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Associations Can Require a Key

Q: I recently received an e-mail from my condominium association asking for a key to my unit. I have a problem with the board having a key to my unit. Am I required to provide a key? Can the association enter my unit at any time? (J.M. via e-mail)

A. Florida law gives your association the irrevocable right of access to your unit. However, this does not mean that the board can enter your at any time, for any reason. The association can access your unit during “reasonable hours” when it is necessary for the maintenance, repair or replacement of the common elements or of any portion of your unit that is required to be maintained by the association.

The right of access provide by the Condominium Act has been interpreted by the state agency which regulates condominiums to be broad enough to support a requirement that unit owners must provide keys to their unit to the association. Therefore, if your association’s declaration requires unit owners to provide keys to the association, I believe the provision is enforceable. If the requirement arises from a board action, there is more room for debate, but the prevailing view is that such rules are generally enforceable as well.

Unless there is an emergency, the association should provide reasonable notice to you before accessing your unit. The association’s acceptance of keys imposes a duty to handle the keys in a reasonable fashion. For associations that require owners to provide pass keys, it is a good idea for the board to establish policies addressing safety measures such as how the keys will be stored and who will have access to the keys.

Q: I live in a gated community that is governed by a homeowners’ association. I am a veteran and I often display my American flag outside my home. I intend to display the same flag for other holidays and days of remembrance. I recently received a letter from the board of directors of my association complaining about my “unapproved” flag. Can my association prevent me from displaying my flag on Labor Day? (L.F. via e-mail)

A: Section 720.304(2) of the Florida Homeowners’ Association Act states that any homeowner may display one portable, removable United States flag or official flag of Florida in a “respectful” manner, and one portable, removable official flag that is not larger than 4 ½ feet by 6 feet, which represents the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, or a POW MIA flag regardless of any covenants, restrictions, bylaws, rules or requirements of the association. A homeowner may also erect a freestanding flagpole not more than 20 feet high on any portion of the homeowner’s real property, regardless of any covenants, restrictions, bylaws, rules or requirements of the association as long as the flagpole does not obstruct sightlines at intersections and is not erected within or upon an easement.

Additionally, in 2005, Congress passed the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act to ensure that the right of an individual to display the United States flag on residential property not be abridged. The law generally provides that a condominium association, cooperative, or residential real estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association. It is important to note, however, the law does permit associations to adopt reasonable restrictions pertaining to the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag of the United States necessary to protect a substantial interest of the association.

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

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