The Rights of Condo Owners
If you own a condominium, you have certain rights as an owner, and also as a member of the condo board if you are named or elected to it. However, there is a lot of misinformation and variable practices that go on depending on the preferences of the association. It is important to understand what your rights are both under the law and under your bylaws, because with rare exceptions, once the board has made a ruling, there are not many opportunities to appeal or seek redress.
Participating In Board Meetings
One hot topic in recent years is the level to which condo owners can participate in board meetings. For example, the Florida Condominium Act grants board members the right to call into meetings or use other electronic meetings like Skype, but says nothing about seasonal unit owners. This does not mean that your association may not grant that right to seasonal owners, but it does not have to, and there is no redress available to a seasonal owner who claims themselves injured by this.
Another often-debated topic is the manner in which votes are taken. The Condominium Act specifies certain bylaws that must be observed by all condo associations in the state, which includes voting procedures. While some electronic voting is permissible, one item that is generally held to be outside the scope of the law, at least as of this writing, is voting by e-mail. While it may make sense to many associations to allow it, the relevant statute does not – the rationale is that votes must take place at a duly noticed meeting. Board members, by comparison, are explicitly prohibited from voting by email, though they can use it to ask questions about a vote.
Another issue that may come up with some associations is the question of owner control over the association’s budget. Generally, unit owners do not have the right to approve the budget as a whole – such a decision is left to the board, unless specifically allowed in your association’s bylaws. However, owners do have the right to comment and suggest alternatives, especially if certain barriers are crossed (for example, if the assessment for any given year exceeds the past year’s by more than 100 percent).
Be advised that budget issues, among other specified disputes, must go through via alternative dispute resolution (for example, mediation) before one may be permitted to file suit in court. The rationale is spelled out in the relevant statute – too many disputes crowd dockets and cost parties significant time and trouble, when alternative dispute resolution can very often settle the issue much more quickly and in a less costly manner. While this is not always the case – hence the statute not explicitly forbidding lawsuits – many issues of this type are resolved in mediation, hence it being required before going to the courts.
Call A Knowledgeable Attorney
Condominium law can be complex and difficult to navigate for the average person. Contacting an experienced attorney who can guide you through the dispute process is a good first step toward a resolution. The Hollywood condo law attorneys at the Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. will sit down with you and try to answer any questions you may have. 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.