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At MLG Business Litigation Group, our Florida condominium/HOA dispute attorneys know that nearly 74 million Americans — who account for roughly 27% of the nation’s population — live in homeowner’s associations, condominium communities, or housing cooperatives, which are collectively referred to as community associations or planned communities.
According to the National and State Statistical Review for Community Association Data, nearly 9.6 million of those individuals live in an estimated 48,500 community associations in Florida, which have been growing consistently and successfully for decades.
With ongoing growth in owner and association partnership, disputes between condominium owners and their associations can quickly become combative with each party relying on their interpretation of the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions, and Easements (CC&Rs), articles of incorporation, bylaws, and any separate rules and regulations to protect their interests during their disagreement.
When the dispute cannot be handled internally, our Florida attorneys can help you sort through the legalese to ensure your rights are protected, and the proper party is held liable for their part in the conflict.
Since community associations are divided into different sections, including the individual units, general common areas, and limited or exclusive use areas, each is owned and maintained by a different party.
Generally, individual unit owners are responsible for maintaining their separate interests — or the area within their unit’s walls — and the HOA must inspect general and limited common areas regularly to ensure that they are well maintained.
The location where the broken pipes, fire sprinklers, and air conditioning fails will dictate the responsible party, which is often a gray area that requires an experienced attorney to interpret, so liability can be placed with the proper party. We can help determine who is responsible to place an end to the dispute.
When faulty windows, doors, balconies, or other construction defects become a concern for condominium owners, most exterior improvements fall into the category of HOA maintenance.
To determine where the initial problem occurred, an inspection may be required — in addition to the required and recurring reserve study inspections — to determine the source of the defect, but that should not change who is responsible to maintain, repair, or replace the elevated structures, as the HOA is obligated with those duties.
If the dispute remains, our Florida attorneys can help set the record straight, so maintenance can proceed according to the appropriate HOA bylaws.
Each HOA has a Board of Directors that is charged with making decisions regarding maintenance and general upkeep of the property, which requires hiring vendors to perform various tasks, including landscaping, property management, insurance, maintenance, property management, accounting, and even legal contracts.
Regardless of the type of contract, each signed by the Board of Directors is done so on behalf of the association and will typically contain certain common provisions. When those agreements are made without the authorization of the association, or when they are not being honored, our clients require a legal remedy to enforce a breach of contract or hold the Board accountable for eschewing the proper channels to make an agreement they were not authorized to make.
The legal relationship between the owners and the HOA often comes down to the owner being responsible for any damage caused to HOA property by their guests or renters. However, the HOA must be able to prove who caused the damage before they can pursue the financial recovery necessary to repair it. This dispute will also require a clear understanding of the CC&Rs, articles of incorporation, and bylaws, which our experienced attorneys can help outline.
Developer turnover is the transfer of property control and ownership between developers and property owners or homeowners.
In short, the process turns the property’s building regulations, rules and codes, and residential policies over to the HOA. Without a proper transfer, the new owners — the owners of the individual properties — could be left with problematic construction assets.
The developer is responsible for transferring all items and documents over to the HOA. If they fail to do so, and problems arise, our skilled Florida attorneys can help.
Homeowners’ association and resident disputes are quite common, whether they are caused by personality conflicts or the interpretation of the CC&Rs, articles of incorporation, and bylaws, there must be an effective strategy for dealing with disputes.
If the dispute cannot be handled internally, our experienced Florida attorneys can help solve the conflict through mediation and dispute resolution to minimize the time and money it takes to resolve the issues.
Our Florida laws require HOA boards to outline their voting process and the associations’ operational responsibility to oversee fair electoral processes.
When issues arise regarding election abuse by postponing meetings, voter intimidation, proxy voting, or altering ballots, they must be held accountable for violating the organization’s electoral rules that are listed in the governing bylaws under their Elections of Trustees or Meetings of Members sections.
Membership voting in homeowner’s associations occurs in connection with electing a Board of Directors, special assessments of fees, and increases in fees or items that pertain to the Board, including the removal of board members.
Voting rights and meeting procedures are extremely important for community association members, as it affects their ownership and the use of their property. If improper election procedures are removing the owners’ votes from the process, it may be a direct violation of the HOA bylaws and the responsible party should be held accountable.
Selective enforcement is when the HOA implements or applies a particular rule against only one homeowner, or a small group of homeowners, but does not enforce that same rule against the entire community. This is a tactic that is often used to punish one group for their behavior, the way they vote, or to try to drive them away from the Association. It is also illegal.
One common feature of living in an HOA-governed community is that the owners pay monthly dues to the association to cover maintenance and repairs. Special assessments are additional monthly expenses to pay for repairs that are deemed necessary but cost more than HOA has in its reserve fund, which is often the result of poor budgeting.
If an improper special assessment is the result of an overreaching condominium association board or property management company, we will review your development’s governing documents to determine whether any restrictions might limit the HOA’s ability to levy special assessments.
Most HOA declarations or bylaws will outline the association’s right to charge an administrative late fee not to exceed the greater of $25 or 5% of the amount of each HOA fee installment that is paid past the due date.
Late fees and interest may also accrue on special assessments, and if no rate is provided in the declaration or bylaws, in the state of Florida, interest accrues at the rate of 18% per year.
When these fees are not paid, the HOA may place a lien on the owner’s property, which places their home in jeopardy of foreclosure. If it gets to this stage, an experienced attorney must get involved, and we can help outline the details of the case to propose an equitable resolution.
The HOA is responsible for maintaining the common areas of the community, which is financially supported by the owners’ dues each month. When the HOA fails to maintain the premises, and someone gets hurt in a slip and fall, elevator accident, swimming pool incident, or during an assault due to inadequate security, they may be liable for the losses resulting from these injuries.
In Florida, an HOA may not file a record of lien against a parcel for unpaid assessments unless a written notice or demand for past due assessments has been made by the association.
The written notice or demand must provide the owner with 45 days following the date of the notice to make payment for all amounts due.
If the owner does not comply, an HOA lien — a legal claim or hold on a piece of property — will require the HOA to go to court over a homeowner member’s delinquent dues and attempt to convince the court to issue a judgment, which can be obtained against the members’ home.
If an HOA has a lien on a homeowner’s property, it may foreclose.
When selling a property that is managed by an HOA, the seller must present potential buyers with a specific disclosure of the implied contractual obligations, including payment of maintenance fees, and restrictions limiting the use and occupancy of a property.
Buyers have the right to review the HOA’s Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions, and Easements, articles of incorporation, bylaws, any separate rules and regulations, and financial history before they close on a home, including notice of any outstanding HOA fees.
When a condo owner places their unit on the market, they must present potential buyers with all the facts related to the HOA, CC&Rs, and any outstanding tax and/or insurance issues.
While buyers should do their due diligence when purchasing a condo unit, full disclosure is required by the seller, so the buyer is not unwittingly purchasing a unit that will cost much more than their initial budget reflected.
Before selling a condo unit, contact our skilled Florida attorneys to ensure the HOA documentation is professionally sourced and prepared, so the buyer is fully aware of the agreement. If you are buying a condo, allow our attorneys to review the paperwork before the purchase, so we can raise any questions or concerns before the sale is final.
Vendor contracts are binding documents that boards must take seriously. Without mutual assent, terminating a valid vendor contract is not easy, and will typically end in a lawsuit against the association, which may be mitigated by first speaking with an attorney who can help determine where the contract was breached by the vendor to ease the termination process without going to court.
At MLG Business Litigation Group, our Florida attorneys provide our clients with real-time legal solutions that allow them to put their challenges behind them and move forward with confidence. Contact our skilled Florida business litigation attorneys today by calling (786) 706-9228 for a free case evaluation.