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Leftover Funds Must Be Returned or Credited

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Q: Our association levied a special assessment after Hurricane Irma for cleaning up our property and repairing some minor damage to the buildings. The damages were not bad enough to reach our insurance deductible. The board ended up spending quite a bit less than they assessed for, and decided to put the left over money in our reserves. Is this legal? I thought the board had to return the money to us? (J.S., via e-mail)

A: Section 718.116(10) of the Florida Condominium Act says that funds collected pursuant to a special assessment may only be used for the purpose or purposes for which the assessment was levied.

Any unused funds from a special assessment must be either be returned to the unit owners or can be credited against future assessments. Therefore, it would not generally be permissible to simply move the excess funds into a reserve account unless they related to a proper assessment that had actually been made, in which case they could be applied as a credit.

Q: I have read all of your columns on the back and forth opinions on term limits for condominium boards. My question is whether, setting aside the statute, we can put term limits in our own bylaws. (T.C., via e-mail)

A: Yes.

My latest post on this issue was my column dated June 10, 2019 entitled “Agency Revisits Term Limit Issue.” As noted therein, the Florida regulatory agency with jurisdiction over condominiums recently indicated it would look at the 2018 term limit statute as being prospective in application only.

However, “private” or “internal” term limits contained in the bylaws are permissible and specifically authorized by Section 718.112(2)(d) of the Florida Condominium Act.

Q: We have an association that is responsible for more than 300 condominium units. Our association evolved over time due to the “merger” of a number of different associations the developer had originally set up in our development. My question is about the new website law. Our association has one but it does not contain all of the information required by the new law. Our manager claims that the attorney has advised we do not have to follow the law. I thought we did because we are over 150 units. What is the rule on this? (F.M., via e-mail)

A: It depends.

The original law, enacted in 2017, required any association “with 150 or more units” to comply. Although that term left something to be desired in terms of legal precision, it would have probably applied to your community.

Section 718.111(12)(g) of the Florida Condominium Act was amended effective July 1, 2018 to provide that the law mandating websites for condominium associations, and containing specific requirements regarding what had to be posted on those websites, only applied to associations  “managing a condominium with 150 or more units.”

I would surmise that your association is what is known as a “multi-condominium association,” resulting from the mergers. Unless any of the individual condominiums under the jurisdiction of your association contained 150 or more units, the new law would not apply and the board would have the authority to decide the website’s set-up and content.

Q: Several unit owners in my condominium want to replace the builder installed windows with impact glass. The new impact glass windows will look different and some on the board consider the change a material alteration requiring seventy-five percent approval of all members. Is this correct? (D.M., via e-mail)

A: Section 718.113(5)(c) of the Florida Condominium Act states that the installation of code-compliant impact glass windows and doors, as well as other types of code-compliant hurricane protection, is not a material alteration pursuant to the statute. Therefore, it would not be necessary to get membership approval to allow the installation of such code-compliant hurricane protection, including impact glass windows. However, the board would still have the authority to adopt standards and specification for the installation of new windows, such as color and style requirements, and should do so it if has not.

This article originally appeared on News-Press.

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