Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post
By Lindsay Raphael and Todd Paton
Published April 3, 2019
The 2017 bill providing website guidelines for
condominium associations with more than 150 units (which does not contain
timeshares) is going through some growing pains. The new law amended Section
718.111 of the Florida Statute and raises issues boards must consider as
they strive for compliance.
The law, geared toward improving transparency and accountability between
boards and residents, puts boards on notice that they can face felony
charges if found guilty of specific breaches. Violations include electoral
fraud, forged signatures on ballots, conflict of interest and
misappropriation of funds, to name a few. While most associations in Florida
are managed with integrity, some are not. The law is directed at the latter.
Transparency and communication often starts with a website, and the law
stipulates how they must be structured.
The first major change is that the deadline for compliance was adjusted Dec.
31, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2019. Compliance and enforcement seem to have become a
moving target without clear-cut policies.
It’s clear that failure to post a required document on the condominium
association’s website is a violation of the law and could result in a $10 to
$30 per-unit penalty. It is too early to know how the state Department of
Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) will enforce violations and
whether it will immediately issue fines or first issue warning letters.
Initially the law seemed to guide associations on how to improve operations.
First offenders were simply sent a warning letter, requiring the association
to fix the violation to comply with the law.
Recently, some inspectors have gone straight to penalties. Keep in mind that
every inspector can be different regarding enforcement. One common
denominator seems to be that those penalized failed to provide inspection of
an association’s official records upon a resident’s request. With thousands
of associations in Florida, it’s unlikely the DBPR is actively viewing
websites. Rather, the DBPR intervenes when a resident files a complaint,
claiming a violation. It’s the “squeaky wheel” dynamic that sets things in
motion for what can be significant penalties.
The following relates to website requirements:
Information must be updated in a timely fashion. Each
owner must be provided a login and password.
The website must contain various condominium
association official records including, without limitation, all
governing documents, rules and regulations; all contracts, management
and other agreements to which the association is a party. This is not an
exhaustive or complete list.
It must publish the annual budget and proposed annual
budget, financial reports, board certifications, notice of any unit
owner and board member meetings and the agenda within the statutory time
periods. They must be posted in plain view on the front page of the
website or a separate subpage of the website labeled “Notices” which is
conspicuously visible and linked from the front page along with any
document to be considered and voted on by the owners during the meeting
or any document listed on the agenda, notices of board meetings and
agendas within the statutory time periods.
Other requirements of the law regarding orderly sharing
of information includes:
Any information and documents which are restricted
from being accessible to unit owners may not be posted on the website
or, if posted, the protected information must be fully redacted.
Official records are expanded to include bids for
materials, equipment, services.
Annual financial reports must be provided within five
(5) days of request by a unit owner.
The onus is on the board to follow this law. The
legislation is in the best interests of homeowners and the lines of open
communications starts with a functioning and informative web site.