Monroe County, Florida Condominium & Homeowners’ Association Litigation

When you are choosing a place to live, the presence or absence of a homeowners’ or condominium owners’ association can make a big difference. Without one, life is simpler – no dues, no rules to abide by, fewer legal fetters regarding to whom who you may sell or will your property. With one, everyone has a stake in making the neighborhood a nice place to live, so there is more attention paid to potential problems like crime and appearance. However, even the best association may cause problems in some cases.

Condominium Disputes

In Florida, a person who owns a condominium owns their unit in fee simple, meaning there are no strings attached to the ownership itself. However, they are not purchasing it from an individual; essentially, they are buying into a small corporation – the condominium owners’ association – as either members or shareholders. The association has a fiduciary relationship with each unit owner, meaning that they owe each owner a degree of trust and fair dealing. Any common areas in the condominium complex are collectively owned.

Sections 718.11(2)-(10) lay out the rights of the condominium owners’ association, which includes those delineated under Chapter 607 and Chapter 617. However, 718.11(3) sets out clearly that the association may both sue and be sued in regard to a failure to exercise its powers properly. In some other states, alternative dispute resolution (such as arbitration) may be required to resolve such disputes, but in Florida, a standard lawsuit is permissible.

Most disputes between condominium owners and their associations have to do with covenants and bylaw infractions. Covenants are promises to do or not do something made in conjunction with taking title to real property. Most often, these covenants are said to run with the land, meaning that they are restrictive and cannot be lifted from the land itself – for example, most condominium associations mandate restrictive covenants that dictate the unit may only be used for residential purposes. However, there are other covenants that are more open to interpretation, such as the covenant of quiet enjoyment (the right to live peacefully and quietly in your own home), and very often, a condo owner will bring suit if these covenants are breached.

John Annesser

Any association may elect to change the color of their condominium, upon approval of the owners in many circumstances. You would want to look at the governing documents to determine who and how many of the members can make the determination whether to change those colors. Florida law has held that a change in the color of a condominium building is a material alteration to the common elements, and therefore requires the governing documents and/or Florida statutes to be followed with respect to such changes.

Homeowners’ Association Disputes

Homeowners’ associations (HOAs) differ slightly from condominium owners’ associations in that board elections and requirements for membership are different, and in that under most HOAs, any modification to the outer appearance of a home must be approved by the other members of the board (usually unanimously). Any common areas in the neighborhood are owned by the association or the board of directors, rather than being collectively owned as in a condo owners’ association.

The Florida HOA Act (Chapter 720.0 of the Florida Statutes) controls the rights of homeowners and the powers of the board of directors. One major requirement that is often seen in HOA agreements which is less common in condominiums is that sometimes, homeowners are required by their deed to submit any disagreements to mediation or another form of dispute resolution before resorting to bringing suit. It is imperative that you be aware if your deed holds any such restrictions, because bringing a suit in violation of that bylaw can cause significant trouble in the future.

A Legal Professional Can Help

If you have exhausted other remedies, and must settle issues in court, you need an experienced condo and homeowners’ association litigation attorney who will fight for you and your rights. The Silver Law Group is well versed in the ins and outs of this particular branch of Florida law, and we will do our best to get you what is rightfully yours. Contact us for a free consultation at our Islamorada office.

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