Disputes That Do Not Require Arbitration
In Florida, the majority of condominium-related disputes are subject to non-binding arbitration. Arbitration is held out as the method for remedy in several state statutes, and the nature of the disputes to be arbitrated is clearly laid out. However, there are many varieties of dispute that one may have with one’s condominium association that are explicitly excluded from arbitration under Florida law. It can be difficult to figure out the steps for pursuing such cases.
When Is Arbitration Required?
Certain types of disagreements between tenants and condo or homeowners’ associations are required, under Florida law, to be decided via non-binding arbitration with the state’s Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR). These include failures on the part of an association (failures to conduct appropriate elections, for example, or failure to conduct meetings in an acceptable manner), objection to a potential eviction or termination of a lease, and many others.
The common thread in these potential causes of action is that they all involve an action (or inaction) on the part of the board itself. Where the condo board or homeowners’ association is said to have acted wrongly, or to have not performed a required action, arbitration is the remedy mandated by Florida law. If one examines the causes of action for which mediation and/or civil suit are recommended, one can see that they all involve potential questions of law, or of by-laws, as opposed to critiquing actions. When law is at issue, it is only proper to refer a dispute to the courts.
Mediation & State Court
If your dispute is excluded from the arbitration statutes, the appropriate forum for its adjudication is usually state court. In extremely rare cases the suit may be moved to federal court, but only if (1) there is diversity jurisdiction, meaning the parties are from different jurisdictions; or (2) the amount in controversy is over $75,000. Examples of such bones of contention include:
- The levying of assessments against a party, fairly or unfairly;
- Warranty disputes;
- Alleged breaches of fiduciary duty;
- Actions for injunctive relief; and
With condo disputes, mediation is not necessarily required, but it is an option, and either party can request a referral to a mediator. However, if you are dealing with a homeowners’ association, as opposed to a condo board, you should be aware that some disputes require pre-suit mediation before any cause of action can be filed in state court. Examples include covenant enforcement disputes (such as any proposed change to common areas), disagreements over access to association records, and issues encountered at non-election membership meetings.
Contact A Real Estate Dispute Attorney
Homeowners’ and condo owners’ associations do a lot for their tenants, but at times, it can be difficult to reach an accord with them. Having an experienced legal professional on your side can help immeasurably. The Hollywood condo dispute lawyers at the firm of Steven A. Mason, P.A. will be happy to help you through the process of dispute resolution, be it in court, with a mediator, or at an arbitrator’s table. 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.