Condo & HOA Law, Treasure Coast Palm

Treasure Coast Palm Q&A | June 15, 2020

Editor’s note: Attorneys at Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC, 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, litigation, estate planning and business law.

I am on the board of directors of my condominium building. We have a resident that over the years has developed animosity with many others in the building and especially with the board. He is now submitting requests for various association official records on a weekly basis. It is taking up a great deal of our time to comply with all of the requests, as we are required to do under the statute. Is there anything we can do to stop him from continuing to make these unnecessary requests? I am fairly certain he doesn’t even care about the records (although maybe he hopes to “catch” the board doing something not by the book) but is simply doing this to antagonize us.

K.G., Sunrise, FL

A: Assuming that this owner is making the requests in writing, the association must comply with the statute and provide the records. Pursuant to Section 718.111(12)(b), Florida Statutes, the association must provide access to the records within ten (10) working days after receipt of the written request. Depending on how you are providing the records, there may be an easier, more efficient way to give this owner the records which could save you some time. For example, the statute allows the association to offer the option of making the records available to a unit owner electronically via the Internet or by allowing the records to be viewed in electronic format on a computer screen and printed upon request. In addition, pursuant to Section 718.111(12)(c), Florida Statutes, “the association may adopt reasonable rules regarding the frequency, time, location, notice, and manner of record inspections and copying.” Therefore, if the association currently has no rules in place, it may be a good idea to institute new rules pertaining to records request. For example, the association can require that all records requests be submitted on a certain association form or limit the number of times records can be requested within a certain time period (i.e. owners cannot request the same record more than one time in a twelve (12) month period). Although you cannot prohibit this owner (or any owner) from being able to make records requests of the association, these are a few options for the association to attempt to cut down on the time spent on one vindictive owner’s constant requests.

Q: My condo is holding its annual elections for the board of directors this month. Two other owners and I are running for the board as we are tired of the way the association has been run for the past few years by the current board. There are 5 members total on the board but only 3 of the seats are up for election this year. The 2 board members whose seats are not up for election slipped a letter under the door of every unit in the building endorsing the 3 board members to keep their board seats and encouraging the owners to vote for them over us. The letter overexaggerates the accomplishments of the board over the past few years and does not mention any of the negative aspects of their time on the board. Is the current board allowed to spread propaganda like this to protect their friends’ board seats?

A: All candidates for a board seat are permitted to campaign. In fact, pursuant to Section, 718.112(4)(a), Florida Statutes, at least thirty-five (35) days prior to the election date, each candidate may submit a candidate information sheet which may describe the candidate’s background, education, and qualifications. The association may not edit, alter, or modify the content of the information sheet, and the association must furnish copy to each owner. The candidate information sheets must accompany the ballots which are typically enclosed with the second notice of the election. However, the Association itself, through the board, may not endorse, disapprove, or comment on a candidate. Whether the letter that was sent was improper or not will depend on the nature and details of the letter itself. As you stated that the letter was slipped under each unit’s door and not mailed with the official notice of election or the candidate information sheets, that would seem to indicate that it is simple campaigning and should be allowed. Another consideration is whether the letter was on Association letterhead, or otherwise implied that it was coming from the Association, as opposed to being sent by the other two board members in their individual capacities. If the letter is from the two board members individually, then it is likely to be allowed.

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Avi S. Tryson, Esq., is Partner of the Law Firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross. Visit www.gadclaw.com or to ask questions about your issues for future columns, send your inquiry to: question@gadclaw.com. 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, Adamczyk, 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.