may last longer than many would like and could be overwhelming. To limit the length of meetings, directors and managers should avoid lengthy agendas and prepare themselves in advance by reviewing all the meeting materials/presentations beforehand. 

If discussions devolve into excessive and repetitive arguments, it is best to close the debate once all the positions have become clear. At times, it may be more productive to have meetings held more frequently with agendas containing less topics for discussion – so as to provide directors the ability to quickly tend to business while avoiding the risk and frustration of prolonged meetings at which it feels business does not get accomplished. 

Association directors should also use reasonable judgment to rein in any misbehavior that may arise. Possible measures and repercussions can include warnings, votes to censure, or ejections for anyone who interrupts, talks over others, and becomes disruptive. With that in mind, in the event that matters at a meeting seem to be heading toward violence or danger, then the board may be advised to adjourn the meeting to prevent a volatile situation. Association board meetings should encourage frank, open and civil discussions of all viewpoints, and not everyone will agree with every decision. In fact, it is expected that association directors may disagree, and there is nothing wrong with board decisions that are reached via mixed votes. 

By establishing and abiding by meeting format and code of conduct rules, associations can effectively avoid disorderly and chaotic board meetings that can sow discord and diminish overall community morale.



Community Associations Should Take Proactive Approach to Maintaining Communications Channels with Non-Resident Owners 

By Laura M. Manning

South Florida’s robust housing market attracts buyers from across the globe. Many of the area’s priciest and most luxurious enclaves are filled with part-time residents who use their properties as investments and vacation homes. Involvement with association matters and communications with personnel for some of these well-heeled owners can sometimes be minimal, so it is up to the associations and their property management to go above and beyond the normal call of duty to ensure they are always connecting with these owners through all the proper channels. 

For communities with a disproportionately high level of part-time residents who primarily live elsewhere, the best approach is a proactive one. Association personnel should make contact and confirm they are connecting with such owners through exchanges of emails or calls as necessary, but at the very least on an annual basis. They should use these communications simply to ensure that the owners are receiving all of the community’s correspondence, and to request updates to the owners’ contact information. 

Associations should be sure to always maintain and use, in addition to the property address, the owners’ actual address for their primary residences as well as their email address and mobile phone number. How and when to use each of these for every piece of association correspondence should be set as a matter of policy by the association board with the help and guidance of qualified property management and legal professionals. 

Bear in mind, community associations will often have vital new information for their owner members. This includes correspondence alerting owners of new changes and policies, such as increased dues and or the adoption of special assessments, that may effectuate immediate increases in their next monthly bill. Without effective prior notice, owners will be surprised to learn of such increases, and such misunderstandings can escalate into needless disputes that could potentially impact collections and budgets. 

Associations, particularly those in communities with large numbers of owners who are only seasonal and part-time residents, should always alert their personnel to be on the lookout for any undeliverable mail, and to proactively use those occasions to connect with those owners and update their contact information. By taking into account the makeup of their community and responding accordingly, associations will be able to update and maintain the most accurate and effective possible channels for their important communications to all their member owners.



Florida Legislature Considering Bills Proposing Changes to Condo Safety Reforms, Construction Defect Lawsuits 

By Roberto C. Blanch

As the 2023 Florida legislative session gets underway, there are several bills impacting associations and real estate that our firm’s South Florida community association attorneys will be keeping a close eye on and discussing in this column and our blog. 

Senate Bill 154 and House Bill 1395 

Perhaps the most important of these are Senate Bill 154 and House Bill 1395, which deal with issues such as inspections and condominium association financial reserves that were addressed in the condo safety reform law that was passed last May with the adoption of Senate Bill 4D during a special legislative session. Under the new law, inspections are required for buildings that have been occupied for 30 years — or 25 years if they are within three miles of a coastline. After these initial inspections, the buildings will have to go through the process again every 10 years. 

If adopted, the new bills could result in changes to the time by which buildings, including those within three miles of a coastline, will have to be inspected. The two bills include different timeframes by which the initial milestone inspection may have to be performed (e.g., SB 154 triggering all such inspections at 30 years with discretion for local officials and authorities having jurisdiction to compel some at 25 years depending on “local circumstances, including environmental conditions such proximity to salt water”; or HB 1395 requiring the initial inspections at 25 years for all buildings regardless of proximity to salt water). 

SB 154 also includes provisions that would allow local officials to extend inspection deadlines if building owners have entered into contracts with architects or engineers but the inspections cannot be finished in time. 

HB 1395 further proposes to increase the types of professionals that may perform phase 1 of the milestone inspections from architects and engineers to also include general contractors licensed under Chapter 489, Florida Statutes, with at least five years of experience in building/constructing threshold buildings, or as a building code administrator or licensed building code inspector. 

The bills also include changes to portions of the statutes governing the financial reserves studies and requirements that were implemented under last year’s law. Some of the changes provided in SB 154 include clarification as to which building components must be included as part of the required reserve funding. It would also allow reserve studies to “recommend that reserves do not need to be maintained for any item for which an estimate of useful life and an estimate of replacement cost or deferred maintenance expense cannot be determined.” The bill’s sponsor says that provision could apply to building foundations. 

HB 1395 includes different proposed changes pertaining to the structural integrity reserve items, such as providing for modified deadlines to the December 31, 2024, deadline established under last year’s reforms. 

These are just a sampling of the various changes being considered by the legislature this session. As is usually the case with the legislative process, the provisions of SB 154 and HB 1395 will likely undergo various changes and may become mirror images of each other via lawmakers’ negotiations resulting in a final version that may be voted into law. Condominium association stakeholders should keep an eye on these bills given that their adoption by the legislature could surely result in significant changes to the monumental laws adopted last year affecting condominium associations in Florida. 

House Bill 85 

The legislature is also considering changes to the state’s statute of repose for construction defect lawsuits, which is used to determine how long a party has to file a claim for latent construction defects after a structure or improvement has been completed. 

Currently, the state’s 10-year period of repose starts to run from the latest of these four events: 1) the date of actual possession by the owner, 2) the date of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, 3) the date of abandonment of construction if not completed, or 4) the date of completion of the contract or termination of the contract between the professional engineer, registered architect, or licensed contractor and his or her employer. After the 10-year period expires, a claim for latent defects can no longer be brought. 

If adopted, House Bill 85 would revise the triggering events for the period of repose for suits brought for latent construction defects to the earliest of: 1) the issuance of a temporary certificate of occupancy, 2) the date of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, 3) or the date of issuance of a certificate of completion, or 4) the date of abandonment if construction is not completed. 

The repose period would start to run seven years from the earliest of the foregoing four events. These changes, if adopted, could have significant changes to the timeframe within which an association may assert a claim against parties responsible for construction defects. 

As the legislative session unfolds and reaches its conclusion on May 5th, our firm’s attorneys will continue to monitor these and other bills impacting the state’s community associations and real estate industry. We encourage all those who are interested to visit and subscribe to our blog at www. FloridaHOALawyerBlog. com for all the latest info and updates on these and other timely issues.



Virtual Meetings Growing in Popularity for Florida Community Associations 

By Laura M. Manning

Online rather than in-person meetings for community association boards of directors became very popular during the height of the Covid pandemic. Their use has diminished since then, but they still remain a popular option for many boards and committee meetings to facilitate effective administration and operations. 

Whether it is on Zoom, Workspace, Teams or another internet-based meeting platform, conducting a virtual board meeting instead of an in-person meeting can be a highly effective problem solver for many associations. Communities need to rely on dedicated volunteers, and online meetings are sometimes the only option for busy directors and committee members to be able to take part. 

In addition, for emergency meetings or special meetings that need to be held offsite and/or kept private, online platforms provide a convenient and efficient option. If a property is heavily impacted by a hurricane or other disaster and it is inaccessible, having the preparations in place for online meetings can enable directors who may have evacuated to other locales to effectuate immediate decisions and actions. 

For special meetings of the board, such as those to discuss private personnel matters and potential changes, the virtual option is often the best choice. They can be organized at the spur of the moment should the need arise, and their convenience for all the participants makes it much easier to achieve a quorum on short notice. 

Associations that may just now be getting started with online meetings should first consult with highly experienced legal counsel. Protocols addressing notice and quorum requirements, recordings, agendas, vendor/expert presentations, director/member votes, and member access/discussions should be developed with the help and guidance of qualified association attorneys. 

Legal counsel could also offer recommendations for hybrid meetings that enable members to attend either in person or remotely via an online platform. They can also help associations to establish procedures to enable owner members who do not own or use computers or smart phones to attend virtual meetings via an onsite connection to the platform that is provided by the association. 

As online communications and meetings become increasingly common with many businesses and organizations, their use in the community association setting is bound to continue growing. They present a convenient option that can be a boon for communities and their volunteer directors and committee members in their efforts to effectively provide the best possible management and administrative oversight.



Recognized with Prestigious Public Affairs Council Award 

The Public Affairs Council, which is the leading nonpartisan association for public affairs professionals worldwide, recently awarded its 2022 Lobbying Strategy Innovation Award to the Community Associations Institute for the organization’s condominium safety policy response and initiatives. 

In the aftermath of the horrific collapse of Champlain Towers South that claimed 98 lives, CAI released its Condominium Safety Public Policy Report based on the work of its special task forces to recommend changes to laws and best practices that may help both communities and legislators to better address building safety. 

The participants in these task forces included engineers, insurance experts, building officials, local government leaders, property managers, attorneys, lenders, and others. Over the course of three months, more than 600 individuals devoted a great deal of time to discussions, surveys, interviews, and research to identify clear recommendations. 

The resulting Condominium Safety Public Policy Report provided extensive policy positions and recommendations covering reserve studies and funding, building maintenance, and structural integrity. Since its release, CAI’s government and public affairs team has continued to conduct outreach to state legislators and their staff as well as key individuals in federal housing agencies. 

The organization’s advocacy efforts at the federal level have resulted in the introduction of H.R. 7532, the Securing Access to Financing for Exterior Repairs (SAFER) in Condos Act, and H.R. 8304, the Rapid Financing for Critical Condo Repairs Act of 2022, by Florida Representatives Charlie Crist and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. 

So far, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, and Virginia have passed laws consistent with CAI’s public policy recommendations, ranging from reserve study requirements to comprehensive building inspection mandates. 

PAC’s annual Lobbying Strategy Innovation Award recognizes an organization that finds new and creative ways to connect and work with internal and external stakeholder groups and engage them with advocacy efforts or policy priorities. In 2022, PAC reviewed more than 50 nominees for its three annual innovation honors. Nominations came from Fortune 500 companies, trade associations, professional societies, consultancies, and large advocacy organizations. 

“CAI is honored to receive this prestigious award on behalf of our staff and volunteer members who worked tirelessly to create policy recommendations and critical resources supporting homeowners, community association professionals, legislators, and other housing stakeholders following the Surfside tragedy,” said Dawn. M. Bauman, CAE, CAI’s senior vice president for government and public affairs. “We believe that our work does makes a difference in the lives of millions of homeowners worldwide. We dedicate this award to the memory of the 98 residents of Champlain Towers South who lost their lives, loved ones, and those who lost their homes in the tragic collapse.” 

Our firm salutes the Community Associations Institute, which is the leading international organization for education, governance, and management of condominiums, housing cooperatives, and homeowners associations, for its efforts that led to it receiving this prestigious recognition. As condo safety reforms and legislative initiatives continue to unfold at both the state and federal levels, CAI is continuing with its advocacy efforts. To learn more about the status of all the proposals, visit its website at



Motley Fool Article Highlights Benefits, Appeal of Communities with Associations

By Laura M. Manning

 A recent column on Motley Fool’s website caught the attention of our firm’s community association attorneys. Author Christy Bieber begins by noting the negative perceptions toward HOAs that she and her husband shared, but she ultimately acknowledges their benefits and appeal. 

“Living in a neighborhood with a homeowners association (HOA) has always seemed like a huge hassle to me. Several times, my husband and I have walked away from buying a home we love in an HOA neighborhood because of the ridiculous rules and restrictions applied to homeowners or because of the high fees the neighborhoods charged,” begins her column. 

“We didn’t want to commit to huge monthly costs on top of a mortgage payment, or have our association tell us what kind of flowers to plant. And we’ve also lived in HOA neighborhoods where the association was disorganized and caused nothing but trouble.” 

She notes that they vowed never to buy a house in an HOA neighborhood again, but they have now changed their minds and are looking to buy a property in a community with a strong association. 

Why the change of heart? 

“We really fell in love with the neighborhood,” she writes. 

Bieber notes that it is ideally located, near their favorite stores and restaurants, and hosts fun special events. She also loves the miles of walking trails that wind by beautiful lakes and streams. Rather than sitting in traffic to visit the area, they decided their best move would be to make the community their home. 

“The neighborhood, unfortunately, does have an HOA. But we realized the association is the reason for all these special events and for the beautifully maintained walking trails -- and we decided after having spent enough time there enjoying all that it had to offer that the HOA fees were worth the price and the hassle involved in complying with the HOA rules,” she concludes. 

Bieber is not the first and will not be the last to make such comparisons and reach such decisions. She counsels her readers to carefully consider HOA communities, as they all have “varying rules, requirements, cost structures, and amenities. You need to go into buying in an HOA neighborhood with both eyes open if you’re considering it -- but you don’t necessarily want to discount them offhand without taking a look at the trade-offs and really thinking about what’s right for you,” she suggests. 

The reality is that almost two-thirds of new homes constructed are now located in community or homeowner’s associations, according to recent analysis from the National Association of Home Builders. The association model is growing in popularity in large part because homebuyers like the Biebers are closely comparing the amenities and benefits that HOA and condominium communities have to offer. 

In order to maximize community property values and appeal, associations will need to build on a foundation of administrative and operational excellence that is based on the careful application of the industry’s best practices and procedures. With the help of highly qualified and experienced management, legal, insurance, financial, and construction professionals, boards of directors and association committees are able to operate and maintain highly successful communities with undeniable appeal.



Often Thankless Job of Board Service

By Roberto C. Blanch

 Serving as a member of your community association’s board of directors can be a thankless job. Preserving and maintaining an enclave’s property values requires making difficult decisions occasionally and consistent rules enforcement, which can lead to some disputes from time to time. 

However, in my 22 years of experience working closely with association directors, I have found that most feel a strong sense of fulfillment and pride from the important work that they are doing for their communities. By answering the call of board service, they are taking on the vital functions of community administration and working to effectively maintain, repair and improve the governed property while preserving harmony within the community, with the aim of maximizing the property values of all owners within the community. 

The requirements for being a board member in Florida are such that most home and condominium owners qualify. The minimum standards for board service include: being 18 years of age or older; not having been convicted of a felony without voting rights having been restored; not being delinquent in payment of assessments due to the association (candidates for board positions cannot be delinquent on assessment payment obligations, and sitting directors become ineligible to retain office if more than 90 days delinquent in payment of assessments to association); and taking a state-mandated certification course or signing a certification document within 90 days of taking office. In addition, some communities may have their own eligibility criteria, such as having to be an owner of a home or unit within the community. 

One of the best ways to become certified for board service is by attending board member certification seminars offered by state-approved providers, such as our firm. These in-person seminars and online webinars, which have been certified by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, enable board members to gain an understanding of the most significant issues pertaining to proper and effective performance as a director 

As a board member, one is required to act in the best interests of the association and the community it serves. To further this obligation, a director should make reasonable efforts to attend all board and members’ meetings, listen to all the association engaged experts or professionals, do all necessary research and due diligence for matters that come before the board, and take resident/staff’s input into account in all actions and decisions. 

The best board members are those who are comfortable with budgets and finances, and with working in collaboration with others to gather information and make important decisions. Strong communication and people skills can be very helpful, as some disputes will be bound to arise from time to time, so those who are able to compromise and find reasonable resolutions will excel in the position. 

In addition to the input board members should seek and receive from highly qualified and experienced attorneys, property managers, insurance agents/brokers, financial professionals and others, they should also make strong use of the many ample online resources that offer the most vital information for associations. In addition to our firm’s blog at, which has become one of the state’s leading resources for associations, the Community Associations Institute offers a great deal of helpful articles and guides at

Owners in communities with associations should answer the call of board service for themselves as well as their fellow neighbors. While it can sometimes be challenging and a thankless job, many of those who become directors rightfully feel a strong sense of pride and fulfillment by doing their part for the place they call home.



Resolutions Aren’t Just for the New Year: Association Board Resolutions Require Careful Consideration, Execution

By Laura M. Manning 

Homeowners and condominium association boards of directors use official resolutions enacted and approved by the directors during board meetings as a key management and administrative tool. The elements that are involved in creating effective resolutions are universal, and they should be known and utilized by all board members for every resolution they put to a vote at an official board meeting. 

Resolutions are formal statements created and enacted by an association’s board of directors on its official policies and decisions. They should cover the purpose for the resolution, the action(s) that will follow upon its ratification, and the basis for the board’s authority to make the decision. 

Common association resolutions are those covering administrative matters and changes. Based on varying provisions of an association’s governing declaration and documents, these could focus on elections, meetings, amenities, special events, or other aspects of association operations that may require attention. 

Other typical resolutions are those affecting association rules, policies and restrictions. These are meant to clarify the duties and rights of the owner members, such as the maintenance of the exterior appearance of homes, pet restrictions, vehicles/parking, and any other issues that may arise as communities evolve. 

On rare occasions, boards may need to enact special resolutions to address very specific matters. Decisions concerning individual violations, personnel/ vendor changes, litigation, and others may require the use of such a highly specialized resolution. 

In developing and drafting resolutions, directors should begin by ensuring that they meet with any and all applicable state and federal laws. Resolutions that conflict with the law can be nullified in court and deemed unenforceable, which could expose associations to legal and financial liabilities. That is just one of the many reasons why it is essential for boards of directors to work in close consultation with highly experienced community association legal counsel. 

Qualified association attorneys will also check the association’s own governing documents to ensure the board has the authority to take the actions it plans to take under a prospective resolution. In fact, the written resolution ideally should reference the section of the association’s covenants and bylaws that gives it the power to enact the resolution. 

Once the board authority and legality questions are satisfied, directors must carefully consider the exact content and wording for the written resolution. This should cover such information as to the purpose for the resolution, how it will be enacted and enforced, and any other specific details based on the nature of the proposed changes. All board members should become involved and provide their input at this stage to help ensure that all the pertinent details and questions are addressed. 

The written resolution should then include information on the board’s authority for the change, the purpose behind it, detailed specifications of the changes to be adopted, and the action plan and enforcement measures to be taken to effectuate the decision. Once drafted, the resolution should be included as part of the agenda for the next board meeting. Depending on the nature of the resolution being adopted, the resolution may be distributed to all of the unit-owner members, who should be encouraged to attend the board meeting in order to provide feedback on the proposal. 

Based on the input provided by the owners, resolutions may be edited and clarified during the meeting, or during the ensuing recess and prior to the next board meeting, before they go to a vote of the board. 

Resolutions that are passed by the board should be enforced with uniformity, consistency and reason by associations and their property management team. 

Any questions that may arise regarding the execution and enforcement of a resolution should also be referred to qualified attorneys. 

Community association resolutions are used to formalize and clarify an enclave’s policies, procedures and actions. They are essential for the effective governance of private residential communities with owner associations, so board members should work together and consult with highly experienced legal and property management professionals to develop and execute the most effective possible resolutions for all their official actions and decisions.



Common Community Association Restrictive Covenants and Why They Exist 

By Roberto C. Blanch

For all those who reside in communities governed by homeowner associations or are buying into one for the first time, you should be aware of documents referred to as the covenants, conditions and restrictions of such community, or CCRs in industry parlance for short. These CCRs, together with an association’s articles of incorporation, by-laws, and rules and regulations, comprise the governing provisions with which all owners in a community must abide, and they are given the effect of a legally binding agreement to which all the owners governed by the association are bound. 

For some sprawling HOA communities, minimum square-footage requirements are common provisions found in such covenants. These restrictions on the size of homes within a community are aimed at maintaining uniformity as to the types of homes located within it. Homes that are too small or too big by comparison to all the others might be considered to have a detrimental effect on the property values for the enclave. 

Architectural restrictions covering property improvements are also almost always in place. Again, the goal with these is to help ensure architectural aesthetics and cohesion. Homeowners and the architects they hire must pay careful attention to the architectural planning criteria to which all modifications or improvements to homes within a community must abide so as to keep in compliance with the association’s standards and to uphold its community appeal. 

For instance, new fences and buildings on a lot within the community are often restricted in HOA communities, again to maintain a harmonious look that enhances and preserves overall appeal. Chainlink fences may also be discouraged or completely disallowed, as might some types of sheds and outbuildings. 

Animal restrictions are also extremely common, both in HOA and condominium communities. Raising livestock, for example, is almost always disallowed, and pet restrictions are also typical. These can include bans on dog breeds considered by some to be dangerous, such as pit bulls, and also restrictions on the number of pets and their maximum weight. 

Vehicle restrictions addressing where large recreational and commercial vehicles are allowed to be kept and parked are also common. Parking RVs and campers in front of homes is often prohibited, and commercial vehicles with company signage are also often restricted. 

Other common restrictions included in CCRs are those covering the maintenance of owners’ lots and the appearance of their homes, as well as the types and sizes of signs and flags/poles that might be allowed. Some communities also restrict the number of residents who are allowed to permanently occupy a dwelling, as well as the length and nature of rentals and tenancies. 

While many CCRs may include restrictions such as those described above, the extent of such restrictions together with their enforcement must be consistent with federal, state and local laws/ordinances. For example, the State of Florida bans communities from imposing outright prohibitions upon the respectful displays of the American flag as well as several other flags, and of course there are federal fair housing laws that ban discriminatory practices in the purchase, ownership and occupancy of dwellings in communities. 

It is important for owners and buyers in communities governed by associations to be aware that they are legally liable for noncompliance with their community’s CCRs. As a unit-owner member they should view abiding by such rules as their duty to their fellow neighbors and owners, just as how they should see serving on the community’s board of directors or its committees. Ownership in communities governed by associations has its advantages in hassle-free living with unbeatable access to superlative amenities, but it comes with the expectations of equal and reasonable requirements for all the owner/members.



Wild Hogs Attack Florida HOA Homeowner, Again Make Local Headlines 

By Laura M. Manning

A couple of years ago in December 2020 I wrote in this column about wild hogs invading several communities in Manatee County and making local headlines at the time in the newscasts of several Tampa Bay-area TV stations. The same issue now appears to have come to a head at a community on Florida’s east coast just north of Daytona Beach, where a station recently covered a vicious attack by wild hogs against an 89-year-old resident and his small dog. 

According to the November 22 report by News FOX 35 (Orlando), two wild hogs attacked David Reisman and his dog as he set out to take his pet for a walk. He tells the station he was able to fight back with his flashlight before his wife ran outside and scared the animals away. 

“I started hitting these wild beasts in the face several times,” Reisman explains in the report. 

A fellow neighbor and homeowner in The Crossings at Grand Haven in Palm Coast, Barton Kaplan tells the station that the hogs have been an ongoing issue, and the problem has now become out of control. 

“We can’t roam freely to visit our neighbors. We’re hostages in our own homes,” he laments to the reporter. 

He says the animals repeatedly dig up mulch, exposing pipes and wires, and pull out plants. 

Both he and Reisman are calling on their homeowners association to install a fence around the entire community to try to control the problem, and Kaplan tells the reporter that the HOA has agreed to hire more trappers. 

The report concludes by noting that FOX 35 reached out to the association but did not receive a reply. 

As I wrote in my 2020 article, homeowners in several Tampa Bay-area neighborhoods also told their local stations’ reporters that wild pigs were wreaking tens of thousands of dollars in damage to their properties. The hogs would tear up lawns and landscaping in search of food underneath the turf, replacing pristine lawns with a muddy mess. 

The River Club HOA was also having trappers set up traps, but homeowners told the reporters that more needed to be done. 

Per my prior column, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that preventing wild hogs from invading property can be difficult, but adequate fencing should keep them out of small yards and gardens. On private property with written landowner permission, wild hogs may be trapped, shot or hunted year-round with no fees, licenses or permits required (including when using a gun and light during non-daylight hours). Hunters may use dogs and any legal rifle, shotgun, crossbow, bow, or pistol; hogs of either sex may be harvested, and there is no size or bag limit. 

Poisoning wild hogs is prohibited, and trapped animals may only be released on a property with landowner permission. Prior authorization from the Commission is not required for individuals wishing to remove wild hogs from private lands with landowner permission, and private nuisance wildlife trappers offer services for their trapping, removal and disposal. 

My suggestions from 2020 still hold true for this Palm Coast community and any others being impacted by wild hogs today. They should begin by contacting the regional office for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for their area of the state to check whether the agency may be able to provide for one of its wildlife officers to personally become involved to help their community devise and implement the best possible solutions. They should also contact several experienced local wildlife trappers for their insights and expertise. 

If possible, these experts should be encouraged to participate in the meetings of the boards of directors, as their experience-based guidance should prove to be invaluable. All the voices from homeowners and other interested parties should be heard and considered, and the boards of directors should then make informed and reasonable decisions based upon all the expert advice and community considerations. 

As I concluded two years ago, with destructive wildlife invasions such as this, hoping the problem will just go away without taking proactive measures is not an option for homeowners associations. By consulting with experienced wildlife professionals, working together with neighboring communities, and considering all the pertinent options and concerns, associations and their boards of directors can move quickly to curtail and hopefully eliminate problematic and potentially dangerous wildlife invasions.



New CAI Public Policy on Sign, Flag Restrictions in HOAs Calls for Allowing Communities to Decide What’s Right for Them 

By Laura M. Manning

The Community Associations Institute, the leading organization representing the interests of community associations, recently brought some added clarity into the national conversation over restrictions of political and social-cause yard signs and flags in HOA communities. It issued a new public policy recommendation in October prior to the midterm elections to help its state legislative committees chart their work on this topic. 

The organization’s new Political and Noncommercial Signs and Flags Public Policy reports that 13 states already have laws addressing signs. It notes that the First Amendment guarantees the right to freedom of speech without restriction by government entities or state actors, but it does not apply to private parties such as community associations. 

“CAI respects the right to freedom of speech set forth in the constitutions of the United States and various states but recognizes that right is not unlimited. CAI also recognizes and supports the rights of residential community associations to reasonably regulate political and noncommercial signs within communities in a manner consistent with federal, state, and local laws. CAI supports legislation that recognizes the core principles of self-governance, self-regulation, and coownership of common property and the community association housing model balanced with owners’ rights of free speech. Because each community is unique, legislation should allow an association to develop reasonable rules and regulations concerning the time, location, materials, size, number, and manner of where political and noncommercial signs, political displays, or political activities are located while preserving freedom of political expression,” reads the organization’s policy statement. 

The new public policy brings an added measure of clarity on this issue for the organization’s chapters as well as its legislative committees working with state lawmakers across the country. It encourages state legislators to avoid outright bans on sign/flag policies and restrictions by HOAs, which should read the policy as a call to take on this issue if they have not done so already. 

Doing so requires a fair amount of due diligence, which should include the input of highly qualified community association property management and legal counsel. After reviews of association governing documents and any corresponding state laws, their input should provide some helpful guidance and perspective on what can and cannot be done, and how different policy options tend to play out over time. 

Once sign/flag policies are established, CAI reminds communities to distribute the new rules via email, and also to add them to the community website and display them within the community. 

Political and social-cause yard signs in HOA communities tend to become an issue during every election season. As this new public policy from the associations industry’s leading voice indicates, every community should have the right to develop their own reasonable rules and restrictions to address such a pervasive issue. Their boards of directors would be wise not to shirk such a right, but rather to see it as a responsibility to develop and enact the approach to signs and flags that makes the most sense for their community.



Tips for Florida Community Associations Considering Online-based Voting 

By Roberto C. Blanch

With the passage of a new law in 2015, the Florida legislature made online-based electronic voting an option for the state’s community associations. Many associations have since adopted the use of electronic voting for their meetings and elections, and the supporters thereof have claimed that is has yielded a number of benefits including increased membership participation and improved tracking of owner participation, trends and interests. Here are a few helpful tips for those who are now considering the implementation of electronic voting in their communities. 

Boards of directors should first be aware that if they wish to implement an internet-based voting system for the votes of their owners, they must do so in compliance with the statutory procedures applicable to their respective associations, which include the adoption of a resolution supporting the platform at a properly noticed meeting. Once approved, associations should notify the owners of the change as well as the procedures and deadlines for owners to opt-in or opt-out via written responses that are added to its records. 

Florida law requires that community association e-voting systems must be able to authenticate owners’ identities and receive ballots in a manner that ensures their secrecy and integrity. For board elections, the owner-identifying information must be separated from each ballot to render it impossible to tie authenticated ballots to specific owners. The systems must also be able to store and keep electronic votes accessible for recount, inspection and review purposes. 

In light of the complexity regarding the administration of the electronic voting platform in conformance with the legally imposed criteria and procedures, we encourage associations to engage a reputable Florida-specific electronic voting platforms vendor. Association boards and management should carefully evaluate such electronic voting platform operators to confirm that the vendor is qualified to comply with the Florida laws governing the administration of electronic voting and it has successfully provided such services to other community associations. 

In addition to cost-efficiency and increased election turnout benefits stemming from electronic voting, its advocates claim that these systems may offer ancillary benefits, such as allowing associations to easily and affordably create and distribute owner surveys on topics ranging from major renovation projects to prospective new equipment for the fitness center. 

Proponents of electronic voting have also claimed that it may help associations by encouraging participation and making difficult quorum thresholds achievable, and it also makes it much easier to track, report and store all election ballots and results. 

For associations just getting started with online voting evaluation, the best approach is to first do their research on the different systems that are available, and to seek the advice of qualified expert such as licensed property managers and board-certified community association attorneys. Unit owners should be provided with effective guidance, including detailed written instructions, and board meeting discussions should take place to address any questions or concerns.



Residents Cry “Fowl” Against HOA’s Restrictions on Backyard Chickens

By Laura M. Manning

A recent article in the Pensacola News Journal focused on an uproar over an HOA’s restrictions against backyard chickens in a case that is very similar to one I wrote about in this column and our firm’s blog in September 2021. 

The newspaper reports that Holley By the Sea homeowners in Santa Rosa County fear their HOA may be moving toward a complete ban of their feathery friends. Approximately 100 of the 3,500 residents in the sprawling community own chickens, according to resident Mark Chapman. 

He says the community’s residents take pride in their chickens and small backyard coops, and some fear the HOA is seeking to limit or possibly ban chickens from the neighborhood. 

Chapman tells the newspaper that chicken ownership had not been a problem until fairly recently when the new board of directors decided to make it one. He says the board has begun its efforts by limiting the size of backyard chicken coops. One resident was ordered to reduce the size of her coop and lower its roof to no higher than six feet, even though Chapman has been allowed to keep his at seven feet. He says the new board president has stated he wishes to ban chickens in the community, and a Nov. 8 meeting has been scheduled on the issue. 

In a statement to the News Journal, Holley By the Sea General Manager April Salazar declined to comment: “The board of directors cannot individually speak on an item that has not been approved by the entire board. At this time there is nothing the association would be able to report on the item,” it reads.

As I wrote last year, when it comes to coverage of association disputes, nothing seems to draw the media’s attention more than quarrels involving the forced removal of family pets and service animals. That column focused on a report by CBS-12 News of a Boca Raton family that was clashing with its HOA in hopes of keeping its chickens and backyard coop, which they had maintained for 10 years. 

My assessment and takeaways from that case still hold true today. Rules and enforcement can be very challenging for community associations to administer, and it takes a complete commitment to developing rules and resolving disputes as reasonably and fairly as possible with uniformity and impartiality in all deliberations and decisions. 

The truth is that community associations to some extent have a negative perception for overly stringent rules and overzealous enforcement. Damaging media attention for the removal of animals that are beloved by homeowners who have had them for many years should be considered a very real and likely possibility by association boards of directors, which have a duty to weigh all of the factors that help to maintain a community’s property values and appeal. 

As I concluded last year, by developing and implementing a fair and effective process for devising and enforcing rules and restrictions, and also for resolving any disputes that may arise, associations can help to reverse a negative perception and reinforce their positive image for safe and hassle-free living with exceptional amenities.



Tips for Florida Community Associations Considering Online-based Voting

By Roberto C. Blanch

With the passage of a new law in 2015, the Florida legislature made online-based electronic voting an option for the state’s community associations. Many associations have since adopted the use of electronic voting for their meetings and elections, and the supporters thereof have claimed that is has yielded a number of benefits including increased membership participation and improved tracking of owner participation, trends and interests. Here are a few helpful tips for those who are now considering the implementation of electronic voting in their communities. 

Boards of directors should first be aware that if they wish to implement an internet-based voting system for the votes of their owners, they must do so in compliance with the statutory procedures applicable to their respective associations, which include the adoption of a resolution supporting the platform at a properly noticed meeting. Once approved, associations should notify the owners of the change as well as the procedures and deadlines for owners to opt-in or opt-out via written responses that are added to its records. 

Florida law requires that community association e-voting systems must be able to authenticate owners’ identities and receive ballots in a manner that ensures their secrecy and integrity. For board elections, the owner-identifying information must be separated from each ballot to render it impossible to tie authenticated ballots to specific owners. The systems must also be able to store and keep electronic votes accessible for recount, inspection and review purposes. 

In light of the complexity regarding the administration of the electronic voting platform in conformance with the legally imposed criteria and procedures, we encourage associations to engage a reputable Florida-specific electronic voting platforms vendor. Association boards and management should carefully evaluate such electronic voting platform operators to confirm that the vendor is qualified to comply with the Florida laws governing the administration of electronic voting and it has successfully provided such services to other community associations. In addition to cost-efficiency and increased election turnout benefits stemming from electronic voting, its advocates claim that these systems may offer ancillary benefits, such as allowing associations to easily and affordably create and distribute owner surveys on topics ranging from major renovation projects to prospective new equipment for the fitness center. 

Proponents of electronic voting have also claimed that it may help associations by encouraging participation and making difficult quorum thresholds achievable, and it also makes it much easier to track, report and store all election ballots and results. 

For associations just getting started with online voting evaluation, the best approach is to first do their research on the different systems that are available, and to seek the advice of qualified expert such as licensed property managers and board-certified community association attorneys. Unit owners should be provided with effective guidance, including detailed written instructions, and board meeting discussions should take place to address any questions or concerns.



Effective Board Secretaries Help Community Associations Thrive 

By Laura M. Manning

Florida community associations are required to keep certain records and make them available to all their members, so the position of secretary as the official record keeper of an association is of vital importance. 

The most effective association secretaries are typically detail oriented, highly organized, efficient, and responsive. They must be able to coordinate records and communications with property management and the other members of the board, executive committee, and other association committees. 

Strong writers and communicators often do well in the position. Secretaries are responsible for keeping the “meeting minutes” for all official association board meetings, so they must be able to listen closely to detailed discussions and distill them into clear and concise summaries. The best ones understand that these minutes must be accurate yet concise. They are not meant to document everything that everyone said at the meetings, but rather to list the topics and reports that were discussed, and all the actions taken. 

Community association secretaries should understand that the focus of the meeting minutes must be on recording all votes and decisions. They need only include a summary of the discussions, with a complete and accurate listing of the motions made and the resulting votes. 

Other typical duties of the secretary involve state and municipal filings and paperwork, which will hopefully be handled under the guidance of qualified management and legal professionals. Also, for the annual elections, secretaries will often be responsible for coordinating the distribution and collection of ballots and proxies as directed by the governing documents and Florida law. 

Effective secretaries are among the most essential elements for community association boards of directors to function at the highest possible level. By always ensuring that the right individual is manning the position, community associations can build a foundation for excellence in all of their management and administrative matters.



Florida HOAs Can Restrict Vegetable Gardens 

By Roberto C. Blanch

A 2019 Florida law is sometimes a source of confusion for board members and owners in HOA communities over whether their association can restrict or ban yard vegetable gardens in their communities. 

The uncertainty stems from the Section 604.71, Florida Statutes, which states that no county, municipality, or other political subdivision in Florida can regulate vegetable gardens on residential properties. However, HOAs, condominium associations and cooperatives do not fall under the category of “political subdivisions,” which are typically separate legal entities of a state that usually have specific governmental functions. Examples include a county, city, town, village, school district, and other subdivisions with a governmental legal status. Community associations are private not-for-profit corporations, and while they may govern over their communities, they are nongovernmental entities with powers that are codified by state law. 

So, while counties and municipalities in Florida cannot regulate or ban front-yard vegetable gardens, HOAs can and often do restrict them. 

Proponents of vegetable gardens in HOAs reference many benefits associated with permitting vegetable gardening within the boundaries of private lots within HOAs, including the promotion of sustainable food production, improved health and cost savings. However, those opposed to the activity within HOAs may reference some concerns, such as potential for attraction of pests and vermin, the creation of a mismatched aesthetic community landscape, and the possibility of overgrowth which may diminish visibility required for safe pedestrian and vehicular traffic. 

In light of the competing interests related to such gardens within HOAs, the best approach for associations and their directors is to evaluate whether the activity must be banned altogether or whether it may be permitted under certain conditions that may enable the residents of the community to coexist with such activities while preserving the best interests of the community as a whole. One option may include the addition of such a garden as a matter for the association’s architectural review process. In such a case, the association’s architectural review committee could work with counsel and management to craft detailed criteria governing the location of gardens, the type of materials which may be grown, maintenance standards for such gardens, and the consequences for violations of such criteria. The architectural review committee, which should be independent from the association’s board of directors, would take up all submissions for consideration by their community’s residents for vegetable gardens and determine whether proposals are to be permitted or denied. 

Carefully evaluating whether the existence and maintenance of vegetable gardens within the lots of a community governed by an HOA rather than arbitrarily prohibiting them may be one of the first steps in preserving the harmony and values of a community. To do so, HOA boards are encouraged to work with their property managers and lawyers to ensure a well-balanced and legally enforceable approach.



Florida’s Mandatory New Condominium Building Reporting System Begins with New Online Form

By Laura M. Manning

The changes that the Florida legislature enacted during its special session earlier this year call for new requirements for structural inspections for buildings that are three stories or higher. They also create new reporting requirements for condominium associations and cooperatives, and call for the enhanced funding of reserves for major structural repairs. 

The process established under the new law begins with the reporting of some basic information for all affected buildings throughout the state. The division that oversees condominiums and cooperatives under the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation has been charged with establishing the reporting system and collecting the information. 

The state agency has now officially begun these efforts with its new Building Reporting Form, which can be submitted online and is now available at


The requested information on the form is very basic, so associations will not have much difficulty with this initial step. It includes the number of buildings on the property that are three stories or more in height, the number of units in such buildings, the addresses of all such buildings, and the counties in which they are located. The form must be submitted by Jan. 1, 2023. 

As prescribed under the new law, the DBPR will use this information to compile a list of the number of condo and coop buildings that are three stories or taller. That list, which must be searchable by county, will be posted next year on its website. 

For all the affected associations that have not already done so, the posting of this online form due by year-end should serve as final reminder that now is the time to begin their due diligence in order to meet the state’s new requirements. Labor and materials shortages are causing major delays and disruptions in the construction industry, and the state’s new requirements are already increasing the demands for licensed and highly experienced engineers and contractors. 

In addition to beginning the research and vetting process for the upcoming new inspections and possible repairs, associations should also ensure they are working closely with other highly qualified and reputable professionals of the utmost integrity. Experienced association property managers, insurance brokers/agents, financial professionals, and attorneys will also be necessary to guide Florida communities through the coming changes. 

All the communities affected by the new law should take this opportunity to not just complete the basic new online form, but also to finalize their vetting and selection process for the engineers and other professionals who will guide them to compliance with the new requirements. By taking a proactive approach and avoiding procrastination, communities will be able to identify and select the very best experts to help them chart a course for success.



No Better Time Than Now for CAI Civility Pledge 

By Roberto C. Blanch

As the election season begins to get into full swing in anticipation of the upcoming midterm in November, the polarized nature of today’s political and social environment makes this an important time to remind community association directors and unit owners of the importance of the need for civility and respect in their interactions with their neighbors. These times, when yard signs supporting candidates and social causes/organizations have led to skirmishes and hostilities in connection with past elections, makes this an ideal moment to remind stakeholders in communities of efforts that can be deployed to promote civility among neighbors. 

While we are often reminded about the importance of preserving our individuality, it is also vital to remain tolerant of others’ individuality. This concept is even more relevant within community association living – in which many individuals with different points of view, ideals and opinions are required to coexist with each other in a relatively small area, and also to share in the use and upkeep of common facilities. Communities in which owners display high levels of volatility and intolerance may be considered undesirable places to live, and enclaves in which discord may stand in the way of progress. 

At the other end of the spectrum, some communities choose to avoid conflicts in situations that could result in the stagnation of progress or in the deterioration of the fabric of the community, possibly even resulting in declining property values. 

In light of the potential for adverse results that may arise due to community conflicts, unit owners as well as directors and managers should focus on efforts to advance the objectives of their community while remaining tolerant of differing opinions, approaches and points of view. 

A recent Community Associations Institute (CAI) blog article discussed how the strains of the pandemic and other issues have led to an unwillingness to listen to and tolerate differing viewpoints, which has fostered an increasingly unhealthy environment in communities. The author interviewed several experts in psychology and sociology, who advised association directors to start by insisting upon a baseline of civil and respectful behavior. 

In the article, Don Forsyth, a professor of social psychology at the University of Richmond in Virginia, recommends developing a focus on shared goals to help repair damaged and fragile relationships. He believes that building an identity and a sense of purpose for the community will create unity “faster than anything else,” and he urges community associations to avoid discussing controversial political and social issues. 

Instead, “they should stick with practical matters pertaining to the community. Leaders also should acknowledge the physical isolation as well as loss of civility and neighborly atmosphere experienced during the pandemic.” 

David G. Myers, a professor of psychology at Hope College in Michigan, is also quoted emphasizing the importance of revisiting what makes the community association unique or special, such as its history, architecture, or amenities, and he suggests creating a community logo or posting photos on a website to build that sense of “us.” Increasing communication with members and scheduling fun events such as fundraisers or contests are also recommended to build cohesion and community harmony. 

The CAI post refers readers to the organization’s “Civility Pledge,” which is a very helpful for community associations directors and managers to plan and begin implementing efforts to build and maintain community civility, harmony and mutual respect. Boards of directors should use it as a framework to lead their communities through conversations about difficult and complex issues, resulting in decisions that are informed and well balanced. To learn more and adopt the pledge in your community, visit www. 

By adopting an approach to embrace tolerance of opposing views and compromise, community associations may advance their initiatives and gain the benefit of the intellectual capital possessed by their collective membership.



Increases from Insurance, Inspections and Reserves Rattling Many Condominium Communities 

By Laura M. Manning

A recent article in the Palm Beach Post chronicled the early signs of the financial strains that condominium associations in Palm Beach County, as well as throughout Florida, are already beginning to experience. Unfortunately, these early issues involving increased insurance costs represent just the beginning, and things are indeed expected to get worse in the months and years to come. 

The article discusses how the 51-year-old Portofino South Condominium in West Palm Beach received a renewal quote from its insurer with an 82 percent increase over the prior year. It had expected an increase of around 25 percent, which was what it got for 2021, so the board of directors had to call a special meeting to increase the association’s annual budget and hike up its monthly dues for its owners. 

Mary McSwain, who bought her one-bedroom unit in January, told the Post’s Kimberly Miller that her dues are going from $914 a month to $1,347. 

“And it’s likely to get more expensive for owners under the new condo law approved during a special legislative session,” the article reminds readers.

 Indeed, while most of those safety provisions do not become effective until 2024, the law will require significant new inspection and maintenance measures on older condos three stories or higher, as well as dedicated reserves to pay for structural repairs. 

For the owners at Portofino, the news is even worse. State law now requires it to install a new fire-sprinkler system by Jan. 1, 2024, and that is expected to cost its unit owners more than $7 million. 

Two federal proposals have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) that could provide some relief for condominium communities in need of repairs and renovations. 

The Rapid Financing for Critical Condo Repairs Act of 2022, which was introduced in July, would enable the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Federal Housing Administration to insure condominium association building rehabilitation loans issued by private lenders. The loans would be reserved exclusively for rehabilitation, alteration, repair, improvement, or replacement of a condominium’s common systems, infrastructure and facilities. 

The legislation allows FHA insurance for up to 90 percent of the repair/rehabilitation costs, and the loans would have 30-year terms, fixed interest rates, and no prepayment penalties. FHA-insured loans tend to have a lower interest rate for borrowers than typical bank portfolio loans, and their lack of prepayment penalties would enable associations to refinance if interest rates fall. 

The Securing Access to Finance Exterior Repairs (SAFER) in Condos Act from April would allow condominium owners to finance critical building repairs with their own FHA-backed loans, which they could combine with their existing mortgage debt into a new 30-year FHAinsured loan. Those who do not have a mortgage or would prefer to leave it as is would have the option of accessing the FHA Property Improvement Program to finance such an assessment over a 20-year term. 

Such FHA-backed loans for both condominium associations as well as their individual unit owners would enable them to secure the very best possible rates and terms to quickly finance urgent work. 

My fellow firm partner Gary Mars wrote in a recent Miami Herald op-ed article that providing such government-backed financing programs for critical repairs for both condominium associations as well as their individual unit owners promotes public safety and helps to avoid potential catastrophes, thereby serving an immense public good that merits full government support. 

He and I agree that in today’s polarized political environment, it will be essential for lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to co-sponsor these proposals in order for them to gain the bi-partisan support they will probably need for passage. Our firm is asking everyone to contact their U.S. representative and encourage them to co-sponsor and support these bills.



Rules, Enforcement Are Keys to Reining in Bad Behavior, Promoting Safety in Community Pools

By Nicole R. Kurtz

In South Florida and the Treasure Coast, the pool is a popular and widely used community amenity. While community pools can be a great source of joy and relaxation for residents and their guests, they can also sometimes become a focal point of strife and confrontations.

Given the propensity for certain issues to arise, and in hopes of preventing them, associations are well advised to establish and enforce pool-use rules for their communities. Such rules, which should be comprehensive and cover a wide array of use and operations matters related to the pool and the pool deck including opening/closing times, guest capacity, noise, horseplay, swimwear, diving, smoking, drink/food, and more, are truly essential for associations to maintain order and diminish potential legal liabilities.

With the help of qualified community association legal counsel, who will always begin by checking an association’s governing documents to ensure it follows the prescribed process for adopting enforceable pool rules, associations should develop fair and reasonable rules that are designed to promote the efficient and safe use of the amenity. The goals and purposes behind every rule should be clearly evident from its very nature, and any changes and additions to the rules and their enforcement should be discussed with both experienced legal counsel and property management prior to implementation.

Recognizing that associations’ governing documents may require varying notice and approval procedures, the rules must be properly noticed and adopted before being enforced. Once adopted, many associations find it prudent to clearly post pool rules at the pool deck, and some associations may also be required to distribute copies of the rules to all owners and residents before enforcement. It further may be prudent for property management to personally visit new owners/residents to discuss the pool rules/enforcement, and to emphasize their importance to the community.

Enforcing the rules as uniformly and reasonably as possible is just as significant as the effectiveness of the rules themselves. Associations should allocate resources to the enforcement of their pool rules that are in commensurate proportion with the size of the community and its pool(s). The larger the community and pool, the more resources and enforcement measures should be considered as standard.

Again, association boards of directors should consult closely with qualified experts regarding the enforcement of their pool rules. In addition to onsite staff around the pool, associations may also be in a position to deploy cameras, lights, and motion/splash sensors to help provide 24-hour coverage.

To avoid potential legal liability, bear in mind that it is essential for pool rules to be enforced uniformly for all those using the pool. From first-time guests to owners who have lived in the community since its inception, the rules should apply equally to all. The consequences for those who run afoul of the rules should also be reasonable and uniform, and depending upon a community’s specific governing documents and whether a grievance committee has been properly established, they could include imposing fines and suspensions of pool use rights for set periods of time based on the nature of the infringement.

Even with the most effective and up-to-date pool rules and enforcement measures, incidents and disputes involving the use of the community pool will probably still arise from time to time. The key for associations and their boards of directors is not to overreact to any specific incident by making rash decisions and implementing unreasonably restrictive new regulations. By keeping a steady head, and maintaining adequate and uniform vigilance and enforcement, associations and their directors will be able to maximize the joy and minimize the headaches stemming from one of their community’s most beloved amenities.




Effective Association Record Keeping Begins with Concise, Complete Meeting Minutes

By Laura M. Manning

Community association board meetings are where the rubber meets the road for practically all association administrative matters. The agendas for these meetings and the minutes that ensue form a vital record of all the matters that have come before the directors of an association over the course of the entire lifespan of a community. Given the significance of the meetings, it is imperative for effective notes or "meeting minutes" to be kept to document all of the pertinent information from each and every official assembly.

As a general rule, meeting minutes should be thorough, but concise. They are not intended to be a transcript of everything said at a meeting.

Instead, the best approach is to start by listing the date, time and place of the meeting; listing the board members present/absent and additional participants such as the association property manager or attorney; and including the name of the individual taking the minutes. A copy of the agenda and notice should be attached to the minutes.

Once all of that is out of the way, the minutes should include a list of all the issues and reports that were presented and discussed at the meeting. For each issue which resulted in a motion, the minutes should include the exact wording of the motion, the names of the directors who made the motion and seconded it, and whether the motion passed or failed.

For the votes on motions, the meeting minutes need not include the name of the directors voting in favor or opposed, though board members could specifically request that their vote be noted in the minutes. Also, any board member who abstains from voting should be noted in the minutes.

For those tasked with taking the meeting minutes, bear in mind that minutes are not intended to be a record of all the viewpoints expressed on every matter that came before the board. The key is to be brief but comprehensive. Include a complete list of all the matters that were discussed, list any speakers, and conclude with any outcomes or decisions for each.

It is always best to prepare the minutes as quickly as possible after each meeting in order to send the draft to the board members and property manager while it is still fresh in their memory. Secure their feedback, edits and approval as quickly as possible, then finalize the minutes by entering them into the digital and paper files of the association’s official records.

The keeping and recording of community association board meeting minutes should not take a significant amount of time by directors and property managers. By taking the correct approach and recording concise yet complete minutes for each meeting as expeditiously as possible, associations can help ensure their official records are detailed and comprehensive.




Examples of Common Community Association Director Conflicts of Interest

By Roberto C. Blanch

The directors of Florida community associations owe a fiduciary duty to make decisions and take actions that are in the best interests of the community they serve. However, they can sometimes fall short in this regard when their own personal interests come into play.

One of the most common conflicts of interest for an association director involves their role in the selection of outside vendors. If a vendor being considered for services by a community association is a director or officer of the association, a company that is owned/co-owned by a director or officer of the association, or a relative of such individual, then they are required to disclose the relationship in writing to the other directors and recuse themselves from the vetting and selection process.

An association’s property manager could take the lead in the evaluation and negotiation process to avoid any perceptions of favoritism or impropriety by any one particular director. Additionally, Florida law require that the proposed activity or transaction giving rise to the conflict, together with any related contracts and transactional documents, be attached to a board meeting agenda for consideration by the condominium association board as to whether to approve the transaction, notwithstanding the conflict.

Such contract must be approved by the vote of two-thirds of the directors present (excluding the director having the conflict). Further, at the next regular or special meeting of the condominium association members, the transaction must be included on the agenda and is subject to cancellation by a majority of the members present.

In addition to this area in which conflicts may arise, other activities by directors or association officers may present potential conflicts. For instance, approving projects that directly benefit one or any number of directors, while providing little if any benefits for other unit owners, may also pose obvious conflicts. Similarly, directors or officers may create other circumstances prone to conflicts when failing to adhere to uniform or standardized collections or rules enforcement measures against other members in the community.

In order to avoid the possibility of such potential conflicts of interests, associations should create and implement set policies and procedures for all debt collections and rule enforcement, and apply them uniformly to every case. Directors should also refrain from implementing any rules or restrictions for their own personal benefit and not that of the entire community or a substantial portion thereof. The rules and restrictive covenants for every community are in place to maintain set standards and promote harmony. Changes should only be considered if they help to achieve those goals for the community at large, and not for the benefit of a particular director or unit owner.

The state of Florida has laws aimed at curbing community association fraud and conflicts of interest. Directors who ignore these laws and take actions resulting in conflicts of interest are possibly putting themselves as well as their association in severe legal jeopardy. They should never succumb to such temptations, and if a potential conflict arises they should seek the guidance of highly experienced community association legal counsel to steer clear of any impropriety.



Florida HOAs and Rooftop Solar: 

Some Restrictions Apply

By Laura M. Manning

Given Florida’s nickname as the Sunshine State, it is only fitting that solar energy would be the state’s most popular and effective source of renewable energy. In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, renewable energy fueled approximately five percent of Florida’s in-state electricity generation in 2020, and almost two-thirds of that came from solar.

It appears to be a sure bet that rooftop solar installations will be growing in popularity in the years to come for homeowners across the state. For those who own properties in communities with homeowners associations, internet searches will quickly reveal that Florida associations are prohibited by law from blanket denials of such installations. However, that does not mean that they do not have a significant say in the manner and form of solar panel installations in order to maintain the community’s aesthetic standards.

The Florida Solar Rights Act protects homeowners who wish to install solar panels and other renewable energy devices on their property from outright bans. It provides that property owners may not be denied permission to install solar collectors and other renewable energy devices by HOAs or even local municipalities. The law expressly forbids binding agreements that limit access to renewable energy for dwellings.

However, the Act does allow for HOA architectural review boards and committees to determine the specific rooftop location where panels can be installed. Associations are therefore able to require homeowners to follow their set procedures for the prior review and approval of planned alterations and improvements. Review committees may request diagrams and information on the dimensions, location(s), and layout of proposed solar panels, including illustrations. They can also review and approve all the related wiring and electrical components, as well as the proposed height of the panels from the roof.

The Act provides that as long as a solar panel installation is "within an orientation to the south or within 45° east or west of due south if such determination does not impair the effective operation of the solar collectors," associations can decide where the panels will go.

This caveat in the law limiting associations’ ability to dictate the exact location of rooftop panels is very important for board and committee members to bear in mind. Their chosen location must not interfere with the system’s performance, so attempts to require that solar panels be installed at a spot where they are shaded by trees would be in violation of the Act.

Given the detailed and specific nature of this Florida law, the state’s courts have already issued several rulings protecting homeowners’ rights to lawful renewable-energy installations, and they are unlikely to look favorably upon HOAs that attempt to issue unreasonable restrictions and decisions over proposed rooftop panels. The stipulations in this law are not to be ignored by HOAs and their boards of directors, and questions regarding solar installations by homeowners should be addressed with the utmost caution and only under the guidance of highly qualified and experienced community association legal counsel.




Competitive Bid Requirements for

Florida Condominium Associations

By Laura M. Manning

Many Florida condominiums are responding to new inspection and structural-integrity requirements from lenders and insurers by planning for projects to bolster and repair their aging towers. For such major construction projects, competitive bids are literally a must, as they are mandated by Florida law. However, for very small associations as well as for some other types of services and contracts, obtaining competing bids from multiple vendors is not required by state law.

In fact, for small condominium associations with 10 units or less, their owners may opt out of competitive bids with a two-thirds majority vote. For all other condominium associations, bids are required for any agreement for the procurement of goods and services that will exceed 5% of the association’s budget, with exceptions for contracts for the hiring of association employees, and contracts for attorneys, accountants, architects, community association managers, timeshare management firms, engineers, and landscape architects.

Additionally, in cases of an emergency or recovery from storms and other catastrophes, or if the vendor is the only provider of the goods or services being sought in the county where the association is located, competitive bids are not required.

While condominium associations are required to obtain competitive bids for materials, equipment and services that exceed 5% of the total annual budget, including reserves, they are not required to accept the lowest bid, and only two competing bids will suffice to meet the requirement.

There are also requirements under the state’s condominium laws for contracts to be in writing, and those for maintenance or management services must include a litany of specific provisions.

For condominium association boards of directors that are considering contracts for goods and services for their community, they would be well advised to begin by consulting with highly qualified and experienced association legal counsel regarding the bidding process and contract negotiation. Knowledgeable community association attorneys will be able to advise associations on how to solicit and vet bids, and conduct highly effective due diligence prior to any final decisions.

Our firm’s community association attorneys write regularly about important matters for associations in our blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box in the blog to automatically receive all our future articles.




HOA President Arrested for Theft Using

Association Debit Card

By Roberto C. Blanch

A recent case from Leesburg, Florida, illustrates why community associations should avoid issuing and using debit cards in the name of the association.

According to a recent report by Leesburg News (, John Joseph O’Connor was arrested and stands accused of stealing nearly $3,000 from the Coachwood Colony HOA by making multiple ATM withdrawals with the association’s debit card shortly after he resigned as president. The transactions were discovered by the association’s new treasurer, who reviewed the bank statements after joining its board of directors and discovered nine unauthorized ATM withdrawals totaling $2,972.

The astute treasurer contacted the bank and was told that the debit card used for all the transactions was the one issued to O’Connor.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office was notified, and a deputy questioned O’Connor who said he lost his wallet with the HOA’s debit card and had reported it to the bank. However, further investigation revealed that he had never reported the card missing, and ATM surveillance video proved to be incriminating. He was arrested and released on a $7,000 bond, and is scheduled to appear in Lake County Court on May 31.

The Florida legislature enacted a number of changes to the state’s laws in 2017 to add teeth to the criminal penalties and enforcement for community association fraud. These changes included a complete ban on the use of association debit cards by condominium association officers, directors and employees to eliminate any direct access to cash from association accounts. However, the legislature did not incorporate the restriction into the laws governing other types of community associations, such as HOAs or cooperatives. Unfortunately, as this case from Leesburg illustrates, the use of debit cards by some Florida community associations continues, to their detriment.

In addition to completely avoiding the use of debit cards issued in the name of the association, communities should also require multiple signors to withdraw/transfer funds or make changes to bank accounts, vendor contracts and insurance policies. They should also have multiple recipients (such as directors or officers) review each account statement monthly, and retain certified experts to conduct independent audits of all financial records on a regular basis. Associations should also maintain adequate insurance coverage against losses due to criminal malfeasance.

This and other recent cases from other parts of the state are serving as unwelcome reminders of the potential for theft, fraud and abuse in community associations. Boards of directors would be well advised to work in close consultation with highly experienced and extremely well qualified association legal counsel to develop and implement policies and protocols that can effectively thwart potential schemes.

Our firm’s community association attorneys write about timely and important issues for associations in our blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box in the blog to automatically receive all our future articles.




Florida Condo Communities Getting Charged Up for Electric Vehicles

By Laura M. Manning

Auto industry analysts are predicting that 2022 will be dubbed the year of the electric vehicle. High gas prices combined with a slew of new models from the world’s leading manufacturers are making EVs a very popular option for drivers, and the recently passed infrastructure bill includes $7.5 billion to build a nationwide network of rapid-charger stations along major highways.

However, for those who live in condominiums, EVs can present some serious logistical challenges. Charging EVs at owners’ designated parking spaces in large and congested parking garages is very difficult in most cases and practically impossible in some. That is because EVs can take 12 hours or more to achieve a full charge using a standard 110-volt domestic power outlet, so many owners opt instead to spend extra for the installation of specialized charging stations that do the job in less than four hours.

In order to address these challenges and facilitate EV charging in condominium communities, the Florida Legislature has enacted several new laws in recent years to address the installation of charging stations. The first of these was a 2018 law that prohibited condominium associations from preventing unit owners from installing an EV charger at their own cost and within the boundaries of their designated parking space. The law clarified that associations may require that installations comply with all applicable building codes, recognized safety standards, and reasonable architectural standards that it adopts. It also shielded associations from construction liens resulting from the installation of charging stations by unit owners, and it provided that the electricity consumed by the charger must be paid for by the unit owner.

Last July, the legislature took an extra step that will probably become more momentous than the 2018 changes over the course of the next several years. The new law clarified that the installation of shared EV charging stations for a community’s owners and guests can be ratified via a simple vote of a condominium association’s board of directors. It specifically precluded the addition of such community charging stations and designated EV parking areas from being considered a "material alteration" which would have required the vote and approval of the unit owners.

For most condominium communities, this model for accommodating owners and guests with EVs may prove to be the most viable and effective approach. The problem with having unit owners install chargers for their own personal use at their designated spaces is that many towers have inadequate electrical infrastructure to allow for such installations without it becoming exorbitantly expensive. EV charging stations require heavy-duty electrical cables and equipment that are capable of handling the high loads, and the metering and billing of their electrical consumption also requires additional equipment and expenses.

On the other hand, designated EV parking zones with chargers for use by all the unit owners and their guests is likely to appear to many communities to be a much more elegant and impactful solution. Such highly visible chargers are a very appealing amenity for the entire community, and they can have a significant positive long-term impact on owners’ property values.

Condominium association boards considering the addition of such chargers, as the new state law now provides, should initiate the process by contacting FPL or the community’s electric utility for its advice and input on the installation, capacity considerations and other logistics. They should then seek consultations and proposals from experienced contractors specializing in shared EV charging stations.

The information and proposals from these vendors should then be made available and discussed in the association board meetings. By hearing the thoughts and concerns about the charging stations and their cost-benefit analysis from all the owners at these meetings, and also allowing the contractors to attend them and discuss any important considerations, boards of directors can perfect their plans before finalizing them for a vote.

Many of the companies that focus on EV chargers for condominiums and apartment buildings are providing solutions to defray the costs of their installation over time via the paid usage from drivers. Some even also now have smartphone apps to enable users to pay for charging and receive alerts on the status of a vehicle’s charge as well as the availability of chargers.

The popularity of EVs is predicted to continue growing in the years to come, making shared community charging stations one of the most desirable new property features for the foreseeable future. Boards of directors should act now to consider whether the addition of an EV parking zone with shared chargers makes sense for their community.




The Path Forward for Florida Condo-Safety Reforms

By Roberto C. Blanch

Florida’s legislature has received very poor marks for its failure to pass any condominium-safety reforms after the horrific Champlain Towers tragedy. Many condominium residents and association-industry members expected the state’s lawmakers would strike a deal on a bill to revamp Florida’s existing condo regulations by requiring periodic inspections of buildings.

Pundits and newspaper columnists are lamenting the fact that the two chambers ultimately could not agree on whether to require condominium associations to maintain financial reserves for major structural maintenance and repairs. Given the horrific tragedy that claimed 98 lives, not-to-mention the significant number of aging buildings across the state with potential structural deficiencies, it is no surprise that there has been an outcry after the legislature failed to act.

Taking into consideration that this year’s legislative session began just over six months after the collapse, the legislature’s inability to establish mandatory safety reforms and require specific funding conditions for condominiums throughout the state was actually not very surprising. The issues of high-rise structural inspections, condominium association financial reserves, and mandatory fire sprinklers have flummoxed lawmakers in Florida and other states for decades.

Florida’s legislators should now take the time to work through the difficult details of condominium high-rise safety reforms during the remainder of the year and the pre-session legislative meetings for the 2023 session. There may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for condominium buildings of varying heights and stages in their lifespan.

In the meantime, significant condo-safety reforms are being implemented by lenders via major changes in underwriting requirements. Government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac recently released new requirements for all mortgages with settlement dates on or after February 28, 2022, excluding from eligibility for acquisition any loans for units in condominium communities with what it considers to be critical repair needs.

With these new standards now in effect, many associations have already been struggling to comply with the new requirements from these quasi government agencies for lenders to have the condominium associations for mortgage applicants complete an eight-page form. The questionnaire asks association directors to attest to the structural soundness of their buildings. However, for towers in their teen years that have never conducted any kind of major engineering inspections, directors are completely unequipped to respond. Plus, consultations with their legal counsel would probably lead them to avoid making any such representations, given the potential exposure to legal liabilities.

Property insurers are also expected to begin implementing new requirements for structural reviews of aging towers as part of their appraisal and renewal procedures. In addition, Miami-Dade recently passed a new ordinance creating a public registry of financial documents and structural reports from practically all condominium associations in the county, and other counties and local municipalities may also implement new requirements of their own.

At the federal level, our firm’s other community association attorneys and I are encouraging members of the U.S. Congress in newspaper columns and outreach such as this to consider funding programs for low- or no-interest loans for associations in need of emergency funds for critical structural rehabilitations. As we have been noting, such loans could help to bridge the gap between associations with inadequate reserves and immediate needs for major remediations, as opposed to those for younger properties that have enough time to build their reserves for future projects.

Florida’s lawmakers should be highly encouraged by all their constituents across the state to not give up on establishing much needed condo-safety reforms. They should take this time to consult with experts, including engineering groups and local building officials, to work through the challenging issues surrounding inspection requirements and enforcement actions. By carefully considering the real-world implementation of reserve studies and funding levels for buildings ranging from those that are brand new to those that are 60-plus years old, they will be able to craft highly effective new standards for Florida that could become a national precedent.




Boca HOA Sues Homeowner for  Dilapidated Property

By Michael Toback

For homeowners’ associations governing communities of single-family homes, one of the most difficult balancing acts to uphold is that of enforcement actions required against noncompliant homeowners over the physical state of their property. In the minds of many Americans, community associations have a negative perception and stigma for overzealous rules enforcement, but yet they cannot allow individual owners to flout important policies that help to maintain their communities’ property values.

After unsuccessful attempts to persuade an intractable owner to comply with the language provided in an association’s governing documents, the time may come to file a lawsuit against the violating member. While such action should not be taken lightly due to the potential costs and uncertainties of litigation, such lawsuits may be the only recourse left to associations facing obstinate owners who refuse to comply.

Such appears to be the case with a recent lawsuit filed by the Boca Raton Bath & Tennis Club HOA against homeowner Lynn Min for alleged violations of several provisions found within the community’s governing documents. The suit, which was covered recently by, states:

"Owner is in violation of the provisions cited [in the governing documents] by virtue of their Property being in a state of disrepair, including a lack of maintenance to the home’s structure and roof, the exterior of the Property needs to be painted, the sod needs to be replaced, and the irrigation system is defective and needs to be repaired."

The complaint also alleges that Min refused to participate in pre-suit mediation as required by Florida law prior to the filing of a lawsuit, and that she failed to comply with any of the association’s demands to bring her property into compliance. The complaint seeks injunctive relief to have the court force her to bring her property up to the community’s standards, as well as legal costs and other damages.

While it is always preferable to resolve these disputes without resorting to litigation, including participating in the pre-suit mediation process as required by Florida law, once such efforts have been exhausted associations should consider such lawsuits as part of their fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of all the owners in order to maintain their property values. Owners of homes in HOA communities are made well aware of all restrictions, rules and regulations provided for within the association’s governing documents prior to or at the time of their property acquisition. If an owner is unwilling to comply with such policies that are designed to maintain community harmony and aesthetic appeal, they should avoid buying homes in communities with such requirements.

When it comes to enforcement actions, it would be prudent for associations to seek the counsel and representation of highly experienced community association attorneys to guide them through the process. Our firm’s community association attorneys write about important matters such as this in our association law blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box in the blog to automatically receive all our future articles.

Michael Toback is an attorney with the law firm of Siegfried Rivera who focuses on community association law and is based at the firm’s office in West Palm Beach. The firm also maintains offices in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and its attorneys focus on real estate, community association, construction and insurance law.,, (561) 296-5444.




Condo-Safety Reform Bills Making Their Way Through Florida Legislature

By Laura M Mannning

The new condominium safety financing requirements from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have drawn a great deal of attention, but the Florida Legislature appears to be poised to go one step further in its response to the horrific Champlain Towers tragedy.

The Florida House and Senate are both moving forward with bills that would add new inspection requirements on condominium buildings. A bill that is now ready to go before the full Senate, SB 1702 would require condominiums that are three stories or taller and located within three miles of the coast to undergo initial inspections 20 years after completion and every seven years thereafter. Buildings in other areas would be required to be inspected after 30 years and every 10 years thereafter.

The Florida House has taken up its own version of the bill (HB 7069). Its proposal would require initial inspections to occur 25 years after completion, and buildings further inland would have their first inspection at 30 years. Additional inspections would be required every 10 years.

The House and Senate bills also include differences over reserve studies, which are used to determine the level of funds a condominium community needs to maintain in reserve for future renovations and repairs. The differences between the two bills are likely to soon be consolidated into a final bill for bicameral consideration.

The new federal loan requirements and the measures being discussed by the state’s lawmakers follow a number of reports issued by task forces from industry experts calling for reforms. The Community Associations Institute, the largest national organization representing associations, has issued several public-policy recommendations, and Florida’s top architecture and engineering trade groups as well as The Florida Bar have also completed reports and issued recommendations.

All of these organizations are focusing on reforms concentrating on reserve studies and funding, building maintenance and inspections, structural integrity, and records transparency.

As the proposals make their way through the legislature and lenders adopt the new federal loan standards, condominium associations should take a proactive approach by reviewing their current and future reserve funding as well as the status of any structural and life-safety elements that may require attention. Before the increased demands impact the pricing for their services, associations should act now to identify and retain highly qualified engineering, construction, insurance and legal professionals to beat the rush.

Our firm’s community association attorneys write about important and timely issues such as this in our blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box in the blog to automatically receive all our future articles.




Access to Community Association Documents in Legislative Spotlight in Florida

By Laura M. Manning

The market for homes and condominiums throughout the South Florida region is now thriving, and many of the area’s community associations are seeing more document requests from prospective buyers than ever before. Florida law mandates associations provide certain documents to prospective buyers, and several bills are now being considered by the state’s lawmakers to increase access to association financial and engineering records.

Florida law dictates that associations must provide prospective buyers with the community’s declaration, articles of incorporation, bylaws and any related amendments, as well as the rules of the association. They must also provide them with a Q&A/fact sheet covering voting rights, use and leasing restrictions, fees and assessments, and outstanding litigation with liabilities in excess of $100,000.

These documents may be provided in hardcopy or digital forms, but digital records are preferred and can be prepared for easy access via a shareable weblink. The records must also be made available for scanning, copying or photographing, so hardcopies should also be available for use as needed. Only the "actual cost" involved in preparing and providing the documents may be passed on to prospective buyers, so there should not be any costs for cases in which only digital access is requested and provided.

Access to additional records such as meeting minutes, reserve studies, engineering inspections, and other materials are at the discretion of the association. If such additional records are being provided, an association is entitled to charge a reasonable sum of up to $150 for their preparation and procurement.

Associations are also seeing many records requests from their unit owners, who often receive requests from prospective buyers for additional information and documentation. Florida law even requires sellers to provide prospective buyers with a "governance form" with information on the role of the board of directors, meetings and notices, maintenance requirements, special assessments, voting rights, and records requests.

In response to the horrific Champlain Towers tragedy, several condo-safety reform bills are now making their way through house and senate committees during the current legislative session in Tallahassee. Some of these include measures aimed at expanding access to association records for prospective buyers, and The Florida Bar condominium law life-safety task force recently recommended access to engineering inspection reports for such prospects as part of its suggested reforms.

South Florida community associations should expect to continue seeing increased records requests as the real estate market continues flourishing, and new amendments to the state’s laws mandating increased access to financial and engineering/maintenance records may also be in store. Plus, the last thing associations should do is to needlessly hold up sales contracts for unit owners over missing documents.

Association boards of directors and managers would be very well advised to consult with highly experienced association attorneys to develop a set process and protocol for all records requests from prospective buyers as well as member unit owners. Responding to these requests should become routine, and any questions or disputes involving specific requests should be immediately referred to association legal counsel for resolution.

Our firm’s association attorneys write about important matters such as these in our blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to visit the blog and enter their email address in the subscription box to automatically receive all our future articles.




Homeowner’s Lawsuit Against HOA for Libel, Defamation Illustrates Dangers of Conflicts  Getting Personal

By Nicole R. Kurtz

When disagreements and disputes arise amongst those who serve on community association boards of directors, emotions can run high in light of the impactful nature of the decisions made by such directors. However, as association directors are duty bound to act in the best interests of their community and its owners, they should seek to avoid engaging in personal spats and attacks with one another and the owners that could lead to potential legal liabilities for the association.

One of the best examples of the dangers of public rows between association directors and unit owners is now playing out at the Porta Bella Yacht and Tennis Club in Boca Raton. As chronicled in a recent report from, homeowner Samuel Loff filed a lawsuit against the association premised upon an allegation that its board members made inappropriate and inaccurate accusations against him as part of a retaliation campaign.

The lawsuit alleges that the community’s board of directors retaliated against Loff for an email that he sent to them complaining about security shortfalls and announcing his candidacy for a board seat. Shortly after his email, the suit alleges that the board began accusing him of making unwanted advances to a female security guard, and it later put those accusations in writing via an email distributed to all the unit owners.

The complaint states that Loff’s initial email to the board highlighted broken doors and locks, and the lack of cameras and lighting in the community. Just days after his email was sent, the complaint alleges that the board first accused Loff of making unwanted advances to the female guard. Approximately one month later, the board allegedly distributed a mass email to the owners, which also included reference to the allegations against Loff.

Loff denies the board’s allegations, and he filed his lawsuit against the association in Palm Beach County in December. The complaint includes claims for libel, defamation, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence. If the court decides in Loff’s favor, and if the board of directors is resultingly found to have acted with malicious intent against Loff, then the lawsuit could prove to be extremely expensive for the association; both in terms of damages to Loff and attorneys’ fees and costs.

From the detailed nature of the 28-page complaint, which includes exhibits containing communications from Loff as well as from the board of directors, it is a safe bet that this will be a costly litigation for the association to defend. However, it also appears that a lawsuit may have been less likely if the board of directors would have taken an alternative approach with respect to addressing their concerns about Loff’s alleged actions.

More specifically, based upon the claims referenced in the complaint, it seems that if the board of directors would have avoided making public accusations against Loff at its meetings and via emails to the owners, then the association may not be facing such a lawsuit, nor the resulting strain on the community’s resources. Any actions involving security personnel that may have required investigation would have been better handled by experienced human resources professionals, with confidentiality for the parties involved.

Furthermore, any subsequent proposed repercussions, based on the findings, should have been closely vetted by experienced community association and employment legal counsel, as applicable, prior to implementation. Allowing directors’ emotions to flare accusatory statements to be made only exposes associations to potentially dire legal consequences, as well as potential financial strains on an association’s resources as the Porta Bella owners may now know all too well.

To find the link to the complete article and the copy of Loff’s complaint on the media outlet’s website, visit the post for this article dated February 7, 2022, in our blog at Also, to automatically receive all our future articles, be sure to add your email address via the subscription box in the blog.

Nicole R. Kurtz is an attorney with the South Florida law firm of Siegfried Rivera who focuses on community association law and is a regular contributor to its condo and HOA law blog at The firm maintains offices in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. She can be reached at 1-800-737-1390 or via e-mail at




Important Takeaways for Community Associations from TV News Report on Rules Enforcement 

By Laura M. Manning

A report that aired in late November on 7News (WSVN-Fox) in South Florida focused on a local renter in a dispute with her condominium association over her motorcycle. While the property’s rules ban motorcycles, the tenant had apparently been explicitly told she would be allowed to keep and park her motorcycle at the property prior to signing her lease. Three years later after she’d been using and parking her motorcycle at the property without complaint, she received a notice from the association indicating that it had to go or it would be towed.

It appears that the tenant’s response was to call or email the TV station’s tip-line, and the end result was another thoroughly investigated and highly informative "Help Me Howard" segment by its senior reporter Patrick Fraser and long-time legal expert Howard Finkelstein.

The report chronicles how Alexa Polcyn had been allowed to use and keep her motorcycle at the property for over three years until the association suddenly began "hassling our landlord about it." She tells Fraser that she had noticed the restriction on her lease but was expressly told by the association that her motorcycle was not going to be an issue.

The association was apparently true to its word until three years later in late 2021 when it decided it would begin enforcing its motorcycle ban. It issued her a written notice that the motorcycle had to go, so the question for the station’s legal expert was whether the association could now change its mind on an exception to its rule that it had previously granted?

Finkelstein’s reply: "Whether it’s having a pet, painting a color or parking a motorcycle, an association that has given approval to violate their rules cannot force a resident to then follow the rule. In most cases, those people are grandfathered in, but the association can start enforcing the rules after giving notice. Meaning, in this this case, Alexa can keep her motorcycle on the property."

Armed with this legal input, Fraser contacts the landlord, who explains that Polcyn and her partner are wonderful tenants, but the association was now cracking down on its enforcement. The landlord notes that the rules also state residents can only have one vehicle, but they have both a truck and the motorcycle.

In order to resolve the matter as fairly and amicably as possible, the landlord and association apparently agreed to provide the tenants the time they needed to find a new apartment, and they also allowed them to terminate the lease with no penalties. Indeed, Polcyn states: "Thankfully, we found a very beautiful place. It’s absolutely gorgeous."

The report then concludes with Finkelstein explaining that an association can start enforcing the rules after giving notice, but that does not mean those who were allowed to break the rule have to follow them immediately. "For example, if they let you have a dog, they can stop you from getting a new dog but can’t make you get rid of your current dog," he explains.

Needless to say, Finkelstein is correct, and his statement is an important one for all community associations to understand. Rules enforcement by community associations requires uniformity and impartiality, together with sound judgment and the guidance of highly qualified legal counsel. Implementing a change or switching to enforcement of a rule that a resident or residents have been allowed to flout can be particularly challenging and troublesome, so it is always best to do so with a great deal of reason and restraint, and only in close consultation with highly experienced association attorneys. Otherwise, disputes could easily develop, and negative media coverage that diminishes property values for the entire community could then be just a quick phone call or email away for disgruntled residents.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I write about important matters such as this in our association law blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box in the blog to automatically receive all our future posts.




Freddie Mac Follows Fannie Mae’s Lead with Strict Condo Life-Safety Loan Requirements, Another Sign of What’s to Come

By Roberto C. Blanch

As my fellow Community Association Counselor columnist Laura Manning-Hudson wrote in our last column, Fannie Mae’s new condo-safety financing requirements for condo buyers are now in place. Following suit, federal mortgage buyer Freddie Mac has also announced similar requirements for condominium loans to meet its standards for acquisition for its mortgage-backed securities for investors. Both of these changes are heralds of the stricter mandates that condominium associations are likely to see as a result of the horrific tragedy of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida.

Freddie Mac’s new requirements, which take effect for all mortgages with settlement dates on or after Feb. 28, exclude from eligibility for acquisition any loans for units in condominium communities with what it considers to be critical repair needs. Subsequently, properties that have already identified elements requiring attention and begun their construction and remediation efforts may become ineligible until such repairs and renovations are completed.

The federal agency defines critical repairs as those that significantly impact a community’s safety, soundness, structural integrity or habitability, and/or that impact unit values, financial viability or marketability. These include all life-safety hazards, violations of any laws or ordinances, building code violations, fire-safety deficiencies, and others.

Loans for units in condominium communities with such deficiencies or significant deferred maintenance will not be eligible for acquisition. This will include structural elements that have the potential to result in or contribute to critical failures, and deficiencies involving the replacement of any material building components that are approaching, have reached or exceeded their typical expected useful life.

Freddie Mac will also evaluate special assessments to determine if they are necessitated for critical repairs by implementing a questionnaire for completion by condominium associations or their property management. Responses will require reviews and interpretations of association governing documents as well as a number of financial and insurance disclosures.

As Laura wrote in our last column, many mortgage lenders will now adopt these reviews and mandates from both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae as part of their residential underwriting procedures, and the Florida legislature is also likely to address condo-safety reforms during the current legislative session that officially convened this week on Tuesday, Jan. 11. Additionally, a coalition of Florida building professionals has developed recommendations, and so has a Florida Bar task force as well as the Community Associations Institute, which is the leading national organization representing the interests of community associations.

Given Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae’s new requirements as well as the calls for similar new mandates from other sources, including of course from the state’s property insurance industry that is expected to also impose stricter standards for structural oversight and maintenance, the boards of directors and property managers for aging Florida condominium towers should consult with highly experienced engineering, financial, insurance and legal professionals to assess their current and future needs. By planning accordingly to keep ahead of the curve, condominium communities will be able to help avoid any disruptions that could have a negative impact on property values.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I write regularly about important matters for associations in our blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box in the blog to automatically receive all our future articles.




New Fannie Mae Condo Safety Loan Requirements Are Early Indicator of Changes to Come

By Laura M. Manning

The first major national condominium safety reform after the horrific tragedy of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla., was announced in October when federal mortgage lender Fannie Mae said it will no longer back loans on units in residential buildings showing signs of structural deficiencies and deferred maintenance.

The federal mortgage underwriter’s new Temporary Requirements for Condo and Co-Op Projects are aimed at addressing the structural and financial health of buildings. The requirements mandate an in-depth review of safety, soundness and structural integrity conditions to determine a condominium tower’s eligibility. The end result will likely eliminate many thousands of condominium communities across the country from this vital source of financing for buyers.

Starting on January 1, 2022, Fannie Mae will no longer back and accept loans for condominium units in properties with significant deferred maintenance or which have been directed by a regulatory authority or inspection agency to make repairs due to unsafe conditions. Units in such buildings will remain ineligible for purchase by Fannie Mae until the required repairs have been made and documented.

The conditions and deficiencies that meet the criteria for disqualification include full or partial evacuations, damage or deferred maintenance that affects structural integrity, and the need for substantial repairs for one or more of a building’s structural or mechanical elements including the foundation, roof, load bearing structures, electrical system, HVAC, plumbing, and others. Also, properties that have failed to pass local regulatory inspections or recertifications will not be eligible.

Fannie Mae will also begin requiring reviews of all current or planned special assessments. It will scrutinize the reasons behind special assessments, their amounts and terms, and any additional documentation reflecting on the financial stability, viability, condition, and marketability of the project. For special assessments implemented to fund matters involving safety, soundness, structural integrity or habitability, the lender will require that all repairs be fully completed for communities to regain their eligibility. In addition, reserve funds and funding will also come into consideration, and properties that do not meet minimal reserve requirements will no longer be eligible.

Based on these new requirements, condominium communities can expect to see many mortgage lenders adopt similar reviews and mandates as part of their residential underwriting procedures.

In addition, all eyes will be on the Florida legislature for proposed new condo safety reforms when it reconvenes next month. A coalition of Florida building professionals has developed recommendations, and so has a Florida Bar task force as well as the Community Associations Institute, which is the leading national organization representing the interests of community associations.

Given the nature of Fannie Mae’s new requirements and the calls for similar new mandates from these and other sources, including of course from the state’s property insurance industry that is expected to also impose stricter standards for structural oversight and maintenance, now is the time for aging Florida condominium towers to take a proactive approach. The boards of directors for these communities and their property managers would be well advised to begin consulting closely with highly experienced condominium engineering, financial, insurance and legal professionals to assess their current and future needs, and begin planning accordingly to keep ahead of the curve and help avoid any disruptions that could have a negative impact on property values.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I write regularly about important matters for associations in our blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box in the blog to automatically receive all our future articles.




HOA Effectively Responds to TV News Report Over Demand for Removal of Early Holiday Lights

By Roberto C. Blanch

My fellow community association attorneys at our firm and I have noticed an increased number of media reports about condominium and HOA disputes in 2021. Laura Manning-Hudson and I have written about a few of these in this column and our firm’s blog at Typically, these situations arise due to what may be characterized as an inadequate and ineffective response by the associations involved, and sometimes they are created by inadequate planning.

However, a recent report by NBC affiliate Channel 8 News (WFLA) in Tampa about a dispute over holiday lights at a local HOA provides a good example of the type of response that communities can offer to help mitigate difficult circumstances that may adversely affect the fabric of the community. The response by the association’s attorney in an on-camera interview with the station’s reporter goes a long way towards balancing the entire story, and it may even pave the way for a positive outcome that could be the subject of a future report by the station.

The station’s story chronicles how the Moffa family of the Westchase community hired a company to install holiday lights on their roof and front yard on Nov. 6. Mr. Moffa tells the station’s reporter that the early date was the company’s only availability, and he was unable to climb up on the roof himself.

As a result, he and his family are now facing fines for violating the Westchase Homeowners Association’s rules and restrictions, which state holiday lights cannot go up before Thanksgiving. The letter from the HOA, which he shares with the reporter, indicates the family could be fined $100 dollars a day, up to $1,000, if they refuse to remove the lights, which apparently is exactly what they intend to do.

"So is it holiday humbug, or just asking people to play by the rules," asks the station’s reporter.

In response, the story shifts to the association’s attorney, who explains that a neighbor complained about the lights, which were indeed then found to be in violation of the community’s rules. He notes that the restriction is intended to help prevent homeowners from leaving their lights up all year.

The association’s attorney then goes on to say that rules are in place to be followed, however the community’s board of directors is open to discussing change. He states that that if enough members of the community wish to change this restriction, he believes the Westchase association will listen to the residents and make changes.

The end result was a much more balanced and fair report for the association, which should be commended for considering options presented by its lawyer to achieve a balance between enforcement of association rules and the community’s possibly changing needs.

If the Westchase community would like to avoid disputes such as this one with the Moffas going forward, its board of directors should take this opportunity to open up for discussion and reconsideration at its next board meeting the restrictions against early holiday lights.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys write regularly about important matters for associations in our blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box in the blog to receive all our future articles.




High-Rise Condo Safety Reform Recommendations Appear, But Most Florida Municipalities Awaiting Statewide Changes

By Laura M. Manning

Five months after the tragic collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., several major organizations have developed a number of high-rise condo safety reforms and recommendations. However, most Florida counties and municipalities appear to be holding off in expectation of statewide changes to legislation during the next legislative session that starts in January.

The Community Associations Institute, which is the largest organization representing the interests of associations in the world, has issued a report with a number of public policy recommendations aimed at providing solutions for legislators addressing high-rise building safety. In addition, seven of Florida’s top architecture and engineering trade groups created a task force that has recommended re-inspections after 30 years with follow-ups every 10 years, and The Florida Bar has also completed the report and recommendations from its Condominium Law Life Safety Task Force.

CAI’s public policy recommendations cover the areas of reserve studies and funding, building maintenance, and structural integrity. The organization believes its recommendations should be considered for adoption into state law to support the existing statutory framework for the development, governance, and management of community associations. It is planning to release model statutory language in support of its policy recommendations.

In addition, federal mortgage lender Fannie Mae has released new project requirements for condominiums and housing cooperatives that will begin Jan. 1 for loans secured by units in high-rise buildings containing five or more attached units. The requirements place a heavy focus on structural and financial stability, and reinforces the importance of meticulous documentation of all appraisals, meeting minutes, financial statements, engineering reports, inspection reports, and reserve studies.

So far, only the city of Boca Raton has joined Broward and Miami-Dade counties by deploying its own safety inspection program. It plans to begin requiring structural and electrical inspections in January 2021 for buildings that are at least 30 years old, while Broward and Miami-Dade’s standards are 40 years.

Other changes that have already taken place include increased safety inspections in Miami-Dade County that have led to forced evacuations of several buildings, including a 138-unit condo in Miami and a two-story condo in Bay Harbour, along with the closure of the top floors of the 28-story Miami-Dade County Courthouse for repairs. The county is currently collecting inspection information for 40-year-old buildings and plans on posting it on its property appraiser’s website to increase transparency for residents.

However, most counties and municipalities are taking a wait-and-see approach in anticipation of the initial findings of the federal investigation into the causes of the Surfside collapse and the proposals from the state’s lawmakers as they begin to prepare for the upcoming legislative session that starts in January.

While municipalities are awaiting statewide changes, community associations would be well advised to take a more proactive approach by reviewing their current and future reserve funding as well as the status of any structural and life-safety elements that may require attention. Reforms are sure to come, and the best tactic is to get ahead of them by working with highly qualified engineering, construction, insurance and legal professionals to avoid failed building inspections and the potential for forced evacuations and emergency repairs.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I write regularly about important matters for associations in our blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to visit it and enter their email address in the subscription box to automatically receive all our future articles.




Condominium Association Denies Transfer of Ownership of Unit to Widow, Forces Sale to New Buyer

By Roberto C. Blanch

Yet another highly questionable decision by a Florida condominium association has made local TV news.

This latest condo dispute to make the local evening news involves a New Smyrna Beach, Fla., owner who was denied the transfer of another unit at the same property from her late husband to her after his passing. According to a report by Channel 9 News (WFTV-ABC), Joan Cotton was denied the transfer of the additional residence that her late husband Jeffrey had owned for more than a decade by the board of directors for the condominium association for the Village of Colony Beach Club.

The community’s governing documents apparently allows for its board to approve or deny the transfer or sale of units in the community for any reason. The Cottons owned two units in the community: a single bedroom residence under her name, and a two-bedroom condo under his name in which they both resided.

She received a notification from the association indicating that the board of directors has voted to deny the transfer, and instead it has entered into an agreement to sell the unit to a third-party buyer for $466,500. The letter included a check to her for an initial down payment of $5,000 from the hopeful buyer, but her attorney has vowed to fight the association’s decision and says the closing is never going to happen.

"I started shaking, I started to cry," Cotton says in the report. "It was horrible. You can’t just steal my condo!"

The community association’s attorney is also interviewed in the report, and she explains that it is very common for associations to have the right to deny transfers.

"I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but they’re following their right to do that," she responds to the reporter’s question about whether the rejection is the right thing for the association to do in this case. However, she does note that if the matter goes to court, she is confident the association will prevail because it is simply exercising its rights as stated under its governing declaration.

Cotton’s attorney states that he’s never seen an association’s denial of transfer in a case such as this, ". . . because I think typically there would be a lot of concern if you turn someone down if you don’t have a very compelling reason for it."

He and Cotton believe the actual reason behind the denial may be retaliation. Cotton filed a lawsuit against the association over alterations to the common areas, and the parties reached a settlement just weeks before the transfer was denied.

"I don’t want to sell this," she pleads in the report. "My husband was so proud he was able to do this for us."

The provisions of condominium governing documents establishing the association’s right to reject a transfer of the title to a unit must be carefully analyzed because the law in Florida is well established that unreasonable restraints upon the alienation of property are disfavored. For instance, a declaration of condominium may provide a board the right to deny a sale or other transfer of a unit, but at times there are exceptions such as the transfer of title by last will and testament to the decedent owner’s beneficiary.

Additionally, to the extent that the surviving spouse resides in the unit being transferred, Florida law may protect her right to remain in residence at the property. Plus, the board’s actions might be subject to challenge as an unreasonable restraint given that the decedent owner’s surviving spouse was already residing in the unit and the facts of this case do not seem to suggest that there was any other factor rendering Ms. Cotton as an undesirable owner.

While the association’s attorney may ultimately be correct that the property’s governing documents grant it the power to deny such a transfer of ownership for any reason, obtaining a favorable judgment may be challenging for the association in light of the circumstances of this case. The allegations of retaliation for the prior lawsuit – if proven – are likely to carry a great deal of weight in court, and may impact the decision to be made by the judge or jury.

Association directors have a fiduciary responsibility to make decisions that are consistent with the provisions of their governing documents and Florida law, and preserve and protect the values and interests of their community’s unit owners. Community association directors would be wise to avoid making dubious decisions and should seek to reach informed and reasonable conclusions in an effort to avoid bad and costly outcomes for their communities.




Florida Condo Associations Can Now Choose Pre-Suit Mediations for Certain Disputes, But Should They?

By Laura M. Manning

Florida’s condominium laws were amended earlier this year to require that new association bylaws provide for alternative dispute resolution including mediation and arbitration, for many types of disputes. Prior to these latest changes to the state’s laws, condominium associations and unit owners were required to arbitrate these same types of cases with the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes prior to going to court.

Arbitrations under the state agency were a prerequisite to filing suit for condo association/owner disputes that involved or required owners to take any action, or not take any action involving their unit, or to alter or add to a common area. Arbitration was also required for actions involving elections, meeting notices and meeting conduct, requests to inspect records, and condominium terminations.

Instead, the changes now allow condominium associations or unit owners to choose between the state agency’s hearing process or the pre-suit mediation process as required under the state’s HOA laws. All disputes involving elections and recalls must still go to the Division first.

What is the best choice for condominium associations: the arbitration process with the state agency that has been hearing such disputes for many years, or the pre-suit mediation process?

First, some condominium association declarations and bylaws include specific notice and alternative dispute resolution procedures that must followed prior to filing suit against an owner, so there may not be much of a choice in the matter for some communities.

For those that do now have options, they should take into consideration factors such as the the nature and severity of the dispute, and the timeframe for the resolution that they would like to follow.

The arbitration process with the Division of Condominiums typically takes several months to resolve, sometimes longer, after which the losing party still has the right to file an appeal in the circuit court by asking for a trial de novo (new trial).

The pre-suit mediation process provided for under the HOA Act requires those who are initially served with a demand for mediation to respond within 20 days or, if they wish to decline, the association can proceed with filing suit. However, those who fail or refuse to participate in mediation will be unable to recover attorney’s fees and costs in the subsequent litigation, even if they are ultimately the prevailing party.

Costs and legal fees are also important considerations. The arbitration process with the Division is similar to a court hearing process, so costs will be incurred. With the pre-suit mediation, associations will also incur costs, but the other party must pay half of the mediator’s fee. Generally, the pre-suit mediation process costs condominium associations less than the arbitration process with the state agency, and it is also likely to be quicker to reach a final resolution either via the mediation or subsequent litigation.

Condominium associations that wish to resolve disputes with their owners as effectively and reasonably as possible should turn to the guidance of highly experienced community association attorneys. Determining which course to take between the pre-suit mediation or state-agency arbitration will require a careful review of all of the factors and considerations that are at play in a given situation, and associations and their property managers would be well advised to consult closely with extremely well qualified attorneys for such decisions.




Condo Association’s Denial of Gate Access Pass to 100-Year-Old Resident Draws Negative TV News Coverage in South Florida

By Roberto C. Blanch

My colleague Laura Manning-Hudson wrote about a dispute involving pet chickens that received unwanted TV news coverage for a Boca Raton HOA in our last column. To help illustrate just how common such negative media coverage has become for community associations that make questionable decisions, this week’s column also focuses on another report by a local South Florida station involving disputed community association actions.

The latest story is on a Hollywood, Fla., condominium association’s decision to deny a 100-year-old resident a gate access pass decal for her to use when she is getting a ride home. The report by 7 News (WSVN-FOX) in South Florida features an interview with Vangie Commeau, who lives at the Carriage Hills Condominium and is 100 years old. She tells the station’s Patrick Fraser that earlier this year the property cancelled the manned security guard at its entrance gate in favor of an automatic scanner that reads bar codes on window-sticker decals on residents’ vehicles to open the gate.

Because Commeau does not own or drive a vehicle, she did not receive a decal from the association. She tells the reporter that she brought it to their attention, but the association responded by declining to issue her a gate access decal pass.

This creates a burden for Commeau when one of her friends takes her to the doctor or to one of her monthly lunches with their friends, as she is unable to get their vehicle in through the residents’ gate when they return. She was told to use the guest lane and buzz one of her neighbors to let her in, but she notes that forces her to make an appointment with a neighbor a day ahead.

"I hate to bother people when it’s something stupid," says Ms. Commeau.

She suggests a simple solution: The association should give her a card with the bar code decal that she could display for the scanner to open the automatic gate in whichever car she is in.

However, the Carriage Hills board declined to give her the decal card. The report does not clarify why, but one can presume it is because the system is intended to link each individual decal to a specific vehicle for security and monitoring purposes.

The station’s legal expert opines that the association is legally obligated to come up with a reasonable accommodation for Commeau, and given the circumstances and documentation, I would agree. While the association presumably wishes to maintain its uniform policy of only issuing decals that are assigned to specific resident vehicles for security purposes, some flexibility in a case such as this to make an accommodation for Commeau would be an advisable decision.

The association’s actions may also be considered as unreasonable restrictions upon a resident’s right of access to the community given that the residents without their own vehicles appear to be unable to enter the community without depending upon a neighbor to grant them access. This could be compared to refusing to provide some residents with a key or pass code to enter the front door of a residential apartment or condominium building.

In this case, the board of directors could meet and consider whether the circumstances merit the granting of an accommodation to Commeau for a decal card.

Fraser, the reporter, even seems perplexed that the association failed to reconsider its decision. He notes that he and the legal expert have been doing these reports for the last 23 years, and they have never come across a case such as this in which they just don’t get it. "A 100-year-old wants a decal, just give it to her," he concludes.

See the following link to watch the complete report in the station’s website, as I am sure many people will be doing for the foreseeable future:




Backyard Chicken Coop Draws HOA’s Ire and Negative TV News Coverage

By Laura M. Manning

When it comes to coverage of community association disputes, nothing seems to draw the media’s attention more than quarrels involving the forced removal of unapproved family pets and service animals. One of the most recent examples is a report by CBS-12 News ( on a Boca Raton family that is fighting to keep its chickens and backyard coop, which they have maintained for the last 10 years.

The station’s report chronicles how the Ashley Park Homeowners Association has given Damir Kadribasic and his family a 14-day notice to get rid of the birds or start facing a fine of $100 per day. Kadribasic has retained an attorney and apparently intends to put up a fight. He says he has had the birds for the last 10 years with no complaints, and he showed the station a petition signed by his neighbors demanding that the HOA allow the chickens to stay.

The family’s attorney says they were given a notice that consisted of a single sentence, and the association did not specify which bylaws were being violated. However, the station obtained a copy of the community’s bylaws, which do indeed state that only common domestic pets are permitted. To that, the owners’ attorney notes that the chickens are domestic because they are not being used commercially and are considered pets by the family. He also says that the HOA cannot selectively enforce its rules.

The station’s report concludes by noting that it asked the association for a response, but none was forthcoming. That was unfortunate for the HOA, because predictably the result was a one-sided report.

Understandably, rules enforcement can be very challenging for community associations to administer. It takes a complete commitment to resolving disputes as reasonably and fairly as possible with uniformity and impartiality in all deliberations and decisions.

Associations should always turn to a set procedure to find effective, reasonable and equitable resolutions based on all of the facts. All enforcement decisions should be based on reason, with the aim of finding fair resolutions that meet the community’s standards for the uniform and unbiased application and enforcement of its rules and restrictions. Any resulting fines and suspensions should always be reasonable and uniform with those for similar infractions.

Owners facing fines or suspensions for violations should be entitled to a hearing before a committee comprised of at least 3 other unit owners who are not board members or related to board members in any way. The committee is empowered to confirm or reject the fine or suspension imposed by the board based on the owner’s defense of their case.

The truth is that community associations to some extent have a negative perception for overzealous rules enforcement. Damaging media attention for measures such as the removal of animals that a family has had for more than 10 years should be considered a very real and likely possibility by association boards of directors, which have a duty to weigh all the factors that help to maintain a community’s property values and appeal.

By developing and implementing a fair and effective process for violations enforcement and dispute resolution, associations can help to reverse a negative perception and reinforce their positive image for safe and hassle-free living with exceptional amenities.




Community Associations Institute Considering

'Reforms Following Surfside Collapse

By Roberto C. Blanch

The Community Associations Institute, the leading organization representing the interests of condominium associations and HOAs, is considering several policy reform recommendations on matters such as building inspections as well as reserve studies and funding in the wake of the devastating tragedy of the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside, Fla.

According to a recent post in its Ungated blog at, the organization’s Government and Public Affairs Committee convened a special meeting recently to hear the recommendations from three task forces on new public policy reforms as well as best practices and guidance for local, state and federal legislators.

The three task forces focused on building inspections and maintenance; reserve study and funding plans; and insurance and risk management. They have recommended that the committee focus on reforms such as having developers provide a preventive maintenance schedule for all components that are the responsibility of the community association, not just the components included in the reserve study. They also recommended baseline inspections and regular inspections based on specific intervals, the protocols for which can be found in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Guideline for Structural Condition Assessment of Existing Buildings, and disclosures of the findings to homeowners, residents and local governments.

The task forces also recommended that the committee consider whether state laws should mandate regular reserve studies for all community associations, reserve funding, and the disclosures of reserve studies as well as current and projected funding during annual budgeting. They also suggested the consideration of authorizing association boards of directors to approve special assessments or the borrowing of funds without votes of the entire unit-owner memberships for emergency repairs and remediations.

Now that the CAI’s Board of Trustees and its Government and Public Affairs Committee, in addition to members of state legislative action committees, have been presented with the task forces’ public policy reform recommendations, the committee members and others in the organization are being invited to indicate their support or opposition. The Government and Public Affairs Committee will reconvene in the coming weeks to vote on the recommendations and present its final recommendations to the CAI Board of Trustees for consideration and vote.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I will be weighing in on CAI’s reform recommendations, and we have been honored to play a role in discussions with state and local lawmakers and policymakers over the reforms that should be considered. In addition to those efforts being made by CAI, other institutions or governmental bodies are analyzing options and recommendations in the wake of the tower’s collapse. For instance, the Florida Bar’s new Condominium Law and Policy on Life Safety Task Force is reviewing many of the laws that impact condominium association laws, and is taking testimony and recommendations from various professionals and other parties, in its effort to develop and recommend legislative and regulatory changes that aimed at preventing a similar collapse.

With certainty, significant changes and regulatory reforms are soon to come following the horrific tragedy of the disaster in Surfside. The structural integrity of buildings requires responsible and effective regulation, and my colleagues and I are honored to assist condominium association managers and directors take the steps recommended to protect the safety of the millions of residents who make their homes in condominium communities.




Community Association Tenant Vetting, Approvals Require Careful Guidance by Qualified Pros

By Laura M. Manning

Many community associations have the right to regulate and approve leases and tenants pursuant to their governing documents. However, some association boards of directors operate under the misconception that they can easily develop and implement new leasing restrictions via a board vote, or that they have the authority to approve or reject prospective tenants as they please without facing scrutiny for their decisions.

As I wrote in this column earlier this year in my article headlined "Suit Against Boca Condo Association Spotlights Importance of Governing Document Amendments, Filings," a lawsuit that was filed against a Boca-area condominium association highlighted the importance of properly adopting amendments to an association’s governing documents and recording them in the local court registry where the association is located.

According to the suit, the association’s new leasing restriction, which it apparently adopted via a simple vote of the board the directors, was never approved by the unit-owner members. The leasing restriction in the association’s recorded governing documents provided that owners were only restricted from renting units for terms of less than thirty days, which contradicted the new restriction that the board tried to implement on its own. If the allegations in the lawsuit hold up in court, the association could be forced to pay the plaintiff unit-owners’ lost rental income and legal bills.

This case illustrates just one of the many reasons why it is essential for community associations that are considering new lease restrictions to work in close consultation with extremely well qualified association attorneys. Highly experienced community association counselors can quickly ascertain if any proposed changes require amendments to the governing documents or whether they may be enacted by a simple board vote. We can also develop the exact language that should be used for implementation of new restrictions and any amendments to the governing documents, and many of us are also familiar with new online tools that help to facilitate votes of the entire membership that may be required for such amendments.

Some declarations and bylaws for Florida communities provide associations with a right of first refusal, enabling them to accept the same terms and conditions for any good-faith lease offer that a unit-owner receives and is willing to accept. This is different from approvals and rejections of prospective tenants, which should always be conducted under the careful guidance of qualified professionals to help avoid any potential legal and financial liabilities.

First, associations need to ensure that they meet the deadlines and procedures set for tenant reviews under their own governing documents. Boards also need to take precautions to keep the personal data and records obtained in all tenant applications secure, and they should be mindful to maintain any application fees consistent with the limits set under Florida law.

In addition, it is imperative for associations to base their decisions on legitimate factors as provided within the policies set forth in their governing documents.

In today’s age of short-term rentals and eviction moratoriums, there are many reasons for associations to wish to update their restrictions for lease terms and tenant reviews. By doing so under close consultation with highly qualified legal counsel, associations can move confidently to develop and implement the policies and protocols that make the most sense for their community.




Surfside Collapse Should Serve as Call to Action for Condo Board Service

By Roberto C. Blanch

Without a doubt, the tragic disaster of the tower collapse in Surfside, Fla., has impacted condominium association boards of directors across the country. In addition to board members expressing grief for the 98 victims who lost their lives and their loved ones, many condominium directors have grown concerned over news of lawsuits filed against the association for the Champlain Towers South. Some are even wondering whether they may face any legal consequences and liabilities by virtue of their voluntary board service.

In response to the misconceptions that are now circulating amongst board members and those who may be considering serving on associations boards, there are several reasons why they should not be so concerned about potential legal liabilities. Rather than avoiding board service, the collapse of the tower should serve as a call to action for conscientious unit owners to become more involved and take on the responsibilities of becoming a director.

Board members that properly and responsibly carry out their fiduciary duty to their associations are typically shielded from liability under their community’s Directors and Officers liability insurance, which associations should have to defend and protect them from most lawsuits. Additionally, indemnification provisions found in the articles of incorporation of most associations and the Florida laws governing not-for-profit corporations should provide an additional level of comfort for individuals serving or interested in serving on their association board.

Essentially, directors who act in a reasonable manner and seek the guidance of qualified professionals should feel at ease that the above-described indemnity and insurance protections will shield them from liability, and that most legal actions taken against them should be covered under their association’s D&O insurance.

These protections safeguard board members who are performing their duties from personal liability for monetary damages for any statement, vote, decision, or failure to act provided same are made or taken consistent with the fiduciary duty with which all directors are required to adhere. The aforementioned protections should provide indemnification from liability unless the directors engage in wrongful conduct, such as violations of criminal law, transactions with improper personal benefits, willful misconduct, recklessness, or acts or omissions which are committed in bad faith, with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard for human rights, safety or property.

Instead of becoming overly preoccupied with unwarranted concerns over legal liabilities, condominium association directors should focus on giving careful consideration to their buildings’ structural safety and financial health. As condominium boards begin reassessing their associations’ reserve commitments, they will need the guidance of dedicated directors who are willing to put in the time and effort to make difficult decisions and gain the approval of the unit owners for major repairs and structural remediations. All buildings deteriorate over time, so condominium boards of directors need to set aside funding on an ongoing basis to repair any structural elements that require attention.

The vital nature of effective board service for condominium associations was made horribly and tragically apparent by the Surfside collapse. Unit owners, especially those with special skills such as financial professionals who could serve as treasurers, should view it as a duty to serve on their community’s board of directors. They should ask themselves: Would I feel more confident playing this vital role myself or leaving it in the hands of others to do it for me?




Covid Spike Fueled by Delta Variant Creates Renewed Concerns, Precautions for Florida Community Associations

By Laura M. Manning

The news of the spike in Covid cases in Florida and elsewhere fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant is causing many employers and organizations to revisit the restrictions and precautions put in place at the height of the pandemic. Community associations in Florida have been no different, as many are now returning to mask mandates and social distancing even for vaccinated individuals in accordance with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

After the CDC first announced several weeks ago that vaccinated individuals could safely stop wearing masks, community associations in Florida and across the country began to ease mask mandates and re-open their amenities with little or no capacity restrictions. While life appeared to be returning to normal, especially for those who received the vaccines, the latest spike in Covid cases caused by the highly transmissible Delta strain illustrates that we are not completely out of the woods yet.

Community associations, just as all other private and public sector organizations in which people congregate, are taking notice of the renewed calls by the CDC and other sources to return to masking and social distancing. This is especially true for areas with high transmission rates such as Florida, which is now leading the country in new Covid cases.

Our attorneys understand that all communities are different, and all condominium associations and HOAs will wish to tailor their response to this latest wave of increased cases of Covid to meet their specific needs and desires for their residents and staff. Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I are advising our clients to follow the CDC guidelines and municipal mandates to help stop the spread of Covid-19 and the highly transmissible Delta variant in their communities. We encourage boards of directors that are considering the reimplementation of prudent precautionary measures and safety protocols to consult closely with highly experienced association legal counsel regarding any potential changes to their rules and operations.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I write regularly about timely issues for associations in our blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box in the blog to automatically receive all our future articles.




Assessing the Condition of Condominium Towers

By Roberto C. Blanch

The recent tragedy in Surfside, Fla., has significantly impacted our firm and the communities we serve. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers remain with the victims and families affected by the Champlain Towers South collapse.

In the aftermath of this horrific catastrophe, many condominium association directors, members and managers have raised various questions concerning the safety and stability of their own buildings. Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I have been responding to many of these inquiries regarding the process of assessing building structural and mechanical elements, and undergoing any repairs and restorations as needed.

Because buildings age and mature differently, with possible conditions developing at different points of a building’s lifespan, associations must assess the structural integrity of their buildings and keep up with proper maintenance protocols, even in advance of the triggering of the 40/50-year recertification process. By doing so, associations can gather accurate snapshots of their buildings’ structural health, perform proactive repairs, and organize the funding necessary to move forward with large projects.

Many associations have never dealt with the decision-making and practical application that it takes to index a building or move forward with significant structural repairs. That is why it is imperative that they consult closely with highly qualified community association and construction attorneys with the necessary experience to help condominium associations navigate this process, which include:

• Vetting and hiring qualified vendors to examine buildings and perform necessary repairs.

• Evaluating engineers’ reports/findings.

• Developing plans for and properly implementing material alterations and capital improvements.

• Analyzing document requirements.

• Reconciling membership and attending meetings to discuss projects.

• Drafting meeting notices and preparing meeting packages.

• Determining special assessment requirements and the funding of reserves.

• Assisting with obtaining loans and appropriate insurance policies.

Life and safety issues in buildings should always be a priority for all associations. Having the right resources available can help condominium boards of directors to fulfill their fiduciary duties, ensure their buildings are adequately maintained and, most importantly, help keep their residents safe.

In the weeks and months to come, our firm’s other community association attorneys and I will continue our work with our clients, as well as our outreach to state and local lawmakers and policymakers, to share our insights and recommendations. We will provide updates and information on the reforms that are sure to come in our blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box in the blog to automatically receive all our future posts.




Siegfried Rivera Attorneys Share Insights with Media, Lawmakers and Community Associations in Aftermath of Tragic Condo Collapse

By Laura M. Manning

The collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium has been a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions, and the unspeakable grief and horror of its aftermath have been shared deeply by our law firm. Our attorneys and professionals extend our most heartfelt and very deepest condolences to all those who have been affected.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I have made helping condominium communities contend with construction defects a particular focus of our work. We believe reforms should be considered requiring engineers to report certain serious conditions to local building departments wherever they find them. This would take discretion out of the equation and immediately involve building inspections, permits being issued and repairs being completed. We also suggest there should be new federal/state government aid and/or low interest federally backed loans for condominium associations that now engage in major structural repairs.

Our attorneys are also concerned by the great deal of misinformation that is currently circulating over the legal liabilities of association board members. We note that lawsuits against a condo association are ultimately against the building’s insurer and possibly all of the unit owners, as owners can be held responsible for liabilities incurred by their association.

The firm’s other attorneys and I have been reaching out to our clients to remind them of the importance of prioritizing engineering findings and transmitting information to new board members and property managers, to focus on structural issues over aesthetics, and to properly fund reserve accounts for any necessary repairs.

Our firm’s attorneys have also been sharing our insights on these and other issues with major media outlets as well as some of Florida’s lawmakers and policymakers. The Sun Sentinel and Daily Business Review immediately turned to our board certified construction and condominium law experts for their input in the aftermath of the collapse. A front-page article in the Sun Sentinel that appeared in the Friday, June 25, edition titled "How to Know if Your Condo Tower is Safe" includes insights from my fellow firm shareholders Stuart Sobel and Roberto C. Blanch.

The article reads:

. . . Stuart Sobel, a construction lawyer who also works at Siegfried Rivera, isn’t certain an inspection would have exposed the problem that led to the collapse in Surfside.

"Without knowing what caused this collapse it’s impossible to say if they had done the certification last year, or five years ago or 10 years ago, that it could have been avoided," he said. "We just don’t know how it came about."

Can owners, buyers and tenants see the inspection results?

Once the inspection report is filed with the county, it becomes a public record, [Roberto] Blanch said. State condo law allows unit owners to obtain the reports from the association.

"A tenant or a prospective purchaser would be able to review that record as a member of the public," he said. . .

. . . Blanch said those [40-year recertification] concerns could be alleviated if owners were "proactive" about troubleshooting problems and fixing them. . .

. . . Sobel said the inspections "should be significant comfort" for residents. "These buildings are designed to last 75 years or longer," even the older ones.

"The overwhelming majority are perfectly safe," Sobel said. "Unfortunately when something like this happens — it’s just inexplicable.". . .

. . . Are buildings safer if they were built after Hurricane Andrew in 1992?

Sobel called Andrew a "paradigm shift."

"The code improvements since Andrew are dramatic remarkable and effective," he said, In the early 2000s, there were five hurricanes in one season and "one after the next caused no damage."’

But the suggestion that pre-Andrew buildings are more likely to falter is not a given. Sobel said he lives in a home built in 1948 that has persevered through decades of storms. The home is "structurally strong and structurally sound."

The complete article is available on the Sun Sentinel’s website.

Stuart was also quoted extensively in an article that also appeared on June 25 in the online edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper, and subsequently in the June 29 print edition of the newspaper. That article, which focused on the first wrongful death lawsuit filed just a couple of days after the collapse, reads:

. . . Not everyone agrees the timing is right for a suit like this.

Construction attorney Stuart Sobel of Siegfried Rivera in Coral Gables says attorneys should slow down before rushing to file suit over a collapsed building. Sobel represented Miami Dade College in securing a $33.5 million settlement over the collapse of its parking garage while it was under construction at the school’s West Campus in 2012.

"You have a long statute of limitations. You don’t have to bring a lawsuit tomorrow. In my view, you’re doing it for publicity to get your name out there and get more business," Sobel said. "At its core, you have a burden of proof. You can’t just point your finger at somebody. You have to be able to prove that that person did something wrong or failed to do something right. There’s just no ability for anybody filing suits today to say that that’s the case."

Sobel noted engineers are able to forensically determine the cause of the failure and, instead, suggested letting insurance companies investigate first and make sure the claim is justified under the policy.

"They did it at the FIU pedestrian bridge that collapsed, Miami Dade College garage that collapsed, and they’ll do it here," Sobel said. "We will figure it out, but that’s going to take time."

Sobel lives 10 blocks away from Champlain Tower South and said his heart goes out to his neighbors and the first responders who have worked tirelessly to rescue survivors and recover victims.

"Their heroism is just inspiring," Sobel said. "You watch normal people doing what they’re doing, risking their lives without any recognition and any extra rewards. It’s just remarkable to me. You see it in the papers and on the TV, but when you see it in your own community it just moves me."

Thursday’s catastrophe shows it’s crucial for condo associations to take the 40-year recertification process seriously, according to Sobel, who suggests making changes as soon as an engineer comes back with recommendations. Sobel said it might also be in an association’s best interest to do a self-assessment.

"The fact that the law requires it after 40 years does not prevent a condominium association from self-assessing and making sure the building is safe," Sobel said. "Are there cracks that either merit investigation or are worrisome? If there are, don’t ignore them. I live in a single-family home. It should be no different."

There could be some tweaks to the certification process, according to Sobel, who noted that after Hurricane Andrew, building codes were changed dramatically to withstand more damage and ensure better safety for people.

"It changed everything. Roofs had to be tied down much more strongly, and construction was much more closely watched. As a result, the buildings have been much safer. That was in 1992," Sobel said. "I would expect that the same type of study of the 40-year certification and perhaps modifications of that will occur as a result of this collapse."

That said, this event is not something that everybody on a high-rise near the beach is going to have to worry about, in Sobel’s view, since 40-year inspections are generally effective.

"This doesn’t normally happen. This is extraordinarily rare," Sobel said. "It wasn’t an explosion, there was no trauma to the building, no lightning strike. You read about the possibility of spalling and the exposure of the building to the salt air. Well, that’s all gradual, but it’s not going to explain the sudden collapse of a 12-story building."

It could take years to uncover what actually went wrong, in Sobel’s experience. . .

The complete article is available on the Daily Business Review’s website (registration required).

The following week on Wednesday, June 30, the Daily Business Review featured an article in its online edition titled "Are Homeowners Associations the Bad Guy or ‘Ill-Equipped’ Volunteers?", and it quotes firm partner Gary Mars extensively:

. . . Attorney Gary Mars of the Siegfried Rivera law firm in Coral Gables is board certified as an expert in condo and community association law, and has helped associations contend with contractors and engineers over construction defaults. Although Mars said he respects the people who are filing the lawsuits, he agrees it’s too soon to tell who is at fault.

Mars says the condominium association board members, who are mostly volunteers, need to know their buildings. He says he will often ask sitting managers about their historical reporting, only to find they have no idea what kind of information that entails. But it’s information that could give a lot of insight into the health of a structure.

"There should be engineering evaluations that have occurred over time … They’ve been shelved and they’re not being looked at, but they’re a great snapshot as to the history of the property and, as things continue on through the lifespan of the property, you build off of that just like you would medical records for somebody’s person," Mars said. "That doesn’t happen most of the time. You replace managers, you replace board members in condos, and there’s really not a great source from a historical standpoint moving information to the current decision-makers."

One challenge a lot of associations face is balancing the needs of the condominium from a financial standpoint. At Champlain Towers South, many condo owners had just paid special assessment fees to begin building repairs.

"A modest building with big financial needs is really in a dilemma," Mars said. "How do we raise the capital to do the repairs? Sometimes the repairs can be in the millions of dollars and you have very modest unit ownership in regards to income levels. How do you balance that all out?"

There isn’t a great solution, according to Mars, but if possible, retaining a large reserve amount can help cover the cost of essential repairs.

"That may be an area where legislation may have some impact," Mars said. "There may be some abilities to have different types of loans available that may have some type of government backing that could provide some of these associations with the opportunity of acquiring funds to do this type of extensive, deferred maintenance."

Did the board drop the ball?

Since board members often have to rely on reports and do their own decision making, Mars said that can sometimes lead to mistakes when they interpret what they should and shouldn’t do when evaluating building conditions, their options and how to timely address issues.

While Mars said he isn’t sure if that’s the case here, he suggested taking some of that discretion away from board members and giving it to municipalities instead.

"So the engineers that would be retained may have to work with a municipality on certain issues and there should be time frames built in for the work to be performed," Mars said. "I think that may be another way so we’re not in a period where the building is aging and we now look at a 40-year period and there’s been little-to-no work done, and the situation is much more drastic than if there were some incremental repairs being performed throughout the course of the building’s aging." . . .

The complete article is available on the newspaper’s website.

In the weeks and months to come, our firm’s community association attorneys will continue our work with our clients as well as our outreach to state and local lawmakers and policymakers to share our insights and recommendations.

We also encourage everyone to consider supporting the Support Surfside fund, which is a collaboration involving the Coral Gables Community Foundation, the Key Biscayne Community Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Miami Foundation, the National Basketball Association’s Miami Heat, and the Miami Heat Charitable Fund. Additional information is available at




CAI Addresses Guidelines on Pools, Vaccines in Community Associations

By Roberto C. Blanch

The Community Associations Institute, the largest organization representing the interests of condominium and homeowners associations in the world, provides many excellent resources for association directors, members and property managers. One of the organization’s best online resources is its "Ungated" blog at, and two of its recent entries focused on some of the most important and ubiquitous Covid-related issues that are currently weighing on associations.

In the June 3 post, titled "Diving in: More community pools are open for the summer," pandemic-related pool rules and operations are discussed. The post is based upon a survey of roughly 1,000 members of the Community Associations Institute regarding their pool plans for 2021, and it revealed that only two percent of survey respondents plan to close their pools this summer season. This survey result is in stark contrast to the nearly 44 percent of CAI members who planned to close their pools during the summer season last year.

It is worth noting, however, that more than a quarter of respondents in the CAI survey were still undecided about their pool rules and policies for the remainder of the year due to ongoing coronavirus concerns. Additionally, forty percent of survey respondents confirmed they were planning to require residents to sign a liability waiver when pools reopen.

Regardless of whether an association board wishes to continue to keep pools closed for the summer, open pools, or perhaps even wish to consider requiring a liability waiver or other conditions for pool use, it is imperative that association boards work with qualified legal counsel to discuss, not only the pros and cons of each option, but also the best practices in effectuating the chosen option to protect the association’s legal interests.

CAI also posted a blog article pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccine titled "Calling the shots: Addressing COVID-19 vaccines in your community." This May 27 entry discusses how associations are addressing and discussing the COVID-19 vaccines with their residents. It notes that the vaccines continue to be a frequent trending topic in CAI’s members-only "Exchange" discussion forums, where several conversations have focused on whether to require proof of vaccination from residents to use pools.

The entry notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended a few strategies for discussions concerning the vaccines. These include:

• Listen to questions with empathy. The vaccines are new, and it’s normal for people to have questions about them.

• Ask open-ended questions to explore concerns. The questions should help you understand what the individual is worried about, where they learned any troubling information, and what they have done to get answers to their questions.

• Ask permission to share information. Once you understand questions and concerns, ask if you can provide some information from a source that you trust.

Visit CAI’s blog and other online resources on its website at to read these and other complete articles on timely issues for associations.

As vaccination rates continue to rise across the country, communities are now returning to a version of pre-pandemic operations. To ensure informed decisions are made in this regard, our firm’s other community association attorneys and I urge association directors and managers to consult closely with highly experienced association legal counsel regarding any potential changes to their rules and operations pertaining to COVID-19 precautions.




Suit Against Boca Condo Association Spotlights Importance of Governing Document Amendments, Filings

By Laura M. Manning

A lawsuit that was recently filed against the Prom-enade at Boca Pointe Condominium Associa-tion highlights the importance of properly adopting changes to an association’s governing documents and recording them in the local court registry where the association is located. If the allegations in the lawsuit hold up in court, the association for the Boca-area community could be forced to pay the plaintiff unit-owners’ lost rental income and legal bills.

According to the suit, the association is making up rules to prevent condo owners Gerardo and Ana Vizcaino from leasing their unit for a full year. The suit states that the association’s new rule, which it apparently adopted at an August 2020 board meeting after a simple vote of the board the directors, was never approved by the members by a formal vote.

Indeed, the suit alleges that the association president acknowledged in a notice to all of the unit owners that the board’s adoption of a rule restricting rentals to one tenant per 12-month period was invalid because it had not been approved by the unit owners via an amendment to the governing documents. The only restriction in the association’s recorded declaration pertaining to rentals states that owners are only restricted from renting units for terms of less than thirty days. No other restrictions are included in the recorded governing documents.

Amendments to an association’s recorded governing documents typically require a vote of the entire unit-owner membership, and sometimes minimum approvals of 2/3 or even 3/4 of the members are required for an amendment to be considered valid.

While these high thresholds make changes to recorded restrictions much more difficult to implement than via a simple board vote, that does not necessarily mean that such changes are not worth pursuing and in accordance with a community’s best practices and interests. Times change and communities evolve, and the current owners may now wish to further restrict rentals or implement other rules that require amendments to the governing documents and, therefore, a vote of the entire association membership.

In fact, this is just another of the many reasons why it is imperative for associations to work exclusively with highly experienced and qualified association legal counsel to avoid any missteps in their implementation of new rules and policies. Cutting corners to avoid costs and/or the serious challenges of conducting a vote and securing the requisite approval of the membership could lead to severe legal liabilities and exposure, in addition of course to having any such newly enacted rules and policies quickly declared null and void.

Experienced association attorneys should be able to discern if certain changes require amendments to the governing documents or may be enacted by a simple board vote – and the exact language that should be used for their implementation. Indeed, many of us are also familiar with all of the latest voting tools and techniques that associations are now using to implement changes to governing documents and conduct other votes of the entire membership. For example, Florida law allows for electronic voting for community associations, and new apps and websites such as OnrApp ( enable associations to plan and implement voting for all of the unit owners as efficiently and effectively as possible.

As this recent lawsuit indicates, the notion of implementing new rules that expressly contradict a community’s governing documents via a simple board vote and without the requisite approval of the membership is a losing proposition. By avoiding such misguided attempts to circumvent the system and always working in close consultation with extremely experienced and knowledgeable association attorneys, condominium associations and HOAs can develop and execute amendments and policies that are legally enforceable and in keeping with what’s best for their community and its owners.



Additional 2021 Legislative Updates

By Laura M. Manning

This year’s legislative session proved to be a busy one, with a number of bills passed by the Florida Legislature that will impact community associations throughout the state. Our firm recently covered the passing of Senate Bill 72 in our blog , Also known as the Civil Liability for Damages Relating to COVID-19, the new law helps to shield associations from Covid-related lawsuits.

The following are summaries of additional bills that have passed the Legislature and, as of the press deadline for this column, are pending action by the Governor:

Senate Bill 630: Community Associations

Senate Bill 630 represents sweeping changes for Florida communities. These changes include allowing condominium associations to use the demand for pre-suit mediation process; increases the amount that can be charged for a transfer fee from $100 to $150; addresses insurance subrogation by clarifying that if a condominium insurance policy does not provide rights for subrogation against the unit owners in the association, an insurance policy issued to an individual unit owner in the association may not provide rights of subrogation against the association; and clarifies that associations’ emergency powers extend to health emergencies and includes holding virtual meetings and implementing plans based on advice from health officials.

The legislation also prohibits associations from requiring certain actions relating to the inspection of records; revises requirements relating to the posting of digital copies of certain documents by certain condominium associations; authorizes condominium associations and cooperatives to extinguish discriminatory restrictions; revises the calculation used in determining a board member’s term limit; and deletes a prohibition against employing or contracting with certain service providers. The bill also makes important limitations to homeowners’ association rental restrictions adopted after July 1, 2021 and provides that any governing document or amendment to a governing document enacted after July 1, 2021, in connection with certain rental restrictions will apply only to parcel owners who acquire the property after the effective date of the governing document or amendment, or to parcel owners who consent to the governing documents or amendment.

The bill also brought changes to condominium association websites, allowing them to make their official records available on mobile apps and now allowing both condominiums and homeowners associations to adopt rules for posting notices on websites and mobile apps, provided that electronic notices are still emailed to members who have consented to receive electronic notices. The bill also requires that notices of intent to record a claim of lien specify certain dates. It authorizes parties to initiate pre-suit mediation under certain circumstances; specifies the circumstances under which arbitration is binding; revises requirements for certain fines; revises provisions relating to a quorum and voting rights for board members remotely participating in meetings; revises the procedure to challenge a board member recall; revises the documents that constitute the official records of an association; revises the types of records that are not accessible to members or parcel owners; revises the circumstances under which an association is deemed to have provided for reserve accounts; and authorizes certain developers to include reserves in the budget. This act shall take effect July 1, 2021.

House Bill 463: Community Association Pools

This bill exempts private community association pools with fewer than 32 units or parcels from supervision by the Department of Health, except to ensure water quality. This act shall take effect July 1, 2021.

House Bill 649: Petition for Objection to Assessment

This act allows community associations to object tax assessments on its behalf or on behalf of their owners and provides the manner in which to do so. This act shall take effect July 1, 2021.

Senate Bill 56: Community Association Assessment Notices

This bill changes the notice requirement of a foreclosure action from 30 days to 45 days. It also specifies that invoices for assessments must be delivered to unit owners by first-class United States mail or electronically to the email address maintained in the association’s records. Prior to changing the method of delivering an invoice for assessments, associations must first deliver written notice of the change to the owner by first class mail at least 30 days before sending assessment and the owners must affirmatively acknowledge the change electronically or in writing. Prior to requiring payment of attorney fees related to past due assessments, a written notice (using the new form provided) of late assessment must be sent to delinquent owners by first-class United States mail providing a 30-day opportunity to pay without also having to pay attorney’s fees. This act shall take effect July 1, 2021.

House Bill 421: Relief from Burdens on Real Property Rights

This bill allows, under certain circumstances, property owners who have been burdened by government actions to keep their rights to make claims against governmental entities even after relinquishing title. This act shall take effect on October 1, 2021.

Senate Bill 1966: Department of Business and Professional Regulation

This act disqualifies board members from eligibility to run for the board if they are delinquent in their assessments only rather than other monetary obligations. The act provides that a person is considered delinquent if a payment is not made by the due date specifically identified in the declaration of condominium, bylaws, or articles of incorporation. Should a due date not be specified, the act determines the due date is the first date of the assessment period. It requires a board to adopt the annual budget 14 days prior to the start of the fiscal year, otherwise it is deemed in minor violation and the prior year’s budget will continue to be in effect until a new budget is adopted. This act shall take effect July 1, 2021.

House Bill 403: Home-Based Businesses

This law prohibits local governments from taking certain actions relating to the licensure and regulation of home-based businesses. However, whatever restrictions were already in place by an association, or those that are created in the future, will not be overridden or preempted. This act shall take effect July 1, 2021.

House Bill 483: Electronic Legal Documents

This act makes technical changes relating to remote online notarizations. It also modifies witnessing procedures and contains numerous clarifications. This act shall take effect upon becoming law.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I will continue to provide updates on any legislation that may impact the community association industry. To track these bills or read the full text of each enrolled bill, visit




Post-Pandemic Changes to Disaster

Preparedness for Community Associations

By Laura M. Manning

The Covid-19 pandemic has expanded the parameters and elevated the importance of disaster preparedness in community associations. Prior to the start of the 2021 hurricane season, community association boards of directors and property managers should reassess their disaster preparedness plans to ensure they are ready for anything and everything.

Some of the elements of a comprehensive disaster preparedness plan include detailed site plans, especially for large communities, a communications plan with all current contact information for board members and key staff/vendors, and an evacuation plan with information on public shelters as well as local gas stations and grocery stores with backup generators. Insurance information is also a must, and it should always include copies of all policies and information on claim-filing protocols.

The uncertainty caused by the pandemic also spotlighted the importance of unit-owner communications. Comprehensive disaster preparedness plans should include all current contact information and any other preparations necessary for outreach to residents via calls, text, email, and hand-delivered notices to all dwellings.

The contact information for all key vendors and professional service providers is also vitally important. As the coronavirus pandemic so dramatically illustrated, experienced attorneys, insurance agents, accountants and other highly qualified professionals proved to be invaluable resources for association directors to turn to for answers in a very fluid and evolving situation. Preparations should include outreach to these and other professionals prior to and throughout the course of an emergency to help ensure that an association’s actions and policies are legally sound and effectively executed.

Association directors and property managers, with help from highly experienced and qualified professionals, can make a significant impact prior to, during, and after public disasters by steering their community through the challenges of an emergency as deftly as possible. By developing and following a thorough preparedness plan that takes into account all the lessons learned from the pandemic, associations can be better prepared for anything and everything that comes their way.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I write about these and other important issues for Florida community associations in our blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box in the blog to automatically receive all our future articles.




Florida Enacts Covid 

Liability Protections Law

By Laura M. Manning

The Florida Legislature made Covid-19 civil liability protections for businesses, healthcare providers, non-profits, and other organizations a major priority for the 2021 session, and on March 29th it became the year’s first bill signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. SB 72, the bill that provides several Covid-related liability protections for businesses, healthcare providers, educational institutions, government entities, religious institutions, and not-for-profit corporations such as community associations, is now the law in Florida.

Under the new law, covered entities are shielded from civil liability for Covid-related lawsuits for monetary damages, injury or death so long as the allegations do not involve gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Florida community associations that have implemented measures to safeguard their residents and staff from the potential spread of Covid-19 and comply with local, state and federal guidelines are protected from liability for Covid-related lawsuits.

Individuals seeking to file claims for coronavirus-related injuries or death against covered entities will need to provide an affidavit from a medical professional asserting that they contracted the virus at the corresponding property. The claims must also demonstrate "clear and convincing evidence" of "gross negligence" — a high legal standard — in order to establish its validity. In order to prevail, plaintiffs will also be required to demonstrate in court that a defendant did not make a good faith effort to comply with public health guidelines.

The new law also sets a one-year statute of limitations for the filing of lawsuits from either the date of death, hospitalization or the Covid diagnosis involved in the claim, whichever is latest. It applies to claims that accrued before its enactment and within one year following the Governor’s March 29 signing, but it does not apply to lawsuits that have already been filed.

Community association boards of directors should continue to bear in mind that Florida remains under a state of emergency until at least June 26, though that date might change if the order is extended. Even with new vaccines rolling out across the country, health officials are warning of another surge in cases caused by diminished precautions and new variants of the virus that are even more contagious than the original strain.

Some Florida counties are still requiring facial coverings in places where people congregate, including community association common areas. Therefore, our firm’s other community association attorneys and I are encouraging boards of directors to continue to maintain prudent precautionary measures and safety protocols to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in their communities.




Important Considerations for Community Associations’ Use of Security Cameras


By Roberto C. Blanch

Security cameras in community associations, especially in sprawling HOA communities with gated entries and considerable common areas, help to provide residents and guests with an added measure of peace of mind. However, there are important privacy considerations for associations seeking to install surveillance systems, and there are also questions about whether these systems may constitute material alterations that must be approved by a vote of an association’s membership.

In general, community associations are allowed to install and utilize security cameras to monitor their common areas. The most important limitation in their use is that the cameras should not be positioned to view areas in which residents may reasonably expect a level of privacy, such as restrooms, locker rooms, and private dwellings or backyards.

Another important consideration is whether the deployment of security camera systems constitute a material alteration which may require a vote of the association’s voting interest. Decisions over this issue in arbitrations before the State of Florida’s Division of Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes have held that security camera installations may be considered material alterations. Therefore, unless an association’s specific governing documents provide otherwise, they may first have to be approved by a vote of the owners, which in some cases may be at least 75 percent of the membership. Some association governing documents require less than the statutory 75 percent threshold to approve a material alteration, and some only require membership approval when the cost of the alteration exceeds a specific amount.

However, several arbitrations before the state regulatory agency hold that an association board of directors can approve security cameras when they are considered necessary to protect the common elements. These decisions indicate it is improper for associations to avoid membership approvals just because cameras would make it less likely for criminal activity to occur. Instead, an association must find that a demonstrated history of crimes in the community or its surrounding area necessitate cameras to help prevent and prosecute such activities.

The questions of monitoring, storage and access to the footage shot by cameras must also be addressed prior to their deployment. Monitoring by professional security services can be cost prohibitive for some associations, and the storage of the video recordings and restrictions limiting who could access the footage are important considerations for associations to resolve prior to installations. For example, some associations require a court-ordered subpoena for unit owners to request and view footage, and the policies on access to the footage should be communicated to all owners and residents.

Associations considering the installation of security cameras should first consult with experienced association legal counsel to evaluate all of these and other important considerations. After a careful review of all the pertinent information, including the corresponding elements of an association’s governing documents, qualified attorneys will be able to provide informed and authoritative guidance as to how to proceed.




A Primer on Florida Community Association 

Voting by Proxy

By Laura M. Manning

Community associations often struggle with secur-ing a quorum, which is the minimum number of voting interests required to be present in order to conduct a meeting of the members, and this challenge has been exacerbated by the pandemic. One of the most effective ways for associations to secure enough votes from unit owners to achieve a quorum and conduct their business is through the use of proxies.

A proxy is a document that allows a designated individual to attend and participate in a meeting in place of a unit owner. Florida condominium laws provide that unit owners may not vote by "general proxy" but may vote by a "limited proxy" that substantially conforms with the form provided by the state’s Division of Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes.

Limited proxies for association votes must contain a specific statement of what the unit owner is voting on and how the unit owner is voting. A unit owner cannot vote on specific substantive questions by a general proxy, which can be used only for the purposes of establishing a quorum and non-substantive votes, e.g., the approval of minutes, adjournment or continuance of meetings, and other matters that do not specifically require a limited proxy.

Limited proxies are required to be used when voting on reserves, changes to financial reporting requirements, amendments to governing documents, or other matters requiring a vote of the entire association membership. There are also other specific limitations on the use of proxies, including that they are only valid for up to 90 days from the date of the first meeting for which the proxy was given and the proxy holder must be in attendance, in-person at the meeting.

There may also be additional limitations on the use of proxies contained in associations’ governing documents, so experienced association attorneys should be consulted to ensure that the use of proxies by unit owners complies with both the state’s condominium laws and the governing documents.

Members of association boards of directors cannot use proxies to vote at board meetings when the director is not in attendance. Only unit owners can use proxies to participate at membership meetings they do not physically attend.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I write about important matters for Florida community associations such as this in our blog at, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to enter their email address in the subscription box in the blog to automatically receive all our future articles.





"They Put Me Through Hell," Says Homeowner After Contentious Battle With HOA, $33k Settlement

By Roberto C. Blanch

Community association collections of monthly dues and other monetary obligations from unit owners have been strained by the Covid-19 pandemic. Given that many families are now struggling with lost work and businesses, some associations have cut back on expenses wherever possible and carefully considered their collections options with debtor owners.

However, occasionally we learn of erroneous or overzealous community association collections efforts reported on local news outlets across the country, perpetuating a negative stereotype of associations being exorbitantly stringent.

One example of such a report appeared recently in the newscasts of WFTV Action 9 News (ABC) in Orlando and Central Florida. The station’s report chronicles how Mims, Fla. residents Cindy Decker and her husband were threatened with foreclosure by their HOA for a debt they claimed to not owe.

"They put me through hell," she says in the report.

The Deckers, who had raised six children in the home where they have lived for the last 26 years, say they fell behind on their association dues to the Lake Harney Woods Property Owners Association. They claimed that they eventually made good on their debt with the issuance of a check for $892 to cover everything they owed, but Cindy Decker said one month later the association filed a claim of lien against her home to collect the dues and fees that she had just paid.

The suit was filed by the association’s new law firm, but Decker had purportedly paid its previous attorney right before the switch. She claimed to have a receipt to show the full payment was received, but the new attorneys insisted she now owed $1,300.

Decker said she pleaded her case to the HOA’s board at a meeting to no avail. She states the HOA president blamed her for paying the wrong law firm and refused to end the foreclosure.

Decker hired an attorney, and the association was soon facing a claim that it violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, a law which protects consumers from improper practices, abuses or harassment in connection with efforts to collect certain debts.

Eventually, the association and its new attorneys settled the case prior to going to trial to the tune of $33,000 in damages to Decker. While the association did not respond to the station’s requests for an interview or statement, it is our understanding that the new law firm released a statement saying its attorneys rely on information provided by others and issues arise on rare occasions.

While issues certainly do rarely arise, the circumstances from this case as presented by Decker in this news report describe what may be characteristic of errors in judgment that may be made both by associations and their legal representation. For instance, association boards, managers and legal representatives should carefully evaluate claims from owners stating they have paid the monetary obligations alleged to be owed to the association – particularly when the owner claims to have a receipt to prove it.

In cases such as the one presented in this news report, an association should consider resolving the circumstances which arise due to the payment made to its former law firm rather than compelling the owner to do so.

Apparently, as Decker’s narrative illustrates, the association’s alleged unwillingness to proactively resolve matters exposed it to potentially severe legal liabilities, so much so that it decided to settle for an amount which appears to be more than 25 times the amount it claimed the Deckers still owed.

Such media reports of associations going too far in their collections efforts, or their rules and enforcement measures, diminish the reputation of all communities governed by associations and exacerbate their negative image as being too harsh and severe. Community associations, their attorneys and property managers would be well advised to use reasonable and sound judgment in their collections and enforcement efforts, especially now when the courts can be expected to sympathize with Americans contending with the strains caused by the pandemic and the resulting economic fallout. By doing so, community associations may avoid the potential for costly litigation as well as damaging media coverage.




Florida Condominium Association Director Term Limits Don’t Apply Until 2026

By Laura M. Manning

Amendments to the Florida Condominium Act enacted in 2018 provide that association board members may not serve more than eight consecutive years, unless they are elected by more than two-thirds of the voting membership or there are not enough eligible candidates to fill the board vacancies at the time of the election.

The initial guidance from the Florida Division of Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation was unclear, but last summer it concluded that years of board service prior to the date that the law went into effect in July of 2018 did not count towards the eight years of consecutive service precluded by the new law.

Essentially, this meant that only condo association board members who serve eight consecutive years starting in or after July 2018 will be disqualified from additional service unless the specific exemptions are met. This clarification by the Division of Condominiums has helped to allay concerns by association boards with long-term members from prior to 2018, as those directors will have at least five more years of eligible service.

While some communities thrive under long-term board members, our firm’s other community association attorneys and I recommend that all those residing in communities with associations view board membership in the same vein as a civic duty. An effective board is essential for the financial and administrative wellbeing of associations, so all eligible unit owners should consider running for the board of directors as their contribution back to their community.

In no way are the responsibilities of serving as a director too complex and demanding for the capabilities and skillsets of most association unit owners. What it requires is their time and dedication, but not to the point where it becomes too daunting for the average owner.

Aside from the guidance of highly experienced association legal counsel, board members can also make ample use of authoritative online resources that offer the most vital information for associations. The Community Associations Institute, which is the largest organization representing community associations in the world, offers a great deal of helpful articles and guides at Also, our firm’s blog at is one of the leading sources for information for community associations in the state, and we encourage association directors, members and property managers to visit it and enter their email address to automatically receive all our future articles.




Charges Against Former Marco Island City Councilman for Condo Election Fraud Demonstrate Need for Careful Oversight of Association Elections

By Roberto C.  Blanch

Recent news reports chronicle the tale of a former Marco Island city council member who was charged with three counts of forgery of a ballot envelope and three counts of criminal use of personal identification information, which is third-degree felony, in his condominium association’s annual board of directors election.

The reports from the Naples Daily News and several Southwest Florida TV stations indicate Victor Rios, 78, was charged with forging ballots for the Belize Condominium Association election to remain a board member. Several ballots for the property’s March 2019 condo election were cast under the names of residents who testified that they had not voted in the election, and their signatures on the outer ballot envelopes were forgeries.

Complaints alleging election fraud were filed with the state’s Division of Condominiums under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and with the Marco Island Police Department. MIPD subsequently asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the matter because Rios was a sitting city council member at the time.

FDLE lab analysis eventually revealed a DNA profile matching Rios on the ballots cast in the names of the residents who had not voted. The ballot envelopes contained personal identification information of the victims, including their names, condo numbers, and forged signatures.

Rios turned himself in to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Department of Corrections on Feb. 5 and has since been released after posting a $30,000 bond.

As these and other recent media reports illustrate, the changes to the state’s laws in 2017 to add teeth to the criminal penalties and enforcement for community association fraud seem to be helping to prosecute some perpetrators, but election fraud as well as theft and embezzlement continue to remain serious problems for some communities. Associations should work very closely with highly qualified and experienced legal counsel to oversee their annual meetings and elections, and they must be vigilant in monitoring for any potential election irregularities that should raise a red flag and require immediate attention.




Bills Impacting Community Associations 

in 2021 Florida Legislative Session

By Laura M. Manning

There are several bills being debated by state lawmakers in the current legislative session that will impact Florida community associations. The most significant proposed legislation for associations is also one of the most important for many of the state’s businesses.

HB 7, which creates COVID-19 liability protections for Florida businesses and nonprofit organizations, including community associations, has cleared its first committee stop with an 11 to 6 vote. Its advocates contend the measure is a necessary component to Florida’s economic recovery. The Florida House Speaker has vowed to make the bill a priority. Its next stop is the House Health and Human Services Committee.

One of the other measures that community association industry watchers are tracking is HB 21. House Bill 21 revises the requirements for construction defect causes of action relating to certain violations, and revises provisions relating to the requirements for notices of claim, property inspections, and service of copies of notices.

There are also bills pertaining to vacation rental properties that seek to pre-empt local regulations with state laws governing rentals and establishing licenses for such units by the Division of Hotel and Restaurants under the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

A couple of bills have also been introduced that would impact community association assessment notices and authorize associations to extinguish discriminatory provisions from their governing documents.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I will continue to monitor the progress of these and other bills impacting community associations as they make their way through this year’s legislative session. We encourage industry followers to enter their email address in the subscription box in our blog at to receive all of our latest articles.




Conducting Community Association Virtual Annual Meetings in Compliance with Florida Law

By Roberto C. Blanch

With the Covid-19 vaccines now rolling out across the country, there is hope that in the coming months gatherings of individuals who have been inoculated could safely take place. In the meantime, many community associations are continuing to conduct virtual meetings with attendees participating online or via telephone conference.

However, various provisions of the laws governing Florida condominium and homeowner associations raise questions regarding whether such virtual meetings are being conducted in a manner that is compliant with such laws. For instance, applicable condominium laws stipulate that annual meetings of the unit owners for board member elections must be held at the location provided in an association’s governing documents or, if none is specified, within 45 miles of the condominium property. This leads to the question of whether purely virtual annual meetings comply with the law.

The unprecedented circumstances arising during this pandemic has therefore caused many community association managers and board members to become creative – seeking to achieve continuity of association business vis a vis directors’ and members’ meetings, while seeking to balance the protections recommended by health care providers and organizations promoting social distancing. One example is that some associations, in an effort to ensure that a condominium’s virtual annual meeting complies with the law, have made arrangements for the board of directors’ meeting to convene physically on association property while allowing members to attend by Zoom or other platforms. In those cases, the unit owners have been provided with notice of such meeting, which has included the login and call-in information to enable all the association members to attend the meeting online or via telephone. In some cases, personal attendance by members has been prohibited and in others, the in-person participants could be limited to only the board members or perhaps a single board member, along with any necessary staff and legal counsel.

By contrast, Florida laws governing homeowners association annual meetings do not stipulate that they must be within 45 miles of the community. Rather, they simply provide that the meeting must take place at time, date and place that is specified in the association’s bylaws. Most HOA bylaws either require that the meeting be held within the county where the community is located, or they do not indicate a location.

The foregoing illustrates just a few creative approaches being implemented throughout many community associations, in efforts to allow for necessary business within those communities to continue while allowing for owner participation and awareness of same. With that in mind, other factors contemplated by applicable Florida laws which govern community associations, such as the declaration of emergency powers by boards and perhaps the adoption of electronic notice and voting options, should also be considered in efforts to strike the optimal balance between the need to continue with business as usual and the reality of having to do so in a landscape that is vastly different than it was at time during which the applicable laws were established.

Our firm’s other community association attorneys and I have been working closely with our clients to enable them to develop and implement processes and precautions to help with the transaction of association business in an open and effective manner during Covid-19. We encourage association directors and property managers to consult with highly qualified and experienced association legal counsel regarding their protocols to keep their communities as safe as possible during the pandemic.




Community Association Service Contracts Do’s and Don’ts

By Laura M. Manning

One of the most important tasks for community association board members is the oversight of maintenance, cleaning, security, valet parking, construction/painting, landscaping and other vendor services. These essential services require the use of written contracts that should include vital protections for associations, which would be well advised to turn to highly experienced community association attorneys to help ensure such contracts include all of the appropriate stipulations.

One of the primary considerations for most of these contracts is insurance. Vendors must maintain proper and adequate insurance to protect associations, their staff and their residents from any potential legal and financial liabilities that may arise from the execution of the services being performed under the contract. At a minimum, vendors’ insurance should include worker’s compensation coverage for employees who may by injured while on association property as well as general liability coverage.

The association should also insist that it be named as an additional insured and certificate holder, which would require that it be notified of any changes in the contractor’s insurance.

Vendor contracts should also clearly delineate all the service provider’s and association’s responsibilities under the agreement. This includes the specific services that need to be completed, the timeframe within which the work must be performed, payment terms, penalties for nonperformance, and termination terms for both parties. Having these parameters in writing will help to reduce the potential for any conflicts between the parties.

The most effective vendor contracts also stipulate the exact methods to be used by both parties to resolve any disputes that may arise. Alternative dispute resolution proceedings can provide significant benefits over the courts for many types of disputes, so parties to these contracts should consider calling for their use in the written service agreement.

If a vendor is offering a warranty for their work, the details of the warranty should be included in the contract. This should include exactly what is covered under the warranty, its timeframe, and the process for requesting repairs.

By working with highly experience community association legal counsel for the review and execution of important vendor contracts, association board members and property managers can be sure to include all of the necessary provisions to protect the association and avoid potential disputes.




Partner Laura M. Manning-Hudson with the South Florida law firm Siegfried Rivera has focused on representing condominium and homeowners associations in matters involving all aspects of community association law since 1998.  She is based at the firm’s office in West Palm Beach and is a regular contributor to its community association law blog,  The firm represents more than 800 community associations, and it also maintains offices in Miami-Dade and Broward counties., 561-296-5444. 

Roberto C. Blanch is a partner with the law firm Siegfried Rivera and a regular contributor to the firm’s community association blog, He focuses on community association law and represents associations throughout South Florida and the Treasure Coast. He earned his law degree from Saint Thomas University and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida. He can be reached at 1-800-737-1390 or via e-mail at

Nicole R. Kurtz is a shareholder with the South Florida law firm of Siegfried Rivera who focuses on community association law. She is one of the firm’s most prolific contributors to its association law blog at The firm maintains offices in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and its attorneys focus on community association, construction, real estate, insurance and bankruptcy law., 1-800-737-1390.