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Fining Committee Not a Rubber Stamp

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Q:        I am on the fining committee of our association. The management company expects us to “rubber stamp” every proposed fine, but that is not always our desire. We would like to correct behavior and are not in it for the money. Sometimes the board levies a fine that we think is excessive. Can we reduce the amount of the fine or are our choices to either accept it all together or throw it out all together? (J.O. via e-mail)

A:        The independent committee appointed by the board to review proposed fines can either “confirm” the fine or “reject” it. There is no option to reduce it. Your approach makes sense and used to be authorized by the law, but it no longer is.

Q:        I live in a community that is made up of both condominiums and single-family homes. The master association is in the process of amending its documents. However, there is a question as to whether our community is governed by Chapter 718 or Chapter 720? How can we tell? (V.B. via e-mail)

A:        It is desirable to have an opinion from legal counsel in determining what, if any, statutory regime applies to your community. This is one of the most fundamental legal issues you face. For Chapter 718 of the Florida Statutes, the Florida Condominium Act, to apply an association must meet the definition contained in Section 718.103(2) of the statute, which states that a condominium association is an entity responsible for the operation of common elements owned in undivided shares by the condominium unit owners, or is an entity which operates or maintains other real property in which condominium unit owners have use rights. Further, membership must be made up of exclusively condominium unit owners or their elected or appointed representatives. Therefore, if your community was made up of entirely condominium units, the master association would likely also be a condominium association. If your “single family homes” are not condominiums, it is likely that your “master association” is not governed by the Condominium Act.

If I had to guess, I would assume that you are governed by Chapter 720 of the Florida Statutes, the Florida Homeowners’ Association Act. In order to determine whether the master association is covered by the statute, it would be necessary to review the governing documents to confirm that membership is mandatory, that the association has lien rights in the event that assessments are unpaid, and that the use of the property is residential.

Q:        Recently, my condominium association sent out the notice of the annual meeting, which included a vote on amendments to our condominium documents. On the notice, it stated that the board was recommending approval of the proposed amendments. Is this appropriate? (S.A. via e-mail)

A:        Probably. Many condominium documents provide that amendments may be proposed either by a vote of a majority of the board of directors or by some percentage of the unit owners. If the board has voted to propose an amendment, the board may also vote to recommend approval of the proposed amendment. If the board properly proposes the amendment, and properly authorized including a favorable recommendation, it is appropriate for the materials sent out by the association in connection with the annual meeting, including the proxy form, to include the board’s recommendation.

Joe Adams is an attorney with Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., Fort Myers. Send questions to Joe Adams by e-mail to jadams@bplegal.com. Past editions may be viewed at floridacondohoalawblog.com

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