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Architectural Committees Formal Procedures, Published Standards, and Self Help

Architectural Committees Formal Procedures, Published Standards, and Self Help


Formal Procedures

There are strict legal requirements that a homeowners’ association’s (HOA) architectural review committee (ARC) must follow, most especially if the ARC intends to deny an owner’s request. As this author has witnessed countless times, it is likely that many ARCs do not conduct their activities in conformity with Florida law such that an ARC denial may not withstand judicial scrutiny. If these legal requirements are not followed, and the ARC denies the owner’s architectural request, then it would be quite easy for the owner to challenge the ARC’s decision and prevail. Upon prevailing, the owner would be entitled to their prevailing party attorney’s fees and costs, as well. It is so easy to avoid this outcome, yet so few associations take the time to do it right.

Pursuant to §720.303(2), Florida Statutes, a meeting of the ARC is required to be open and noticed in the same manner as a meeting of the association’s board of directors. Notice of the ARC meeting must be posted in a conspicuous place in the community at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting, and the meeting must be open for all members to attend. Further, pursuant to §720.303(2)(c)(3), Florida Statutes, members of the ARC are not permitted to vote by proxy or secret ballot. Also, bare bone minutes should be taken to create a record of ARC decisions—especially denials.

We often hear from many HOAs that the ARC does not meet openly and does not notice their meetings. This leaves decisions made by the ARC vulnerable to challenge. If the ARC denies an application but fails to do so at a properly noticed board meeting, the owner can challenge the denial, claiming that it is not valid because the ARC did not follow proper procedure. In such cases, the ARC’s denial of an application is not valid because the ARC failed to comply with the procedural requirements for the meeting even if an application violates the declaration or other association-adopted architectural standards. However, by complying with the provisions of Chapter 720, Florida Statutes, your HOA can work to avoid this debacle.

Published Standards

Often a top priority for an HOA is ensuring that homes in the community maintain a harmonious architectural scheme in conformity with community standards and guidelines, and because the ARC is at the frontline of owners’ alterations and improvements to their homes, it is instrumental in ensuring that the community standards and guidelines are met. Pursuant to §720.3035(1), Florida Statutes, an HOA, or the ARC, “has the authority to review and approve plans and specifications only to the extent that the authority is specifically stated or reasonably inferred as to location, size, type, or appearance in the declaration or other published guidelines and standards.” But not every owner request is typically addressed in the declaration or other published guidelines and standards. If not, then the association may not be in a good position for proper denial. Therefore, the ARC is only as effective as the objective guidelines and standards (set forth in the declaration and other published guidelines and standards) are inclusive. So, what is the association to do when the ARC receives an owner’s application for an alteration to the home, but the association does not have any architectural guidelines or standards regulating the requested alteration?

While not court tested yet, a possible solution for this conundrum is to include a “catch-all” provision in the declaration to proactively address those ARC applications where a member may request a modification that is not directly addressed by the governing documents. Such a “catch-all” provision stands for the proposition that, if such a request is made, then the existing state of the community is the applicable standard by which the ARC application is to be judged. For example, imagine if an owner applies to the ARC to paint the owner’s house pink. If there are no architectural guidelines or standards that address what color a house must be, and there are no pink houses in the community, then the existing state of the community may provide a lawful basis for the ARC to deny the request because there are no existing pink houses in the community.

The Trouble With Self-Help Provisions

What if an owner refuses to maintain the owner’s property, such as pressure washing a dirty roof, despite the HOA sending demand letters, levying a fine, and perhaps even suspending the owner’s right to use the HOA’s recreational facilities? What is the HOA’s next step? Is it time to file a lawsuit to compel compliance? Well, Chapter 718 (governing condominiums), Chapter 719 (governing cooperatives), and Chapter 720 (governing HOAs) of the Florida Statutes authorize the association to bring an action at law or in equity to enforce the provisions of the declaration against the owner. Additionally, many declarations contain “self-help” language that authorizes the association to cure a violation on behalf of the owner and even, at times, assess the owner for the costs of doing so. These “self-help” provisions generally contain permissive language, meaning the association, may, but is not obligated to, cure the violation. Sadly, in this instance the word “may” means “shall,” and to find out why, read on.

There is a general legal principal that, if a claimant has a remedy at law (e.g., the ability to recover money damages under a contract), then it lacks the legal basis to pursue a remedy in equity (e.g., an action for injunctive relief). Remember, too, that an association’s declaration is a contract. In the context of an association, the legal remedy would be exercising the “self-help” authority granted in the declaration. An equitable remedy would be bringing an action seeking an injunction to compel an owner to take action to comply with the declaration. Generally, a court will only award an equitable remedy when the legal remedy is unavailable, insufficient, or inadequate.

Assume that the association’s declaration contains both the permissive “self-help” remedy and the right to seek an injunction from the court. Accordingly, it would appear the association has a decision to make—go to court to seek the injunction or enter onto the owner’s property, cure the violation, and assess the costs of same to the owner. However, recent Florida case law affirmed a complication to what should be a simple decision. In two cases decided ten years apart, Alorda v. Sutton Place Homeowners Association, Inc., 82 So.3d 1077 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2012) and Mauriello v. Property Owners Association of Lake Parker Estates, Inc., 337 So.3d 484 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2022), Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal decided that an association did not have the right to seek an injunction to compel an owner to comply with the declaration if the declaration provided the association the authority, but not the obligation, to engage in “self-help” to remedy the violation. Expressed simply, this is because the legal contractually based “self-help” remedy must be employed before one can rely upon equitable remedy of an injunction. Therefore, even though the declaration provided for an optional remedy of “self-help,” it must be used before seeking the equitable remedy of an injunction.

In Alorda, the owners failed to provide the association with proof of insurance required by the declaration. Although the declaration allowed the association to obtain the required insurance, the association filed a complaint against the owners seeking injunctive relief, asking the court to enter a permanent mandatory injunction requiring the owners to obtain the requested insurance. The owners successfully argued that even though they violated the declaration, the equitable remedy of an injunction was not available because the association already had an adequate legal remedy—the “self-help” option of purchasing the required insurance and assessing them for same. The Court agreed.

In Mauriello, the declaration contained similar language as in Alorda but involved the issue of the owners failing to keep their lawn and landscaping in good condition as required by the declaration. The association filed a complaint seeking a mandatory injunction ordering the owners to keep their lawn and landscaping in a neat condition. However, the facts were complicated by the sale of the home in the middle of the suit when the new owners voluntarily brought the home into compliance with the declaration. The parties continued to fight over who was entitled to prevailing party attorney’s fees with the association arguing it was entitled to same because the voluntary compliance was only obtained after the association was forced to commence legal action. The owners, citing Alorda, argued that the complaint should have been dismissed at the onset because the association sought an equitable remedy (injunction) when a legal remedy was already available—the exercise of its “self-help” authority. The Court considered the award of attorney’s fees after the dismissal of the association’s action for an injunction. Ultimately, the Court held that the owners were the prevailing party as the association could not seek the injunction because it already had an adequate remedy at law.

Accordingly, if your association’s declaration contains a “self-help” provision, and your association desires to seek an injunction against an owner rather than pursue “self-help,” the board should discuss the issue in greater detail with the association’s legal counsel prior to proceeding. Also, remember that if the association wants to enforce architectural standards, then they must be published to the membership; and always remember to notice ARC meetings and take minutes.

(Reprinted with permission from the February 2023 edition of the “Florida Community Association Journal”.)

Will The Association’s Denial Of An Architectural Request Withstand Challenge? | Many Won’t – Find Out Why

Will The Association’s Denial Of An Architectural Request Withstand Challenge? Many Won’t—Find Out Why


For many homeowners associations, a top priority is ensuring that the homes in the community are maintained in conformity with the “community-wide standard.” But, what is this subjective standard? How is compliance measured? What is the process to be judged when a request to the association’s architectural review committee (ARC) is made? The ARC is instrumental in ensuring that the community-wide standard is met. However, your association may run into a problem if the ARC denies a request from a homeowner if the association has not adopted specific, objective criteria and guidelines on which the ARC can rely.

Sometimes applications to the ARC are denied because the proposed modifications were not “in harmony” with the other homes in the community or did not conform with the “community-wide standard.” However, such a limitation is vague, and a denial based on whether a particular modification is “harmonious” is subjective. Thus, the members are entitled to specific guidelines regarding what is allowed and what is not allowed, and in fact, this is required by law.

The association’s ARC can only be as effective as the objective guidelines and standards drafted into the declaration and board-adopted rules. If your ARC is relying on aesthetics or other subjective criteria that are simply “personal preferences” rather than written, adopted, and published objective standards and guidelines, any disapproval is vulnerable to a successful challenge. In fact, in the seminal case regarding approval of architectural modifications, Young v. Tortoise Island Homeowner’s Ass’n, Inc., 511 So.2d 381 (Fla. 5th DCA 1987), the court held that where the governing documents were silent as to the modification at issue, a denial could not be based on the architectural control board’s opinion regarding “aesthetics, harmony and balance—admittedly very personal and vague concepts.”

In Young, the owners submitted an application to build a flat roof on their home. The homes immediately surrounding the home were all peaked roofs. Nothing in the governing documents prohibited an owner from building a flat roof, and the requested roof complied with all of the specific requirements set out in the governing documents. However, the architectural control board denied the owners’ request because there was a “very strong feeling” that the flat roof would not be “architecturally compatible with the other homes.” In the end, the Youngs built the flat roof despite the association’s disapproval, arguing that the architectural control board had no authority to impose a prohibition against flat roofs. The court agreed with the Youngs, holding that

“In the absence of an existing pattern or scheme of type of architecture which puts a prospective purchaser on notice that only one kind of style is allowed, either in the recorded restrictions or de facto from the unified building scheme built on the subdivision, such a board does not have the power or discretion to impose only one style over another based purely on ‘aesthetic concepts.’”

The flat roof violated no recorded restrictions, no objective rule adopted by the association, and no de facto common existing building style in the community. Therefore, the court held that it was beyond the power of the architectural review board to prohibit the flat roof.

The concept in Young was further codified in 2007 in §720.3035(1), Florida Statutes, which provides that an association or the ARC has the authority to review and approve plans and specifications only to the extent that the authority is specifically stated or reasonably inferred as to location, size, type, or appearance in the declaration or other published guidelines and standards. More specifically §720.3035(1), Florida Statutes, provides that the authority of an association or any architectural, construction improvement, or other such similar committee of an association to review and approve plans and specifications for the location, size, type, or appearance of any structure or other improvement on a parcel, or to enforce standards for the external appearance of any structure or improvement located on a parcel, shall be permitted only to the extent that the authority is specifically stated or reasonably inferred as to such location, size, type, or appearance in the declaration of covenants or other published guidelines and standards authorized by the declaration of covenants.

In other words, the ARC can only approve or deny requested modifications based on objective standards with specificity as to location, size, type, or appearance that are set out in the declaration or other published guidelines and standards. Without specific, objective standards to rely upon, the ARC is at risk of making arbitrary decisions regarding approval. Basing ARC denials on concepts like “aesthetics, harmony, and balance” will land the association in hot water if an owner challenges such denial. It is far safer to base approval or denial on objective standards as set out in the declaration or as adopted by the board.

Creative drafting by an association’s attorney is critical in order to capture those ARC applications where a member may request a modification that is not squarely addressed by the governing documents. In plain English, a “catchall” amendment to the declaration can be artfully drafted that stands for the proposition that, if such a request is made, then the existing state of the community is the applicable standard by which the application is to be judged. For example, if the Tortoise Island Homeowner’s Association had had such a provision in its declaration, then given that there were no flat roofs in the community, the existing state of the community may have provided a lawful basis for the ARC to deny the request, thus possibly leading to a whole different result in the case.

On a related note, there are strict procedural requirements that your association must follow, most especially if the ARC intends to deny an ARC request. It is likely many ARCs do not conduct their activities in conformity with Florida law such that a denial could withstand judicial scrutiny. Pursuant to §720.303(2), Florida Statutes, a meeting of the ARC is required to be open and noticed in the same manner as a board meeting. In other words, notice of the ARC meeting must be posted in a conspicuous place in the community at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting, and the meeting must be open for the members to attend. In addition, pursuant to §720.303(2)(c)3., members of the ARC are not permitted to vote by proxy or secret ballot. Bare bone minutes should be taken as well to create a record of ARC committee decisions, most especially denials.

We hear from many associations that the ARC does not meet openly or notice their meetings. This leaves any decision made by the ARC vulnerable to challenge. If the ARC denies an application but fails to do so at a properly noticed meeting, the owner can challenge the denial claiming that it is not valid as the ARC did not follow proper procedures. Many declarations contain language which provides that if an ARC application is not approved or denied within a certain period of time, the application is deemed approved. In that case, if the ARC’s denial of an application is not valid because the ARC failed to comply with the procedural requirements for the meeting, an application which violates the declaration or the ARC standards may be deemed approved by operation of the declaration! By complying with the provisions of Chapter 720, Florida Statues, your association can avoid that disaster.

Practice tip: Remember that notice of any board meeting at which the board will consider a rule which restricts what an owner can do on their parcel must be mailed, delivered, or electronically transmitted to the members and posted conspicuously on the property not less than 14 days before the meeting.

If your association has not adopted objective ARC standards and guidelines including the “catchall” provision discussed above, now is the time to start! We recommend that you contact your association’s counsel prior to drafting such rules to ensure that the association is in compliance with the requirements of the governing documents and Chapter 720, Florida Statutes.

The Champlain Towers South Condominium Collapse | Initial Interim Lessons Learned From This Tragedy

Just after midnight on Thursday, June 24, 2021, tragedy struck Surfside, Florida, when 55 of 136 units of the 12-story Champlain Towers South Condominium tragically crumbled to the ground. Just prior, a sleepless sixth floor owner notices a two-finger-wide separation in her drywall and, fearing the worst, scrambles downstairs as the building begins to collapse around her. Miraculously, she barely escapes. So many others were not as fortunate. Today, as this article is being written on June 27, 2021, sadly there are nine confirmed dead and over 150 persons still listed as unaccounted for.

By way of background, a prior building collapse in 1973 led Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to institute a city ordinance requiring a 40-year residential building recertification. The 40-year-recertification requirement is the absolute maximum period of time for the association to inspect the building for structural, electrical, and other critical component failure posing a threat to life safety. Champlain Towers South, built in 1981, was in the process of complying with its building recertification when disaster struck. Likely, months from now the cause will be identified. Do not be surprised if it is discovered that there were multiple causes leading to a perfect storm type of event.

When concrete is subjected to moisture, it causes the steel rebar to rust, which causes further expansion of the concrete surrounding the rebar, which ultimately, if not treated, leads to failure. This is commonly referred to as “spalling.” In addition, when concrete is exposed to moisture, it causes the concrete to separate into its constituent parts, and it will leach lime [calcium-containing inorganics]. Many condominium balconies experience concrete spalling and require repair. So, too, do the support columns and other parts of the foundation responsible to bear and pass the building load on to other structural components. What we know so far, from multiple sources, follows:

An engineering report issued on October 8, 2018, by Morabito Consultants to Champlain Towers South Condominium Association, Inc., concluded in its Structural Field Survey Report that

“[T]he waterproofing below the pool deck and entrance drive… is beyond its useful life and therefore it must be completely removed and replaced. The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas. Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially… The main issue in this building structure is that the entrance drive, pool deck and planter waterproofing is laid on a flat surface. Since the reinforced concrete slab is not sloped to drain, the water sits on the waterproofing until it evaporates. This is a major error in the development of the original contract documents prepared by the [initial architects and engineers]… It is important to note that the replacement of the existing deck waterproofing will be extremely expensive as removal of the concrete topping slab to gain access to the waterproofing membrane will take time, be disruptive, and create a major disturbance to the occupants of this condominium building. Please note that the installation of deck waterproofing on a flat structure is a systemic issue for this building structure… Regarding the parking garage consultant’s review revealed signs of distress/fatigue as described below: abundant cracking and spalling of varying degrees was observed in the concrete columns, beams, and walls. Several sizable spalls were noted in both the top side of the entrance drive ramp and the underside of the pool/entrance drive/planter slabs, which included instances with exposed deteriorating rebar. Though some of the damage is minor, most of the concrete deterioration needs to be repaired in a timely fashion… Morabito Consultants is convinced that previously installed epoxy injection repairs were ineffective in properly repairing the existing cracked and spalled concrete slabs.”

(The entire 2018 Morabito Consultants report can be found at Click “resources” at top of the page, then click “links” from the dropdown menu.)

Reports from local and national news indicated the following information. The swimming pool built atop a parking garage was leaking for an unknown period of time into the garage area below. Ocean water often intruded into the below-grade parking structure. At least one owner on the ninth floor was experiencing repeated pipe leaks. A report from the 1990s indicated the building was sinking approximately two millimeters per year. Significant roof repairs were underway for at least one month prior to the collapse. Lime was leaching out of the concrete deck causing damage to the cars in the parking garage below. Just south of the Champlain Towers South Condominium, a new building was being constructed that caused residents of the Champlain Towers South Condominium to complain about the constant shaking of their condominium building caused by blasting and digging activity. The concrete waterproofing associated with the foundation was failing as noted in the 2018 engineering report. Naturally, all of this combined could eventually lead to a weakened overall support structure.

Based on this information, ask yourself this important question: Was the Champlain Towers South Condominium collapse foreseeable? While some people, most especially with the benefit of hindsight, may believe that to be the case, bear in mind that there are also reports that the board had meetings with City of Surfside officials after the 2018 Morabito Consultants report was issued. If so, this may be very telling and bear on the board’s decision-making process. Details of such meetings are not presently known.  Are there other engineering reports not yet discovered that bear on this issue? All of this may be very telling and bear on the board’s decision-making process. In any event, it is too early to reach conclusions.

Notwithstanding this horrible tragedy, there are interim lessons that can be gleaned from this disaster that every board member and manager of a high-rise condominium should heed, as follows:

  1. If your county does not have a 40-year-recertification requirement, and even if it does, obtain a recertification engineering report every 25 to 40 years, anyway. Remember that the 40-year requirement set out in the Miami-Dade and Broward ordinances is a maximum period that the association can go without having complied with the re-certification process. The 40 years is not a minimum, meaning an association can certainly have the recertification-type studies performed as often as reasonably necessary under the circumstances.
  2. When it comes to building maintenance and repairs that are life-safety recommendations, should the association’s retained engineering expert make recommendations regarding the building’s foundation, implement them in a timely manner. Do not consider making temporary patch repairs in lieu of proper repair. In other words, do not be penny wise and pound foolish. Do not let the need to obtain unit owner votes to either approve the work and/or the needed assessments or loans to fund the project be a factor in any way. There is a long line of Florida appellate case law that supports the board’s right to effectuate repairs and take out loans when necessary for protection of life and property. Your association’s attorney will be a necessary component of this process to provide legal opinions based on the controlling appellate cases.
  3. Fund the reserves appropriately and make sure the association has a specific reserve for concrete repair and restoration. If the association is pooling reserves, be sure to include concrete repairs in the pooled reserve. Do not even consider waiving or reducing reserves until a considerable nest egg is saved up.
  4. Update the association’s reserve schedules at least every five years. It should be based on empirical and objective evidence.
  5. Do not be afraid or otherwise hesitant to special assess the membership for required maintenance and repairs. Remember, the units have more financial value when the building is properly maintained.

Oddly, Florida Statutes have three significant failures that could help prevent a residential building collapse similar to the Champlain Towers South Condominium.

  1. The relevant statutes do not specifically require condominium associations to have a concrete restoration reserve though it should be easily included as a required reserve pursuant to “catch all” language set out in §718.112 (2)(f)(2), Florida Statutes (see below).
  2. Despite what you may hear on the news, there is not a statewide mandatory residential building recertification required after a certain number of years.
  3. There is no statutory requirement to have a reserve study or engineering study performed on a regular basis.

Regarding reserves, §718.112 (2)(f)(2), Florida Statutes (2020), provides, in relevant part, that

In addition to annual operating expenses, the budget must include reserve accounts for capital expenditures and deferred maintenance. These accounts must include, but are not limited to, roof replacement, building painting, and pavement resurfacing, regardless of the amount of deferred maintenance expense or replacement cost, and any other item that has a deferred maintenance expense or replacement cost that exceeds $10,000. The amount to be reserved must be computed using a formula based upon estimated remaining useful life and estimated replacement cost or deferred maintenance expense of each reserve item. The association may adjust replacement reserve assessments annually to take into account any changes in estimates or extension of the useful life of a reserve item caused by deferred maintenance. [Emphasis added.]

Remember, too, the board is absolutely required to pass the budget each year with reserves fully funded. Only then can the board decide to present to the owners the opportunity to waive or reduce reserves. Ask yourself, are our condominium association’s reserves properly funded?

As a result of this horrific tragedy, the 2022 Florida Legislature should consider requiring  a recertification engineering report  for all high-rise residential condominiums  every 30 years or so and should require all community associations to update the reserve schedules at least once every five years.

Also remember that each board member should exercise his or her own individual reasonable business judgment when rendering decisions, except for the purchase of insurance, where the much higher standard of “best efforts” is applied as required by §718.111(11), Florida Statutes (2020). With the reasonable business judgment standard in mind, ignoring advice of engineers and other requisite professionals could be considered by others to be negligent or even rise to a reckless act or an omission conducted with bad faith, with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety, or property, any one of which can lead to exposure to liability. But, if the association received two different reports where the opinions drastically differ, then in that situation, each board member should use his or her reasonable business judgment to decide which report should be relied upon. The fact the board chose to follow one expert’s guidance over the other, whose guidance turned out in the end to be wrong, is not too likely to result in an award for damages as a result of legal challenge.

If you live in a high-rise condominium and are fearful of collapse due to the Champlain Towers South Condominium tragedy, please remember that this building’s failure was certainly not an everyday occurrence and is best described, for the time being, as a tragic anomaly.

(Reprinted with permission from the August 2021 edition of the Florida Community Association Journal)

The Champlain Towers South Condominium Collapse


At Kaye Bender Rembaum, our attorneys and staff are heartbroken for the victims and their families who are suffering as a result of yesterday’s Champlain Towers Condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida. We offer our hopes and prayers to the heroic efforts being led by first responders who are searching for victims in the rubble and where over a hundred people are still missing. 

While the cause of this tragedy will likely take months to determine, there is already speculation that the building may have been sinking at different rates at different locations by a rate of two millimeters per year, which may have contributed to the catastrophic collapse 

The Miami Herald graciously published an article to let you know how you can help those in need as a result of the collapse. Selected portions are re-printed below with the hope that together we all can make a positive difference.

How to help victims of the Surfside condo collapse


Published by the Miami Herald on JUNE 24, 2021 06:12 PM:

To Read the article in its entirety, please click this link or copy and paste it into your browser:

As news of the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers in Surfside spread across the nation, organizations began efforts to support victims who were forced out of their homes in the wee hours of the morning with little to nothing.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Thursday that the county is working with the American Red Cross, the county’s social service agency and police and fire departments “to make sure those people are properly situated.”

“This is a predominantly Jewish community and we’ve had the rabbis and chaplains on hand,” she said. “The people in the community center are getting the support they need. Not only are they getting hotel rooms, they’re getting help with their medicine, with blankets, with clothing, because there they are with nothing.”

From the Greater Miami Jewish Federation to Florida Blue, here are ways victims can find aid and others can help donate supplies.

Jacob Solomon, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, said he went to the scene to “get a better handle on what the needs are.” Solomon said rabbis from across South Florida and from every denomination showed up to offer support and prayers. Israeli Consul General Maor Elbaz-Starinsky also went to help comfort those affected by the collapse.

“This is a gut-wrenching scene,” he said. “The real challenge is going to be in the long term.” Solomon said the federation will set up a fund that will go directly to the families to “help them rebuild their lives.” He also said that people are encouraged to call 2-1-1, which is the Jewish Community’s 24/7 hotline that can help with housing, counseling and other services. If you have been affected by the collapse, you can call 211 to learn how to get services.

By 3:30 p.m. the Greater Miami Jewish Federation had put together a campaign to help Surfside building collapse victims.

“Be part of the Jewish community’s response,” the federation said in a mass email. “Help those affected by the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, FL.” The “emergency assistance fund” will help take care of short-term and long-term needs. The federation teamed up with Jewish Community Services of South Florida, and Mishkan Miami, the Jewish Connection for Spiritual Support to provide financial assistance, chaplaincy support, crisis counseling and social services. The federation says that 100 percent of funds collected will be used to provide assistance to those affected.

Checks with the notation “Surfside Building Collapse” can be mailed to: Greater Miami Jewish Federation, 4200 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33137. For more information about the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s special relief funds, call 305-576-4000.


Operation Helping Hands is a partnership between United Way of Miami-Dade and the Miami Herald/el Nuevo Herald that was created in 1998 in the aftermath of hurricanes Mitch and Georges. Since then, it has been reactivated in response to disasters and other emergency situations such as the COVID-19 global pandemic and now, the aftermath of the building collapse in Surfside. Here’s how to support and assist families with their short- and long-term recovery needs:


The Miami Heat, the Miami Heat Charitable Fund, the Coral Gables Community Foundation, the Key Biscayne Community Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Miami Foundation are working together to build a hardship fund for those impacted by the Surfside building collapse. This hardship fund will allow residents both locally, and nationwide, to give toward relief efforts.

Contributions to the fund can be made here.


The American Red Cross is at the scene of the collapse helping authorities with rescue efforts. It offers several online and mail options for donating.

To donate online visit

For those who want to donate by check or to a specific cause, there is a donation form that must be printed and sent to: American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37839, Boone, IA 50037-0839. To donate by phone or to get assistance with your donation, call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669). For Spanish, call 1-800-435-7669, and for a TDD operator call 1-800-220-4095.


A steady flow of donations is pouring into the Shul of Bal Harbour, where on Thursday evening a group of around 20 volunteers unloaded crates of food, blankets, and more to be distributed to community members displaced by the condo collapse.

An online donation fund set up by the Shul of Bal Harbour had raised more than $160,000 by Thursday afternoon from over 1,300 donors.

Donations will be “dispersed as needed directly for the victims and families” of the building collapse, according to the website the Shul set up.

“People are coming together more than ever,” said Ryan Mermer, a member of the Shul and the community engagement coordinator for Holocaust Heroes Worldwide. “The community is coming together.”

Mermer said that at noon he started a WhatsApp group for community service in the Surfside Jewish community. An hour later, 50 people had joined. The Shul and Young Israel of Bal Harbour, a Jewish youth group, have set up donation sites in the neighborhood, including one in front of the Shul, a large Orthodox synagogue. Community members are being asked to bring items to the Shul at 9540 Collins Ave. Donation items include: blankets, phone chargers, sweatshirts, Advil, water and snacks, according to the email flier. A security guard outside the synagogue said community members have been bringing donations for families whose homes were destroyed in the building collapse.

The Skylake Synagogue, at 1850 NE 183rd St., is also asking for donations, which will be sent to the Shul of Bal Harbour. The Skylake Synagogue is also asking for people who can drive vans to take items.

Items being asked for by Skylake are:

  • Sweatshirts
  • Phone chargers
  • Drinks
  • Blankets

Once again, to read this article on its entirety please click this link or copy and paste it into your browser:

Approval Needed—Material Alterations

Why Condominium Associations Must Obtain Approval Before Work Begins and A Plea To The Florida Legislature For A Remedy

When it comes to material alterations, some might say that homeowner associations have it easy compared to condominium associations. For a homeowners association, because Chapter 720, Florida Statutes is silent on the issue, unless otherwise provided in the governing documents, decisions regarding material alterations are made by the board. But, as to condominium associations, and as their board members should know, §718.113(2), Florida Statutes, requires advance membership approval for material alterations to the common elements and association real property. In this regard, there is no parity between the Condominium Act versus the Homeowners Association Act.

Before explaining further, a reminder of the Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal  definition of what constitutes a “material alteration” from the seminal case Sterling Village Condominium, Inc. v. Breitenbach,  251 so.2d 685, 4th DCA (1971) is in order. As explained in Sterling,  “as applied to buildings the term ‘material alteration or addition’ means to palpably or perceptively vary or change the form, shape, elements or specifications of a building from its original design or plan, or existing condition, in such a manner as to appreciably affect or influence its function, use, or appearance.”

Prior to July 1, 2018, §718.113(2)(a), Florida Statutes, provided that no material alteration or substantial addition can be made to the common elements or association real property without the approval in the manner provided for in the declaration, or if the declaration is silent, then by 75 percent of the total voting interests of the association. As adopted by the 2018 Florida legislature, (effective July, 1, 2018), §718.113(2), Florida Statutes was amended to provide that approval of the material alteration or substantial addition must be obtained before the work commences.

The current language of §718.113(2)(a), Florida Statutes, provides as follows:

Except as otherwise provided in this section, there shall be no material alteration or substantial additions to the common elements or to real property which is association property, except in a manner provided in the declaration as originally recorded or as amended under the procedures provided therein. If the declaration as originally recorded or as amended under the procedures provided therein does not specify the procedure for approval of material alterations or substantial additions, 75 percent of the total voting interests of the association must approve the alterations or additions before the material alterations or substantial additions are commenced. This paragraph is intended to clarify existing law and applies to associations existing on July 1, 2018. [Emphasis added]

Prior to the 2018 amendment, §718.113(2), Florida Statutes, did not expressly provide that the approval must be obtained before the material alteration or substantial addition was commenced. However, in a recent decision by the Third District Court of Appeal, the Court held that approval was required before the material alteration or substantial additions were commenced even before the language of §718.113(2), Florida Statutes, was amended to include the advance approval requirement!

In Bailey v. Shelborne Ocean Beach Hotel Condominium Association, Inc., Nos. 3D17-559, 3D17-01767 (Fla. 3d DCA July 15, 2020), unit owners brought a claim against their association alleging that the association violated §718.113(2), Florida Statutes, by failing to obtain the approval of the membership before commencing a large construction project which, they argued, constituted a material alteration to the common elements. Later, both parties agreed that all but two of the alleged “material alterations” actually constituted necessary maintenance that the association was authorized to commence without a vote of the membership.

The association alleged that the remaining two construction items were also necessary maintenance, which was an allegation the unit owners disputed. The trial court held that the remaining two alleged material alterations were valid notwithstanding whether they were necessary maintenance or material alterations because the association eventually obtained the approval of the membership (presumably after the fact). Therefore, the trial court reasoned it did not need to make a determination as to whether the two items were material alterations since the membership approved them, albeit in a tardy fashion.

On appeal to the Third District Court of Appeal, the unit owners challenged the trial court’s decision arguing that the statute required the association to obtain approval for material alterations before it commenced the work. Therefore, the plaintiff unit owners argued that the membership could not provide their consent and approval posthumously. As the construction project at issue took place between 2010 and 2016, the applicable version of §718.113(2) did not include the express requirement that approval be obtained before material alterations are commenced. However, the Court still held that the portions of a construction project that do not constitute necessary maintenance must be approved prior to commencement.

The court explained that “based on the structure of the statute, the 75 percent approval requirement is a condition necessary to overcome the statute’s clear prohibition, insofar as any of the construction work amounts to material alteration or substantial additions.” However, because the trial court did not rule on whether the two items at issue were material alterations or necessary maintenance, the Court was unable to determine whether a vote of the members was pre-required and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceeding to determine the nature of the two construction items.

Because the Court did not make a final determination whether the two construction items constituted necessary maintenance, the Court did not address the remedy for the association’s failure to obtain the advance approval of the membership. Additionally, the law fails to address the remedy when an association does not obtain membership approval before commencing a project.

In cases of material alterations already completed which required the advance approval of the membership, the present version of §718.113(2), Florida Statutes leaves no room whatsoever for the court to order an association to posthumously acquire the membership vote or put things back the way they were. Rather, the only remedy that appears available to the court would be to restore the common elements to its pre-existing state (or as close as can be accomplished under the circumstances), which explains why a legislative fix to §718.113(2), Florida Statutes, to provide for additional remedy would be helpful.

There is a very important lesson to be gleaned from the Bailey case. If your association is considering a material alteration of any kind, then the association would be wise to attain the required approval before commencing the project to avoid a successful legal challenge. If the association fails to obtain the required approvals before commencement of the project, in the event of a legal challenge, the association may well be required to undo whatever alterations were made to the common elements as Bailey suggests this was the case even before the relevant statute was amended. This can result in significant expense to the association, not to mention having to explain what happened to many irate unit owners.

Remember, prior to commencing any material alteration or substantial addition, be sure to consult your association’s attorney to ensure you comply with the requirements of the Florida law and your association’s governing documents.

(Reprinted with permission from the November 2020 edition of the Florida Community Association Journal.)