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Virus Still Raising Questions For Associations

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Q: There have been so many orders and news conferences from the governor regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you give us a quick overview of what orders that apply to community associations are still in effect? (R.D., via e-mail)

A: On March 9, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-52 declaring a state of emergency for the State of Florida regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. That order remains in effect and has relevance to the frequently debated scope of “emergency powers” available to community association boards under the applicable housing statutes.

To some degree, the Governor has taken a “hands off” or “local rule” approach to many issues, leaving it to local government to provide direction regarding use of public facilities, rental policies, and other issues. Accordingly, many of the Governor’s Executive Orders have been followed by and supplemented with County, City and Town Orders.

Effective on June 5, 2020, Executive Order 20-139 moved us into “Phase 2” of Florida’s recovery plan, which remains in effect for the duration of Executive Order 20-166, which is presently set to expire September 5, 2020. As to individual activity, this Order encourages people to avoid congregating in groups larger than 50 persons, and to follow social distancing and sanitation and safety protocols. The elderly and high-risk individuals are strongly encouraged to avoid crowds and take measures to limit risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Effective on August 5, 2020, Executive Order 20-192 rescinded the travel restriction which had been put in place since the end of March, requiring travelers from areas of substantial community spread to quarantine for 14 days. While the so-called tri-state area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) was specifically mentioned, other areas were also then considered hot spots.

On May 18, 2020, Executive Order 20-123 allowed short-term rental lodging establishments in the State of Florida to open consistent with each counties’ plan submitted to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation for approval. However, as recently as July 16, 2020, as a result of a spike in numbers, certain cities have had to re-close. For example, the City of Miami Beach recently ordered short-term rentals and vacation rentals to close until the Miami-Dade County State of Local Emergency expires.

Q: Must a resignation letter from a director be a signed document or would an e-mail be sufficient? Please explain. (R.F., via e-mail)

A: While the law requires that resignations to be in writing, there is no requirement in the statute that they be signed. In the absence of any case law construing the statute more strictly, it is my opinion that an e-mail from a known e-mail address for that director is sufficient.

The resignation would be effective on the date received by the association, unless a later date is stated. Unless provided otherwise in the governing documents, a majority of the remaining directors have the authority to fill the vacancy for its unexpired term.

Q: There has been discussion about our condominium association board purchasing new pool furniture. Many of us feel that the owners should be entitled to vote on the issue. Are we correct? (J.M., via e-mail)

A: Normally, the requirement for a “material alteration vote” does not apply to personal property, but rather is limited to real property. The authority to purchase personal property is normally reserved to the board of directors.

However, if the declaration of condominium defines the common elements to include the personal property of the association, then a different analysis applies and the result may be different. Also, some documents place specific limits on the board’s expenditure or assessment authority, which could also come into play and act as a limitation. Further, if nonscheduled reserve funds were being used to fund the purchase, an owner vote would be required by law.

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