Legislature faces bills from pets to religious symbols

Article Courtesy Of The Sun Sentinel

By Joe Kollin

Published February 21, 2007


Should the state prohibit condo associations from filing liens and foreclosures when an owner owes less than $2,500?

What about allowing residents to display religious symbols, even though the association bans it?

Should a state law give residents in no-pet communities the right to own one if a doctor calls it necessary?

These are among the issues to be debated beginning March 6 when the Legislature meets in Tallahassee for its annual 60-day law-writing session.

State Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, known as the champion of the unit owner because of laws he has gotten approved, this week is filing a long list of measures drawn from the AARP's Bill of Rights for unit owners. Working with him in the Senate this session will be Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami.

Their bills include: letting residents with doctors' prescriptions have pets regardless of the rules; allowing religious symbols on doors; regulating homeowner associations the same way the state regulates condo associations; letting the condo ombudsman also serve homeowner associations; requiring boards to notify every owner by certified mail when they plan a vote to change the bylaws; and clarifying the right of owners to have hurricane shutters.

Other bills affecting condos have already been introduced for debate. SB 714 would prohibit associations from foreclosing on an owner who owes less than $2,500 in assessments; SB 250 would require developers to pay maintenance fees on unsold condo units that they rent; and SB 348/HB 671 would prohibit condo and homeowner associations from inquiring into the financial assets of buyers.

Another bill, SB 396, would let at least three condo and homeowner associations self-insure their common property rather than buy windstorm insurance elsewhere. SB 902 and HB 433 would set strict rules for the way boards handle homeowner association money.

Danille R. Carroll, the state condo ombudsman, this week also plans to send Gov. Charlie Crist and legislative leaders a list of proposals for consideration.

To read bills and follow their progress, go to www.leg.state.fl.us, then go to House or Senate. On the left side of the page insert the bill number or subject.


Q. A Boca Raton-area resident says her homeowner association charges owners of each of the 118 single-story houses an equal share of the community's maintenance costs. Maintenance money is used for routine expenses, including exterior painting.

One owner legally added a second floor to his house, doubling the exterior area and the cost of maintaining it.

Splitting costs equally, however, means the 117 other homeowners are subsidizing that owner's cost of maintaining and painting the second floor. She asks if that is legal.

A. Attorney Robert A. White of Coral Springs says the association's documents must tell how the board divvies up expenses and assessments. Chapter 720, which regulates homeowner associations, says that in any community created after Oct. 1, 1995, "the governing documents must describe the manner in which expenses are shared and specify the member's proportional share thereof."

The use of the word "must," White says, makes it clear that "this is the definitive answer as to how assessments are calculated and proportioned." Anything else, he said, would be contrary to Florida law.

In sum, if the documents say each owner pays a 1/118th share of the expenses, the board has no choice but to assess each owner 1/118th.

Staff Writer Joe Kollin discusses condo and homeowner association issues in this space every other Wednesday. Contact him at Sun-Sentinel.com/condos or 954-385-7913 in Broward or 561-243-6503 in Palm Beach County. Kollin has covered condo and homeowner association issues in the Sun-Sentinel since 1986.