SPECIAL CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY POWERS EDITION: BOARD EMERGENCY POWERS

FOR  CONDOMINIUM, COOPERATIVE &  HOMEOWNERS’ ASSOCIATIONS

All board members and managers should take a few moments and brush up on emergency powers approved  by the legislature and codified into Florida Statutes in Chapters 718, 719 and 720 for use during a “state of emergency.” Hopefully, your association will not need to use them. But just in case, now is the time to familiarize yourself with this important legislation.

No doubt the emergency powers granted by the Florida legislature to a condominium, cooperative and homeowners’ association board of directors for use during a “state of emergency” were intended for hurricanes and the like. Nevertheless, should circumstances warrant, they can be utilized during this state of emergency caused by the Coronavirus. However, use of these powers should be reasonably related to the threat at hand. In other words, there should be good reason for their exercise such that there is a nexus between the emergency action taken and the situation at your association as related to the Coronavirus.

Due to the Coronavirus, a myriad of other issues present themselves for consideration, too. Should board meetings be held and if so, how? Should the board learn of an infected member living in the association, what next?  Should the infected person be identified to other members? What type of notice should be provided? Should an entire condominium be quarantined due to one case of coronavirus or should only those members who were in contact with the infected member be in quarantine? These are issues of first impression and the list goes on…

During this time, if there is no reason to have a board meeting because there is no business to be voted on, then consider cancelling the meeting. If a board meeting is needed, consider doing so by conference call. Remember, all members still have the right to listen and, at the right time, speak. If this is not possible, be sure to draft into the minutes the reason why, because  there is no emergency power that allows excluding the members attendance and participation  at a board meeting.

Based on what we have all seen and read,  the infected person will be quarantined along with all other persons the infected person identifies as having been in contact with them. Therefore, one way or the other word of the situation is likely to get out. Nevertheless, notice to the entire community should be considered, but identification of the infected person should be avoided.

Meetings with a large numbers of attendees should be avoided, but if meetings with a large number of participants become necessary, then consider spacing out the seats to avoid unnecessary close contact.

Plan ahead by stocking up on several weeks of supplies needed for the smooth operation of the association.

Consider temporary closing of the clubhouse and other areas of possible congregating. Obviously, Bingo and similar games should be avoided. Shows should be cancelled and re-scheduled, if possible, etc.

The Board should focus on the protection of its members though minimization of health and economic risks. Regardless of what steps are taken, given the circumstances, there are possible legal consequences. Therefore, bear in mind  prior to taking any action, consultation with the association’s attorney is an absolute must as this column is intended to provide information for consideration and not specific legal advice. 

Thank you to so many friends and peers who provided their comments to this writer, which led to this article during this most difficult of situations taking place in uncharted territory.

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THE SPECIFIC LEGISLATION

Following is the legislation that provides the specific emergency powers for Florida’s community associations. ​First presented  is emergency powers for condominium associations, followed by emergency powers for cooperative associations and emergency powers for homeowners’ associations. 

EMERGENCY POWERS: CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATIONS

718.1265 Association emergency powers.—

(1) To the extent allowed by law and unless specifically prohibited by the declaration of condominium, the articles, or the bylaws of an association, and consistent with the provisions of s. 617.0830, the board of administration, in response to damage caused by an event for which a state of emergency is declared pursuant to s. 252.36 in the locale in which the condominium is located, may, but is not required to, exercise the following powers:

(a) Conduct board meetings and membership meetings with notice given as is practicable. Such notice may be given in any practicable manner, including publication, radio, United States mail, the Internet, public service announcements, and conspicuous posting on the condominium property or any other means the board deems reasonable under the circumstances. Notice of board decisions may be communicated as provided in this paragraph.
(b) Cancel and reschedule any association meeting.
(c) Name as assistant officers persons who are not directors, which assistant officers shall have the same authority as the executive officers to whom they are assistants during the state of emergency to accommodate the incapacity or unavailability of any officer of the association.
(d) Relocate the association’s principal office or designate alternative principal offices.
(e) Enter into agreements with local counties and municipalities to assist counties and municipalities with debris removal.
(f) Implement a disaster plan before or immediately following the event for which a state of emergency is declared which may include, but is not limited to, shutting down or off elevators; electricity; water, sewer, or security systems; or air conditioners.
(g) Based upon advice of emergency management officials or upon the advice of licensed professionals retained by the board, determine any portion of the condominium property unavailable for entry or occupancy by unit owners, family members, tenants, guests, agents, or invitees to protect the health, safety, or welfare of such persons. 
(h) Require the evacuation of the condominium property in the event of a mandatory evacuation order in the locale in which the condominium is located. Should any unit owner or other occupant of a condominium fail or refuse to evacuate the condominium property where the board has required evacuation, the association shall be immune from liability or injury to persons or property arising from such failure or refusal.
(i) Based upon advice of emergency management officials or upon the advice of licensed professionals retained by the board, determine whether the condominium property can be safely inhabited or occupied. However, such determination is not conclusive as to any determination of habitability pursuant to the declaration
(j) Mitigate further damage, including taking action to contract for the removal of debris and to prevent or mitigate the spread of fungus, including, but not limited to, mold or mildew, by removing and disposing of wet drywall, insulation, carpet, cabinetry, or other fixtures on or within the condominium property, even if the unit owner is obligated by the declaration or law to insure or replace those fixtures and to remove personal property from a unit.
(k) Contract, on behalf of any unit owner or owners, for items or services for which the owners are otherwise individually responsible, but which are necessary to prevent further damage to the condominium property. In such event, the unit owner or owners on whose behalf the board has contracted are responsible for reimbursing the association for the actual costs of the items or services, and the association may use its lien authority provided by s. 718.116 to enforce collection of the charges. Without limitation, such items or services may include the drying of units, the boarding of broken windows or doors, and the replacement of damaged air conditioners or air handlers to provide climate control in the units or other portions of the property.
(l) Regardless of any provision to the contrary and even if such authority does not specifically appear in the declaration of condominium, articles, or bylaws of the association, levy special assessments without a vote of the owners.
(m) Without unit owners’ approval, borrow money and pledge association assets as collateral to fund emergency repairs and carry out the duties of the association when operating funds are insufficient. This paragraph does not limit the general authority of the association to borrow money, subject to such restrictions as are contained in the declaration of condominium, articles, or bylaws of the association.
(2) The special powers authorized under subsection (1) shall be limited to that time reasonably necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the association and the unit owners and the unit owners’ family members, tenants, guests, agents, or invitees and shall be reasonably necessary to mitigate further damage and make emergency repairs.
History.—s. 15, ch. 2008-28.
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EMERGENCY POWERS: COOPERATIVE ASSOCIATIONS

719.128 Association emergency powers.—

(1) To the extent allowed by law, unless specifically prohibited by the cooperative documents, and consistent with s. 617.0830, the board of administration, in response to damage caused by an event for which a state of emergency is declared pursuant to s. 252.36 in the area encompassed by the cooperative, may exercise the following powers:

(a) Conduct board or membership meetings after notice of the meetings and board decisions is provided in as practicable a manner as possible, including via publication, radio, United States mail, the Internet, public service announcements, conspicuous posting on the cooperative property, or any other means the board deems appropriate under the circumstances.

(b) Cancel and reschedule an association meeting.
(c) Designate assistant officers who are not directors. If the executive officer is incapacitated or unavailable, the assistant officer has the same authority during the state of emergency as the executive officer he or she assists.
(d) Relocate the association’s principal office or designate an alternative principal office.
(e) Enter into agreements with counties and municipalities to assist counties and municipalities with debris removal.
(f) Implement a disaster plan before or immediately following the event for which a state of emergency is declared, which may include turning on or shutting off elevators; electricity; water, sewer, or security systems; or air conditioners for association buildings.
(g) Based upon the advice of emergency management officials or upon the advice of licensed professionals retained by the board of administration, determine any portion of the cooperative property unavailable for entry or occupancy by unit owners or their family members, tenants, guests, agents, or invitees to protect their health, safety, or welfare.
(h) Based upon the advice of emergency management officials or upon the advice of licensed professionals retained by the board of administration, determine whether the cooperative property can be safely inhabited or occupied. However, such determination is not conclusive as to any determination of habitability pursuant to the declaration.
(i) Require the evacuation of the cooperative property in the event of a mandatory evacuation order in the area where the cooperative is located. If a unit owner or other occupant of a cooperative fails to evacuate the cooperative property for which the board has required evacuation, the association is immune from liability for injury to persons or property arising from such failure.
(j) Mitigate further damage, including taking action to contract for the removal of debris and to prevent or mitigate the spread of fungus, including mold or mildew, by removing and disposing of wet drywall, insulation, carpet, cabinetry, or other fixtures on or within the cooperative property, regardless of whether the unit owner is obligated by the declaration or law to insure or replace those fixtures and to remove personal property from a unit.
(k) Contract, on behalf of a unit owner, for items or services for which the owner is otherwise individually responsible, but which are necessary to prevent further damage to the cooperative property. In such event, the unit owner on whose behalf the board has contracted is responsible for reimbursing the association for the actual costs of the items or services, and the association may use its lien authority provided by s. 719.108 to enforce collection of the charges. Such items or services may include the drying of the unit, the boarding of broken windows or doors, and the replacement of a damaged air conditioner or air handler to provide climate control in the unit or other portions of the property.
(l) Notwithstanding a provision to the contrary, and regardless of whether such authority does not specifically appear in the cooperative documents, levy special assessments without a vote of the owners.
(m) Without unit owners’ approval, borrow money and pledge association assets as collateral to fund emergency repairs and carry out the duties of the association if operating funds are insufficient. This paragraph does not limit the general authority of the association to borrow money, subject to such restrictions contained in the cooperative documents.
(2) The authority granted under subsection (1) is limited to that time reasonably necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the association and the unit owners and their family members, tenants, guests, agents, or invitees, and to mitigate further damage and make emergency repairs.
History.—s. 16, ch. 2014-133.
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EMERGENCY POWERS: HOMEOWNERS’ ASSOCIATIONS

720.316 Association emergency powers.—

 

(1) To the extent allowed by law, unless specifically prohibited by the declaration or other recorded governing documents, and consistent with s. 617.0830, the board of directors, in response to damage caused by an event for which a state of emergency is declared pursuant to s. 252.36 in the area encompassed by the association, may exercise the following powers:

(a) Conduct board or membership meetings after notice of the meetings and board decisions is provided in as practicable a manner as possible, including via publication, radio, United States mail, the Internet, public service announcements, conspicuous posting on the association property, or any other means the board deems appropriate under the circumstances.

(b) Cancel and reschedule an association meeting.
(c) Designate assistant officers who are not directors. If the executive officer is incapacitated or unavailable, the assistant officer has the same authority during the state of emergency as the executive officer he or she assists.
(d) Relocate the association’s principal office or designate an alternative principal office.
(e) Enter into agreements with counties and municipalities to assist counties and municipalities with debris removal.
(f) Implement a disaster plan before or immediately following the event for which a state of emergency is declared, which may include, but is not limited to, turning on or shutting off elevators; electricity; water, sewer, or security systems; or air conditioners for association buildings.
(g) Based upon the advice of emergency management officials or upon the advice of licensed professionals retained by the board, determine any portion of the association property unavailable for entry or occupancy by owners or their family members, tenants, guests, agents, or invitees to protect their health, safety, or welfare.
(h) Based upon the advice of emergency management officials or upon the advice of licensed professionals retained by the board, determine whether the association property can be safely inhabited or occupied. However, such determination is not conclusive as to any determination of habitability pursuant to the declaration.
(i) Mitigate further damage, including taking action to contract for the removal of debris and to prevent or mitigate the spread of fungus, including mold or mildew, by removing and disposing of wet drywall, insulation, carpet, cabinetry, or other fixtures on or within the association property.
(j) Notwithstanding a provision to the contrary, and regardless of whether such authority does not specifically appear in the declaration or other recorded governing documents, levy special assessments without a vote of the owners.
(k) Without owners’ approval, borrow money and pledge association assets as collateral to fund emergency repairs and carry out the duties of the association if operating funds are insufficient. This paragraph does not limit the general authority of the association to borrow money, subject to such restrictions contained in the declaration or other recorded governing documents.
(2) The authority granted under subsection (1) is limited to that time reasonably necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the association and the parcel owners and their family members, tenants, guests, agents, or invitees, and to mitigate further damage and make emergency repairs.
History.—s. 19, ch. 2014-133.
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