Q: A unit owner in my condo building hasn’t paid their assessments in a long time, and the board has liened the unit. The owner is trying to rent her unit, but it needs some repairs before it’s in a condition where it can be rented. Our board is thinking about paying for the repairs in exchange for all of the rent being paid to the association until the back assessments and the repair costs have been paid. Is this legal?
– I..T., Palm Bay
A: The first thing to do is to review would be your association’s governing documents in order to confirm that the board has the authority to do the repairs, and if the board does have the authority, what is needed to authorize the board to do the repairs (i.e. can the board decide on their own, do they need approval from the membership, etc.). If the board is authorized to do the repairs, the second to do is to is to determine the risk versus the reward, because if the association does the repairs, the association could be taking on unnecessary liability, including but not limited to, liability for the contents of the unit (i.e. if a contractor steals any of the personal property that’s in the unit during the construction), liability for the condition of the unit that’s not being worked on (i.e. if the contractor damages another part of the unit), and any liability for the workmanship in connection with the repairs. Additionally, if the owner takes a while to rent the unit, or the unit is rented to a tenant who damages the unit, then that would have a ripple effect on the owner’s and the association’s finances. In summary, the action by the board to complete the repairs might be legal, but the risk might outweigh the reward.
Editor’s note: Attorneys at Goede, DeBoest & Cross respond to questions about Florida community association law. The firm represents community associations throughout Florida and focuses on condominium and homeowner association law, real estate law, civil litigation, estate planning and commercial transactions.