Tag Archives: Community Association

RECORDING RULES AND AMENDMENTS THERETO RECENT STATUTE CHANGE AFFECTING HOMEOWNERS’ ASSOCIATIONS

Many residents of Florida live within a community operated by an association of some kind, whether it be a community of single-family homes under the jurisdiction of a homeowners’ or property owner’s association, or a condominium building maintained by a condominium association.  All in such situations should be well-aware that many aspects of life within these communities are subject to restrictions outlined in a set of governing documents, which include a declaration, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and rules and regulations. While the declaration, articles of incorporation, and bylaws are typically recorded among the public records of the county in which the community is located, rules and regulations are more often not recorded.

As rules and regulations are usually amendable by the approval of the board of directors only (as opposed to the additional approval of the membership), allowing rules and regulations to be unrecorded provides the board of directors with the flexibility to amend the rules and regulations as the need arises without the added expense and time required to record these rule amendments among the county’s official records. However, this option has changed for homeowners’ associations as a result of recent legislative changes which took effect on July 1, 2018.

How Has This Changed?

Pursuant to new provisions set out in Section 720.306(1)(e) of F.S., “[a]n amendment to a governing document is effective when recorded in the public records of the county in which the community is located.”  While this has certainly always been the case for a declaration, articles of incorporation, and bylaws, this is new as to rules and regulations of a homeowners’ association because they were added to the definition of the term “governing documents” as set out in Section 720.301(8), F.S. when the Statute was amended in 2015, effective in July of that year.

Due to the fact that many homeowners’ associations have not recorded their rules and regulations in the public records of the county, consideration should be given to recording all of the rules and regulations, particularly if there are plans to amend them.  Failing to record the rules and regulations prior to (or at the same time as) recording an amendment will possibly create what is termed a “wild” amendment, which is not connected in the public records to the document it is trying to amend.  Additionally, if an amendment to the rules and regulations must be recorded in order to be effective, it is logical to conclude that the initial rules and regulations must also be recorded in order to be effective. Under Section 720.303 F.S., all governing documents are required to be recorded in the public records.  Therefore, a homeowners’ association should record its rules and regulations in the public records in order to avoid this possible claim against the legal effectiveness of the rules when it becomes necessary for the association to enforce its rules against an owner.

As with any other amendment to the governing documents for a homeowners’ association, within thirty (30) days after recording an amendment to the governing documents, the homeowners’ association must provide notice of the change to the Members. This is accomplished either by sending a copy of the recorded amendment to the members or, if a copy of the amendment was provided to the members before they approved it (for those communities with owner approval requirements for rules) and the amendment was not changed before the vote, a notice providing that the amendment was adopted, identifying the official book and page number or instrument number of the recorded amendment, and that a copy of the amendment is available at no charge to the member upon written request to the association.

While the consequences of this new legislation may have been unintended, it is the law until amended otherwise or an appellate court makes a contrary ruling. Although this will likely result in some minor additional costs to homeowners’ associations, this is a good opportunity for a board of directors to examine their existing rules and regulations and update them prior to recording them among the public records.  It is also recommended that you have experienced Association counsel review any proposed rules and regulations prior to approving them to ensure that they are enforceable and do not unnecessarily expose the Association to liability (e.g., Fair Housing violations).

APPELLATE COURT CLARIFIES MATERIAL ALTERATION APPROVAL REQUIREMENTS FOR CONDOMINIUMS

As condominiums age, boards of directors choose to update and refurbish the common elements from time to time.  Quite often the updates involve changing the appearance and the materials being used, such as replacing carpeting with tile flooring.  Such changes frequently become what is called a “material alteration or substantial addition” to the common elements.

Whether or not the choice to undertake a significant change to the common elements of the condominium is that of the board of directors or must be put before the unit owners for a vote is always a concern that must be resolved before starting the project.  This is primarily due to the provisions of Section 718.113(2)(a) of Florida Statutes, which provides, in pertinent part, the following:

. . . there shall be no material alteration or substantial additions to the common elements or to real property which is association property, except in a manner provided in the declaration as originally recorded or as amended under the procedures provided therein. If the declaration as originally recorded or as amended under the procedures provided therein does not specify the procedure for approval of material alterations or substantial additions, 75 percent of the total voting interests of the association must approve the alterations or additions before the material alterations or substantial additions are commenced. . .

The Fourth District Court of Appeal was faced with that issue in the recent case of Lenzi v. Regency Tower Association, Inc.,Case No. 4D17-2507, June 20, 2018.  The Firm of Kaye Bender Rembaum provided representation to the Association in this case, which prevailed in its position.

The Regency Tower Association, Inc. (“Association) had decided, by a vote of the Board of Directors, to alter certain common element flooring from marble to tile.  Unit owner Lenzi objected to the Board making that decision, claiming it was a material alteration, requiring a vote of the unit owner.  The Declaration of Condominium for Regency Tower expressly authorizes the Board of Directors to make “alterations or improvements” to the common property without requiring a vote of the unit owners.  Lenzi claimed that because the Declaration did use the phrase “alteration” over “material alteration” required a vote of the owners.  When the Board declined to accept Lenzi’s interpretation, Lenzi filed for arbitration with the Division of Condominium to challenge the decision of the Board.

In arbitration, the arbitrator sided with the Association, issuing a ruling that the language of the Declaration is sufficiently clear to encompass the limitations set forth in the Statute.  Lenzi was not satisfied with the decision of the arbitrator so he appealed the decision to the Circuit Court, which likewise decided that the documents clearly provide for the authority in the Board of Directors and that decision was in compliance with the Statute.  The Circuit Court further found that the term “alteration” includes material alterations.

In its recent decision, the Appellate Court agrees with these conclusions, ruling that words of common usage should be given their plain and ordinary meaning.  The Appellate Court expressly stated that it would not arbitrarily limit the word “alteration” to exclude material alterations, finding that the word included all alterations and concluded that the Board had the authority in accordance with the Statute to make the change to the common element.

Whenever a condominium association is considering making changes to the common elements, the governing documents should be reviewed to make certain that this issue is sufficiently addressed and consult with counsel before making the change.  It is important to also be mindful that with the changes to the Statute that are effective July 1, 2018, the vote of the unit owners is required to occur “before the material alterations or substantial additions are commenced.”  Unfortunately, this statutory change fails to include what might happen if the vote does not occur prior to the alterations being completed.

There is currently no similar provision in Chapter 720 F.S. regarding homeowner’s associations.  In these situations, the provisions of the governing documents will determine the issue.  If there is no limitation on the alteration of the common properties or requirement of a vote of the owners in such event, the decision will typically be that of the board.  Confirmation from qualified counsel is recommended.

Three Kaye Bender Rembaum Attorneys Receive New Florida Bar Certification as Specialists in Condominium and Planned Development Law

Kaye Bender Rembaum is pleased to announce that the Florida Bar has confirmed that three of its attorneys, founding and Managing Member Robert L. Kaye, Firm Member Andrew B. Black and Senior Associate Allison L. Hertz, are among the inaugural class of esteemed attorneys to be officially certified by the Florida Bar in the new area of Condominium and Planned Development Law. The new certification became effective as of June 1, 2018.

Board Certification is the highest level of recognition by the Florida Bar and recognizes attorneys’ special knowledge, skills and proficiency in various areas of law, and professionalism and ethics in practice. Only Certified attorneys may utilize terms such as “specialist”, “expert”, and/or “B.C.S.” (Board Certified Specialist) when referring to their legal credentials. Board Certified Florida Bar Members are rigorously evaluated for professionalism and tested for their expertise in their areas of law. According to the Florida Bar, certification is the highest evaluation of attorneys’ competency. Attorneys must meet stringent application criteria before officially becoming certified, including satisfactory peer review as it relates to character, ethics and professionalism, satisfying the certification area’s higher level of continuing legal education requirements and passing a rigorous examination.

Robert Kaye, Andrew Black and Allison Hertz are especially honored and proud to be among the Florida Bar’s inaugural class to receive this particular certification. The Firm is pleased to not only offer its clients the high quality legal services that they are accustomed to receive from all of its attorneys but to also have available board certified legal services with this designation in this area of law.

Those Certified account for less than one percent (1%) of nearly 118,000 Florida lawyers. Thus far, only 127 lawyers obtained this new Certification. The Florida Bar website maintains a free online directory of all Board Certified attorneys, categorized by specialty area. You may find it at FloridaBar.org/certification.

The Benefits of Associations Obtaining FHA Certification

Significant changes in the real estate financial markets have occurred in recent months which suggest the need for Communities to seek certification from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for mortgage loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).  Continue reading

Appellate Court Order Protects Lenders

One of the most common concerns among community associations today is the number of lender foreclosures that are taking place within their communities, and, more particularly, the length of time it has been taking for the lender to complete the foreclosure.  Continue reading

2009 Legislative Changes in the Not-For-Profit Corporation Act

The Legislative Session for 2009 did not result in significant changes being made to the Condominium Act (Chapter 718 F.S.) or to the Homeowners’ Association Statute (Chapter 720 F.S.). Continue reading