S. Kyla Thomson
Editor’s note: Attorneys at Goede, DeBoest & Cross respond to questions about Florida community association law. With offices in Naples, Fort Myers, Coral Gables and Boca Raton, the firm represents community associations throughout Florida and focuses on condominium and homeowner association law, real estate law, litigation, estate planning and business law.
Q: My condominium association is undergoing a large common area renovation. At the beginning of the project, the Board and the management company announced that we had enough reserves and other operating funds to undertake the renovation without a special assessment. Recently, they announced that a special assessment was needed in order to finish the renovation. The amount of the proposed special assessment is more than half of the budgeted amount for the whole renovation. As you can imagine, the owners are very upset as these renovations were mostly for aesthetic purposes. There are even some owners who believe there may be something suspicious going on as it relates to the amounts being charged to the association by its vendors. What are our options? –M.D., Hollywood
A: This is certainly not an easy situation. If your association has not already done so, I recommend getting its legal counsel involved to ensure that the terms of the contract for each vendor is being upheld and there are no unnecessary charges. Unfortunately, it may also be a situation where the Board may not have budgeted properly or anticipated the number of change orders that were required as the vendors began their work. As an owner, I recommend getting an understanding of the situation. It would be helpful if you are able to view the original budget for the project, the different contracts involved and any change orders that may have been signed, as well as the payments made by the association to these vendors. You are able to obtain these documents through an official records request. If these renovations are not necessary, the question for the association as a whole is whether it is worth continuing the renovation now in light of the large special assessment. If the association decides not to move forward, the Board will need to review the vendor contracts to determine whether it may terminate these contracts with little to no consequences for the association.
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Meeting requirements: Is lengthy advance notice needed for budget board meeting?
Q: We are a small 20-unit condominium association. With the increasing cost of expenses, we are looking to save as much as possible. This is why we want to get everyone to consent to electronic notice and electronic voting. The issue is that there are a few people who do not want to consent to electronic notice and voting. They are worried that they will miss emails from the association and also question the integrity of the electronic voting. Can we amend our governing documents to force electronic notice and electronic voting in the association? –S.T., Fort Lauderdale
A: Unfortunately, no. Chapter 718, F.S. provides that the owners must consent to both electronic notice and electronic voting. I don’t think amending your governing documents to require electronic notice and electronic voting will negate the requirement that the owner has to first consent to it.
Q: My upstairs neighbor’s water heater flooded his unit and caused water damage to my unit. The association has come in and replaced my water-damaged ceiling. But, I’ve incurred expenses in drying out my unit and also ruined personal property. Do I have a claim against my upstairs neighbor for his water heater flooding? —J.C., Hillsboro Beach
A: Maybe. The answer to your question depends on whether your neighbor was negligent in maintaining his water heater. Your Declaration of Condominium likely requires each owner to maintain his/her own water heater. The question is whether your neighbor failed in maintaining his water heater. This is a fact-specific discussion as you will need to know the age of the water heater, if the neighbor was maintaining it properly, and whether he knew that it was failing but ignored the issue. I recommend speaking with an attorney regarding this possible claim.
S. Kyla Thomson, Esq., is a Partner of the Law Firm Goede, DeBoest & Cross. Visit www.gadclaw.com to ask questions about your issues for future columns or send your inquiry to: [email protected]. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, DeBoest & Cross, or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.