Florida Condo Board Members & Fiduciary Duty
Almost every condominium building is run by an association, which then nominates or elects a board of directors. While every unit owner is an association member, the board of directors is generally a smaller group, and may include a professional property manager or management company, as well as unit owners. In Florida, both the board of directors and the individual board members have specific duties and obligations – the board members, in particular, have what is known as a fiduciary duty toward the condo association and those who make up its membership. The concept of fiduciary duty can be somewhat difficult to understand, but it is an important concept to understand, both as a board member or as part of a condominium association.
Acting In Someone Else’s Best Interests
Florida law states explicitly that “the officers and directors of an association have a fiduciary relationship to the unit owners.” What this means is that the board of directors, both as individuals and as an entity, have the obligation to act in the best interests of the unit owners at all times. For an individual, a fiduciary may be an attorney or a certified public accountant (CPA); for a condo association made up of tens if not hundreds of owners, the board of directors fills that role. Essentially, the association has authorized the board to act on their behalf, assuming that it will act in the members’ best interests.
There are several obligations that a condo board may be required to manage to keep the condominium building or buildings running properly – for example, establishing and maintaining a budget, maintaining the common elements on the premises, and, since the recent modification to Florida’s condo laws came into effect, determining assessments and setting aside money for needed repairs. While in theory, a failure to perform any of these obligations may be grounds for legal intervention, Florida’s law has historically operated differently.
The Business Judgment Rule
Florida is historically a state that has been friendly to corporations, even small ones like (most) condo associations. This pattern has not changed; the state is one of the few to honor what is known as the business judgment rule. In Florida law, the business judgment rule essentially means that unless the board of directors (or individual officials of the board) displays “fraud, self-dealing, dishonesty or incompetency” in their decisions, those decisions will be presumed appropriate by the courts.
The distinction between mere negligence and ‘fraud, self-dealing, dishonesty or incompetency’ is not always clear-cut. However, if you are uncertain as to whether your condo board or a member may have acted in a way that breaches their fiduciary duty, it may be a good idea to contact an attorney. If a board member breaches their duty, they are not only letting you down, but the entire association. In extreme cases, a board member’s behavior can even lead to tragedy – for example, if the 2021 collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside had been traced to the “self-dealing” or “incompetency” of the board, that person would be facing serious consequences.
Contact A Hollywood, FL Condominium Association Attorney
Florida condominium law is mostly straightforward, laid out in the Florida Condominium Act and a few other relevant laws. However, it is crucial to never forget that your relationship with the condo association and its board of directors should be a two-way street – a failure to uphold one’s fiduciary duty is often actionable. A Hollywood condo association attorney from the Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. may be able to help you with your questions or concerns. Contact us today to speak to an attorney.