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.