Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published February 20,
countdown is on.
On March 4, the state begins its annual 60-day lawmaking session. Expect a
battle between those hoping to rein in the power of condo and homeowner
association boards and those wanting to make sure any changes don't hurt
boards' ability to do their jobs.
State Rep. Julio Robaina's seven-member House Select Committee on
Condominium & Homeowner Association Governance has been holding
statewide public hearings but has until March 3 to make its proposals.
other lawmakers have already filed bills to expand the rights of
homeowners to fly flags in their yards (SB 1378, HB 857); extend until
2011 the deadline for high-rise condos to have a generator hooked up to
power an elevator (CS/SB 550); and require the state to tell purchasers
exactly what they are getting into when they buy a condo (HB 679).
, an Orlando-area Republican, filed a bill (SB 308) that says condo
associations can't stop owners from putting solar collectors on building
roofs. That is being monitored by two lobbying groups representing boards
and the companies that serve them.
"No matter how worthy the energy-saving device may be," the bill
should not let owners alter roofs without board approval, said Donna
Berger, executive director of the Community Advocacy Network (CAN), an arm
of the Katzman & Korr law firm.
The Community Association Leadership Lobby (CALL), an arm of the Becker
& Poliakoff law firm, is keeping watch over the solar collector and
"Our primary concern is that it mandates a standard for all HOA
communities and takes away control from associations to decide how to
address this in their communities," said executive director Yeline
On the other hand, Cyber Citizens for Justice (CCFJ), an all-volunteer
group, will be battling for unit owners. It wants to remove attorneys'
financial incentive to file liens and foreclosures against owners who owe
as little as $25. It also wants to prohibit associations from filing liens
until 30 days after an owner is given notice, with that notice to include
a warning that a lien could result in "high attorney's fees."
Other proposals the group has made include requiring the state to regulate
homeowner associations the way it does condos; preventing associations
from banning emotional support animals when a doctor says they are needed;
and making condo owners who screen their balconies responsible for damage
to the screens.
If you have a proposal, contact your legislator or Robaina at
Julio.robaina@myflorida house.gov or 305-442-6868. You can find your
legislator at www.leg.state.fl.us.
Q. Readers in condo and homeowner associations say their boards
sign contracts for new roofs, additional landscaping or construction of
tennis courts without asking owners first. Yet the results for owners are
special assessments and huge increases in maintenance. Can boards obligate
owners for big expenses without getting approval from a majority of
owners, or at least informing them that an expensive project is being
A. Attorney Robert Kaye, whose
firm represents more than 500 associations in Broward,
-Dade counties, said it depends on the nature of the project and the
provisions of an association's documents.
law lets boards spend association money for projects considered
"necessary maintenance" of common property regardless of whether
the documents require an owner vote.
"So, if the project being considered is a roof replacement, the board
would make that decision, while the construction of tennis courts where
none previously existed would likely require a vote of the owners,
depending upon the provisions of the governing documents," Kaye said.
This concept also applies to situations that would seem to be capital
improvements but are necessary to maintain the property, such as the
installation of a seawall to prevent erosion.
Current laws, he said, require boards to provide owners with at least 14
days notice of a board meeting at which nonemergency special assessments
are going to be considered. The notice also must describe the nature of
In condos, owners have the right to speak on agenda items. In homeowner
associations, owners must petition for the right to speak, although boards
may listen to owners without a petition, Kaye said.