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Condos & Contractors: What Are Your Rights?

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Especially in today’s economy, more and more business is done via the use of independent contractors, especially in areas like landscaping and other skilled trades. While this can eliminate certain issues, it can create others, especially when one or both parties may not be familiar with the law as it applies to condominium boards. It can also make a difference if you yourself decide to contract with your condo board. All these situations can cause problems if one is not prepared to deal with them.

The Board Makes The Rules

The most common issue involving contractors is when a condo board engages contractors to handle repairs or upkeep around the property, and there is a dispute about the scope or locations permissible for the project. The Florida Condominium Act states explicitly that the association is the entity that must engage with independent contractors or other maintenance personnel, rather than the unit owner – the unit owner does not have any authority to speak on behalf of their entire condo association solely by virtue of owning a unit in the building.

A unit owner may make certain modifications to their own unit if they receive written permission, such as if a unit owner wishes to modify their own unit for the sake of accessibility under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). However, any vendor or contractor who contracts with the association is not answerable to any individual owner – if they were, conflicting directives would almost certainly lead to chaos. There are rare, specific situations where an owner vote may be required, such as debating significant modifications to common areas, but absent these instances, owners have no say in maintenance or upkeep decisions.

Liability Issues

Other frequent issues that may appear regarding independent contractors have to do with liability for injury or property damage, and the issue can be quite complex. Generally, at least for property damage, independent contractor liability is basically that of any random actor, because independent contractors are not employees. It can be difficult to determine which status a worker on your property may have, especially if the association did the hiring, but it is possible to notify your condo board of an incident and then allow them to handle any issues.

Your condo board is generally not liable for any injury an independent contractor (or their employees or subcontractors) might sustain, under Florida law. However, if you as a unit owner actively meddle or otherwise obstruct their work, you may wind up exposing the board to liability, because independent contractors  – the case of Umile v. Volpe (2013) illustrates this well. Plaintiff sued the homeowner for promising to hold a ladder for him as he descended from the attic, and then failing to position it properly, leading to a significant injury. The court held that because the homeowner took an active role in the situation, and if he had not, the plaintiff’s injury would not have occurred, Mr. Volpe could be held liable. If you interfere with a contractor’s work and they are injured, your condo board will likely be liable due to your actions.

Contact An Experienced Attorney

It can be disconcerting to have an independent contractor in your home, especially if you are legally prevented from supervising their work. However, keeping the balance between your rights and the duties of your condo board can prevent significant issues in the future. If you live in a condominium and you have questions or concerns about this issue, a skilled condo law attorney may be able to help. Steven A. Mason, P.A. and his Hollywood condo law firm are happy to try and assist. Contact the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. for legal advice at 954-963-5900 or leave a message online.

Resources:

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0718/0718.html

irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/independent-contractor-self-employed-or-employee

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