COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS AND THE "SUNSHINE LAW"
Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published January 21, 2012
hear it all the time from owners, board members, community association
managers and even attorneys: "You violated the Sunshine Law!"
In a column written by Amy Schrader, Esq. under the headline "Florida Sunshine Laws for Homeowners Associations" the author goes further on saying that "The state may impose a noncriminal penalty of up to $500 for any HOA board member who violates the Sunshine Law."
can a law be enforced for HOAs if that law is only valid for government
agencies? Honestly, I'm at a loss to understand such a statement from an
attorney. If that really would be the case, it might be a great solution
to fill the State's empty coffers. In my opinion more than 100 board
members a day violate the Sunshine Law. If all provision of this law would
be valid for HOAs -- the State of
In my opinion these kinds of statements made by experts (look at the resume of Amy Schrader) only serve to confuse board members and owners even more. Board members and owners need clear statements since most of them lack the background to understand "legalese."
all these experts try to say is that many provisions in FS 718, FS 719, FS
720 and FS 723 are similar to provisions in the Sunshine Law. But similar
doesn't mean that the Sunshine Law applies. Only too often we wish that
the Sunshine Law really would apply to community associations. Don't
forget, the Sunshine Law provides enforcement and penalties -- meaning
teeth -- while the community association statutes totally lack any kind of
real enforcement. The State of
Violations of the record laws in FS 720 carry a penalty of $500, but trying to enforce this penalty is much more expensive (presuit mediation and court cost) than the amount the penalty provides.
In other words, while the Sunshine Law (FS 286) has teeth, the community association statutes are absolutely toothless -- and that is exactly the reason why many board members and community association managers ignore these statutes, knowing full well that a violation of these statutes really carries no penalty.
TO MAKE IT VERY CLEAR FOR EVERYBODY:
If board members violate the meeting and open record laws, as contained in the community association statutes, they violate the provisions of these statutes, NOT THE SUNSHINE LAW.