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Violation Remedies: Self-Help vs. Injunction | Which to Use

Violation Remedies: Self Help vs. Injunction

Which to Use


Imagine this scenario: you are on the board of directors of your association. The association has repeatedly requested that an owner pressure wash their dirty roof to bring it into compliance with the community standards, but the owner refuses to do so. The association has already sent a number of demand letters and even levied a fine and perhaps a suspension of use rights, too, but the owner still will not comply. What is the association’s next step?

  • Is it time to file a lawsuit to compel compliance? Chapters 718 (governing condominiums), 719 (governing cooperatives), a 720 (governing homeowners associations), Florida Statutes, authorize the association to bring an action at law or in equity to enforce the provisions of the declaration against the owner.


  • Is it time for the association to use its “self-help” remedy? In fact, many declarations contain such “self-help” language, which authorizes the association to cure the violation on behalf of an owner and even, at times, assess the owner for the costs of doing so. These “self-help” provisions generally contain permissive language, meaning that the association may, but is not “obligated” to, cure the violation.

Assume that the association’s declaration contains both the permissive “self-help” remedy and the right to seek an injunction from the court that orders the owner to clean their roof or else be in contempt of court. Thus, it would appear the association has a decision to make: (i) go to court to seek the injunction; or (ii) enter onto the owner’s property, pressure clean the roof, and assess the costs to the owner. Not so fast! Recent case law from Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal affirmed a complication to what should be a simple decision, discussed in greater detail below.

In two cases decided 10 years apart, 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 to engage in “self-help” to remedy the violation. Prior to a discussion of the cases, a brief explanation of legal and equitable remedies is necessary.

There is a general legal principle 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). In the association context, a legal remedy would be to exercise the “self-help” authority granted in the association’s declaration. An equitable remedy would be to bring an action seeking an injunction to compel an owner to take action to comply with the declaration (e.g., compelling the owner to pressure wash their roof). A court will typically only award an equitable remedy when a legal remedy (such as “self-help”) is unavailable, insufficient, or inadequate.

This distinction is first illustrated in Alorda v. Sutton Place Homeowners Association, Inc., 82 So. 3d 1077 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012). In Alorda, the owners failed to provide the association with proof of insurance coverage as required by the declaration. The association sent multiple demand letters to the owners, but they failed to comply. The declaration provided, in pertinent part, that “[t]he owner shall furnish proof of such insurance to the Association at the time of purchase of a lot and shall furnish proof of renewal of such insurance on each anniversary date. If the owner fails to provide such insurance the Association may obtain such insurance and shall assess the owner for the cost of the same in accordance with the provisions of this Declaration” (emphasis added). In accordance with the foregoing, the association had the option to purchase the insurance on behalf of the owners and assess them for the costs of same.

However, the association chose instead to file a complaint against the owners seeking the equitable remedy of injunctive relief, asking the court to enter a permanent mandatory injunction requiring the owners to obtain the required insurance coverage. The owners then filed a motion to dismiss the suit arguing that even though they had violated a provision of the declaration, the equitable remedy of an injunction is not available because the association had an adequate remedy at law. In other words, the owners argued that, because the association could have, pursuant to the declaration, undertaken the ”self-help” option by purchasing the required insurance and assessing it against the owners, they had an available legal remedy and, therefore, the equitable remedy sought (a mandatory injunction) was not available to the association. The court, citing to a different case, Shaw v. Tampa Electric Company, 949 So.2d 1006 (Fla. 2d DCA 2007), explained that a mandatory injunction is proper only where a clear right has been violated, irreparable harm has been threatened, and there is a lack of an adequate remedy at law. As the association had an adequate remedy at law (the authority to purchase the insurance on behalf of the owners), the third requirement was not met. Therefore, the court held that the association failed to state a cause of action and dismissed the case. (This case might be decided differently today as it appears the insurance marketplace will not permit an association to purchase insurance for a unit that it does not own, so the legal remedy presumed available to the association would be inadequate).

Similarly, in the recent case of Mauriello v. The Property Owners Association of Lake Parker Estates, Inc., Case No. 2D21-500 (Fla. 2d DCA 2022), Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal considered the award of attorneys’ 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 an injunction because the association had an adequate remedy at law. In Mauriello, the owners failed to maintain their lawn and landscaping in good condition as required by the declaration. As such, the association filed a complaint seeking a mandatory injunction ordering the owners to maintain the lawn and landscaping in a “neat condition.” The association’s declaration contained similar language to the declaration at issue in Alorda. The declaration provided that, if an owner failed to perform any maintenance required by the declaration, the association, after written notice, “may have such work performed, and the cost thereof shall be specifically assessed against such Lot which assessment shall be secured by the lien set forth in Section 9 of this Article VI” (emphasis added). In other words, the association had the permissive “self-help” authority pursuant to the declaration.

The facts of this case were complicated by the sale of the home in the middle of the suit. The new owners voluntarily brought the home into compliance with the declaration, and the case became moot. However, the parties continued to fight over who was entitled to prevailing party attorneys’ fees. The association argued it was entitled to prevailing party attorneys’ fees because the voluntary compliance was only obtained after the association was forced to commence legal action. The owners, citing Alorda, argued that they were entitled to prevailing party attorneys’ fees as the association’s complaint never stated a cause of action in the first place. They argued that the complaint should have been dismissed at the outset because the association sought an equitable remedy (mandatory injunction) when a legal remedy was available to the association (exercise of “self-help” authority).

Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal agreed with the owners that Alorda was controlling. The Court explained that, as in Alorda, “the association’s declaration gave it the option of remedying the alleged violation itself, assessing the owner for the cost, and if the owner failed to pay, placing a lien on the property and foreclosing if it remained unpaid.” As such, the association had an adequate remedy at law and could not seek the equitable remedy of an injunction, which was initially sought by the association. Because the mandatory injunction was not available to the association, the association’s complaint failed to state a proper cause of action and, thus, should have been dismissed by the trial court at the outset. Therefore, the association was not entitled to its sought-after prevailing party attorneys’ fee award, which is otherwise granted if a party comes into compliance after the lawsuit is served.

Sections 718.303 (as to condominiums), 719.303 (as to cooperatives), and 720.305 (as to homeowners associations), Florida Statutes, contain similar language that specifically authorizes the association to bring actions at law or in equity, or both, in the event an owner fails to comply with the governing documents of the association. However, neither the Court in Alorda nor the Court in Mauriello addressed the association’s statutory authority to bring an injunction against an owner who fails to comply with the requirements of the declaration, but rather found that the association must use the “self-help” remedy since it was available to cure the violation.

Notwithstanding the Alorda and Mauriello decisions rendered by Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal, past appellate court decisions from other appellate jurisdictions in Florida have permitted community associations to pursue claims for injunctive relief against violating owners so long as a violation of the restrictive covenant is alleged in the complaint. As such, the Alorda and Mauriello cases appear to be departures from the established principle. Additionally, as both decisions came from Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal, the decisions are certainly binding on those associations within the jurisdiction of the Second District, but there has been no indication that other districts will follow suit. However, there is risk that other appellate district courts may be persuaded by the holdings of Alorda and Mauriello.

As such, if your association’s declaration contains a “self-help” provision, and your association chooses to seek an injunction against an owner rather than pursue “self-help,” the board should definitely discuss the issue in greater detail with the association’s legal counsel prior to proceeding.

Reprinted with permission | This article written by Jeffrey A. Rembaum, Esq., BCS will/appears in the July 2022 edition of the Florida Community Association Journal.

It’s the Manager’s Fault…Or Is It?

It’s the Manager’s Fault…Or Is It?


Disclaimer: In January 2022 the The Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation issued an opinion which drastically alters the information provided herein. Please consult with an attorney of your choosing to obtain the latest guidance in this ever evolving area.

Few professions have more demands placed upon them than that of the Florida licensed community association manager (CAM). Depending on whom you ask, the CAM is the organizer, rules enforcer, keeper of secrets (meaning confidential and statutorily protected information not limited to the medical record of owners and attorney-client privileged information), best friend, the “bad guy” (a frequent misconstruction), and the first person in the line of fire when things go wrong; in other words, the one who takes all the blame and gets little credit when things go right.

When things at the association go wrong, what comment is most likely heard? “It’s the manager’s fault!” But, is it? Unless the manager failed to carry out a lawful directive from the board, breached a management contract provision, or violated a Florida statute, then in all likelihood, the manager has no culpability. CAMs are licensed by the State of Florida pursuant to Part VIII of Chapter 468 of the Florida Statutes, and there are statutory standards by which CAMs must conduct themselves.

Pursuant to §468.4334, Florida Statutes, “[a] community association manager or a community association management firm is deemed to act as agent on behalf of a community association as principal within the scope of authority authorized by a written contract or under this chapter. A community association manager and a community association management firm shall discharge duties performed on behalf of the association as authorized by this chapter loyally, skillfully, and diligently; dealing honestly and fairly; in good faith; with care and full disclosure to the community association; accounting for all funds; and not charging unreasonable or excessive fees.”

As set forth herein, statutory standards provide guidance to CAMs as to how they should conduct themselves. They must discharge their duties with skill and care and in good faith. They must act with loyalty to their association employer and deal with the association both honestly and fairly. They must provide full disclosure, which can be interpreted as both keeping the board informed of current events and providing disclosures of any conflict of interests. They must be able to account for all funds, too, which means both assessment income and expenditures; in other words, they must mind the budget.

Best practices for CAMs include becoming extremely familiar with the governing documents of the association (including the declaration, articles of incorporation, bylaws, and rules and regulations) and the financials of the association, walking the physical property, engaging with their team and residents, as well as providing weekly status updates to the board regarding all ongoing association business. If you are a CAM and do these things, then you have an opportunity to shine and stand head and shoulders above your peers and competition. This weekly status report is an excellent communication tool yet seems to be a rarity. CAMs should also make themselves available to owners. However, when an owner becomes offensive or insulting, the CAM should politely and firmly request that the owner communicate respectfully and in a professional manner. A CAM should always be financially transparent and should be extremely familiar with the management contract to fully understand her obligations and authority; for example, the limitation to spend association funds. Finally, the CAM should strive to keep a written record of her activities.

The two most obvious and biggest ways to get in trouble include committing acts of gross misconduct or gross negligence in connection with the profession or contracting on behalf of an association with any entity in which the CAM has a financial interest that is not disclosed. Disciplinary actions against a CAM fall under the purview of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). Section 455.227, Florida Statutes, governs grounds for discipline, penalties, and enforcement.

For example, the following activities constitute grounds for which disciplinary actions may be taken by the DBPR (this list is not all inclusive):

(i) making misleading, deceptive, or fraudulent representations in or related to the practice of the CAM’s profession; (ii) intentionally violating any rule adopted by the DBPR; (iii) being convicted or found guilty of, or entering a plea of guilty or nolo contendere (“I do not wish to contend”) to, a crime in any jurisdiction which relates to the practice of, or the ability to practice, a CAM’s profession; (iv) having been found liable in a civil proceeding for knowingly filing a false report or complaint with the DBPR against another CAM; (v) attempting to obtain, obtaining, or renewing a license to practice a profession by bribery, by fraudulent misrepresentation, or through an error of the DBPR; (vi) failing to report to the DBPR any person who the CAM knows is in violation of the laws regulating CAMs or the rules of the DBPR; (vii) aiding, assisting, procuring, employing, or advising any unlicensed person or entity to practice a profession contrary to law; (viii) failing to perform any statutory or legal obligation; (ix) making or filing a report which the licensee knows to be false; (x) making deceptive, untrue, or fraudulent representations in or related to the practice of a profession or employing a trick or scheme in or related to the practice of a profession; and  (xi) performing professional responsibilities the licensee knows, or has reason to know, the licensee is not competent to perform.

The Florida Administrative Code, in Rule 61E14-2.001, also provides standards for professional conduct which are deemed automatically incorporated as duties of all CAMs into any written or oral agreement for community association management services. A CAM must adhere to the following standards:

  1. comply with the requirements of the governing documents by which a community association is created or operated
  2. only deposit or disburse funds received by the CAM or management firm on behalf of the association for the specific purpose or purposes designated by the board, community association management contract, or the governing documents of the association
  3. perform all community association management services required by the CAM’s contract to professional standards and to the standards established by §468.4334(1), Florida Statutes
  4. in the event of a potential conflict of interest, provide full disclosure to the association and obtain authorization or approval; and
  5. respond to, or refer to the appropriate responsible party, a notice of violation or any similar notice from an agency seeking to impose a regulatory penalty upon the association within the timeframe specified in the notice.

In addition, during the performance of community association management services pursuant to a contract with a community association, a CAM cannot withhold possession of the association’s official records or original books, records, accounts, funds, or other property of the association when requested in writing by the association to deliver the foregoing to the association upon reasonable notice. However, the CAM may retain those records necessary to complete an ending financial statement or report for up to 20 days after termination of the management contract. Additionally, a CAM cannot (i) deny or delay access to association official records to an owner, or his or her authorized representative, who is entitled to inspect and copy the association’s official records within the timeframe and under the applicable statutes governing the association; (ii) create false records or alter the official records of an association or of the CAM except in such cases where an alteration is permitted by law (e.g., the correction of minutes per direction given at a meeting at which the minutes are submitted for approval); or (iii) fail to maintain the records for a CAM, management firm, or the official records of the association as required by the applicable statutes governing the association.

How do you know if your association requires a licensed community association manager? Pursuant to §468.431, Florida Statutes, if the association has 10 or more units or has a budget of $100,000 or more and the person is conducting one or more of the following activities in exchange for payment, the person must be a licensed CAM:

  1. controlling or disbursing funds of a community association
  2. preparing budgets or other financial documents for a community association
  3. assisting in the noticing or conduct of community association meetings
  4. determining the number of days required for statutory notices
  5. determining amounts due to the association
  6. collecting amounts due to the association before the filing of a civil action
  7. calculating the votes required for a quorum or to approve a proposition or amendment
  8. completing forms related to the management of a community association that have been created by statute or by a state agency
  9. drafting meeting notices and agendas
  10. calculating and preparing certificates of assessment and estoppel certificates
  11. responding to requests for certificates of assessment and estoppel certificates
  12. negotiating monetary or performance terms of a contract subject to approval by an association
  13. drafting pre-arbitration demands
  14. coordinating or performing maintenance for real or personal property and other related routine services involved in the operation of a community association, or
  15. complying with the association’s governing documents and the requirements of law as necessary to perform such practices.

However, a person who performs clerical or ministerial functions under the direct supervision and control of a CAM or who is charged only with performing the maintenance of a community association and who does not assist in any of the management services described above is not required to be licensed.

So, whose fault is it when things go awry? A CAM’s role is far different than that of a rental complex manager who often has decision-making authority. The CAM does not have that same type of decision-making authority. The CAM must take direction from the board and perform pursuant to the obligations set out in the management agreement and Florida law. It is the board of directors of the community association that actually makes the decisions. So, while the uninformed might blame the CAM, you now know that the buck stops with the board of directors. If you have further questions regarding a CAM’s responsibility, then please discuss this with your association’s lawyer.

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


The Subtle and Not-So-Subtle Differences Between Homeowners and Condominium Associations

Florida has created an abundance of legislation governing homeowners’ and condominium associations. You would think that, by now, laws affecting both types of communities would have more parity than they actually do. (Please note that that commercial condominiums are not addressed in this article.)

Perhaps the most appreciative difference between a homeowners association and a residential condominium association is that the homeowners association exists in common law, but the condominium only exists because of legislation adopted by the Florida Legislature. That said, homeowners associations are subject to Chapter 720, Florida Statutes, and condominium associations are subject to Chapter 718, Florida Statutes. There is both parity and significant differences between these two Acts, the latter of which are further addressed below. We begin by examining bidding.

 Bidding: A homeowners association is only required to obtain bids if the aggregate cost of the project (referring to the materials, work, and/or services) exceeds 10 percent of the total budget including reserves, if any. On the other hand, condominium associations are required to obtain bids if the aggregate cost of the project exceeds 5 percent of the total budget including reserves, if any. Please note, there is no requirement in the legislation for a community association to obtain a definitive number of a bids. Therefore, at least two would be appropriate. Also remember, there are exceptions to the bidding requirement for professional services such as attorneys, accountants, and landscape architects.

Certified Written Inquiry: A condominium association owner has the right to send a certified written inquiry to the board, and the board is obligated to answer it within 30 days (or 60 days if the certified written inquiry is provided to the community association’s lawyer to respond to). A failure to respond means that if the owner files a legal action over the item for which certified written inquiry was provided and loses, the owner will not be responsible to pay for the association’s prevailing party attorneys’ fees. There is no similar provision for a homeowners association.

Common Areas: Common areas in a homeowners association are owned by the association itself. In other words, no owner can claim an ownership interest in a homeowner association’s common areas. However, as to condominiums, the equivalent of the homeowner association’s common area is referred to as “common elements”. All of the unit owners of the condominium association own an indivisible interest in the common elements.

Disputes: In a homeowners association, disputes between an association and a parcel owner regarding use of or changes to the parcel or the common areas and other covenant enforcement disputes, disputes regarding amendments to the association documents, disputes regarding meetings of the board and committees appointed by the board, membership meetings not including election meetings, and access to the official records of the association must be the subject of a demand for pre-suit mediation served by an aggrieved party before the dispute is filed in the local court. Before a homeowners association can commence litigation where the amount in controversy is in excess of $100,000, the approval of a majority of a quorum of the membership is required. There is no similar provision as applied to condominium associations.

In a condominium association, prior to the institution of court litigation, a party to a “dispute” (as such term is hereinafter defined) must petition the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation for non-binding arbitration or, as of July 1, 2021, avail themselves of the presuit mediation process as set out in Chapter 720.  “Disputes” subject to mandatory arbitration or presuit mediation include 1) the authority of the board of directors, under this chapter or association document to: i) require any owner to take any action, or not to take any action, involving that owner’s unit or the appurtenances thereto ii) alter or add to a common area or element; or 2) the failure of a governing body, when required by this chapter or an association document, to: i) properly conduct elections ii) give adequate notice of meetings or other actions iii) properly conduct meetings iv) allow inspection of books and records; and 3) a plan of termination pursuant to §718.117, Fla. Stat.

Elections: Elections in a homeowners association take place as per the bylaws, while elections for condominiums take place following the regime set out in chapter 718, Florida Statutes, more specifically §718.112, Fla. Stat., and the provisions of the Florida Administrative Code. In order to hold a homeowners association election, a quorum must be attained unless the bylaws provide otherwise. No quorum is required to hold a condominium election, but rather 20 percent of the eligible voters need to cast a ballot in order to hold the election. In a condominium association of more than 10 units, co-owners of a unit cannot serve on the board at the same time unless there are not enough candidates, or they own more than one unit. Commencing July 1, 2018, condominium association board members cannot serve more than eight consecutive years absent certain exceptions (note, this statute is not retroactive in its application). There is no similar co-owner prohibition and term limit restriction for homeowners associations.

Elections by acclimation: In a condominium association if the same number of candidates, or less, run for the board as the number of seats available, then there is no need to have the election. This is referred to as an “election by acclimation” which means, those candidates will comprise the present board upon the annual meeting. If the election is contested because there are more candidates than seats available and at least 20 percent of the eligible voters do not cast a ballot, then last year’s board rolls over.

As to homeowners associations, if the election process allows candidates to be nominated in advance of the meeting, the association is not required to allow nominations at the meeting. An election is not required unless more candidates are nominated than vacancies exist. If an election is not required because there are either an equal number or fewer qualified candidates than vacancies exist, and if nominations from the floor are not required pursuant to the statute or the bylaws and write-in nominations are not permitted, then the candidates who nominated themselves in advance shall commence service on the board of directors regardless of whether a quorum is attained at the annual meeting. Otherwise, if those conditions are not met and a quorum is not attained for a homeowners association’s election, then last year’s board rolls over to this year’s board.

Elections, Voting: Unless otherwise set out in the bylaws, homeowners association members vote in the election for the board by proxy and/or ballot. On the other hand, condominium association owners cannot vote for the election of directors by proxy but rather must vote themselves by secret absentee ballot using the the inner and outer envelope system. A homeowners association only needs to use the inner and outer envelope system when the bylaws call for secret absentee ballots.

Fines: A condominium association cannot levy a fine greater than $1,000 for any one violation and cannot lien and foreclose the fine under any circumstances. In a homeowners association, an association can foreclose to collect a fine if both i) the fine is $1,000 or more and ii) the authority to lien is set out in the declaration.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers Sheet: As to condominium associations §718.504, Fla. Stat., requires that a “Frequently Asked Questions and Answers” sheet be made available to prospective purchasers and to owners who request it. It must be updated annually and must include the following questions along with the answers to these questions: 1) What are my voting rights in the condominium association? 2) What restrictions exist in the condominium documents on my right to use my unit? 3) How much are my assessments to the condominium association for my unit type, and when are they due? 4) Do I have to be a member in any other association? If so, what is the name of the association and what are my voting rights in this association? Also, how much are my assessments? 5) Am I required to pay rent or land use fees for recreational or other commonly used facilities? If so, how much am I obligated to pay annually? 6) Is the condominium association or any other mandatory membership association involved in any court cases in which it may face liability in excess of $100,000? If so, identify each such case. There is no similar provision or requirement for homeowners associations.

Leasing Restrictions: Effective July 1, 2021  as to HOA leasing restrictions, any restriction that prohibits or regulates rental agreements applies only to (i) an owner who acquires title to a parcel after the effective date of the governing document or amendment, or (ii) an owner who consents, individually or through a representative, to the governing document or amendment.  As to condominium associations, according to §718.110(13), Fla. Stat., an amendment prohibiting unit owners from renting their units or altering the duration of the rental term or specifying or limiting the number of times unit owners are entitled to rent their units during a specified period, applies only to unit owners who consent to the amendment and unit owners who acquire title to their units after the effective date of the amendment.

Liens and Foreclosures: In a homeowners association, prior to recording a lien against a delinquent owner’s lot, the owner must be provided a statutorily compliant warning letter at least 45 days prior to recording the lien, warning the homeowner that if the assessment is not paid a lien may be recorded. Then, the owner must be provided a second letter at least 45 days prior to filing the foreclosure lawsuit warning that if the lien is not satisfied (paid-off), then a lawsuit to foreclose the lien may be filed anytime thereafter. For a condominium association the warning/waiting periods for both letters was 30 days. Effective July 1, 2021 this was changed to 45 days.

Material Alterations: Unless otherwise provided in the declaration of covenants and restrictions, a material alteration to a homeowners association’s common area is decided by the board. In condominium associations, material alterations require 75 percent approval of all unit owners unless the declaration provides otherwise.

Official Records Requests: In a homeowners association, official record requests must be made by certified U.S. mail to create the rebuttable presumption the association willfully failed to respond. There is no similar requirement for a condominium association. Every community association should adopt specific rules governing official records requests, how often they can be made, and where they must be delivered. If your association has not done so, you are urged to discuss this with the association‘s lawyer.

Quorums: A quorum of the membership for a homeowners association membership meeting consists of 30 percent of the entire membership unless a lower number is provided for in the bylaws. A quorum for a condominium association membership meeting occurs when there is a majority of the voting interests present unless a lower number is provided for in the bylaws.

Reserve Accounts: A homeowners association only has restricted reserve accounts if initially created by the developer or voted on and approved by a majority of the entire membership. In a condominium association, 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. Condominium boards and homeowners association boards with restricted reserves may propose lower or no reserves to the membership which is subject to approval by a majority of a quorum of the members. However, neither board is obligated to propose lower reserves. A condominium association board and a homeowners association board with restricted reserves must fully fund those reserves in the budget each year as must homeowners association boards whose association has adopted restricted reserves.

Transfer Fees: As per §689.28, Fla. Stat., transfer fees when buying and leasing a home in the state of Florida are prohibited. But, there are exceptions for both homeowners and condominium associations with this caveat. There is no cap, per se, that a homeowners association can charge a prospective member as a part of acquiring their property, but such fee must be authorized in the declaration (or other recorded document). However, as per §718.112 Fla. Stat., a condominium association can only charge up to $150 per applicant. A husband/wife or parent/dependent child are considered one applicant. A condominium association can only charge a transfer fee if it has the authority to approve transfers, and the authority for the transfer fee, specifically, must be set out in the declaration or bylaws (and as set forth above, as of July 1, 2021 it is presently limited to a maximum $150.00).

Warranties: A developer and general contractor of a condominium provides statutory warranties to buyers of units as further detailed in Chapter 718, Fla. Stat. There are no similar statutory warranties set out in Chapter 720, Fla. Stat., for buyers of a home within a homeowners association. A developer of a condominium, pursuant to relevant law, also provides an implied warranty of habitability. As to a homeowners association, §553.835, Fla. Stat., provides in relevant part that there is no such warranty for off-site improvements (i.e., the common areas) with a small exception for the shared components of a townhome type community.

Websites: A condominium association that has a condominium with 150 or more units must host an association website and post certain official records to it. Homeowners associations have no similar requirement.

If you have any questions in regard to these matters be sure to discuss them with an attorney of your choosing.

(Reprinted with permission from the April 2021 edition of the Florida Community Association Journal and updated to reflect  recent legislation effective July 1, 2021)

The Lurking Danger of Association Websites; Accusations of Discrimination

Very recently, more and more condominium and homeowner associations find themselves as potential defendants in Federal Fair Housing Act (the “FHA”) discrimination litigation due to the association’s website. It is alleged that the failure to make the website easily accessible to those with visual impairments or who are blind is discriminatory. In short, the FHA prohibits making, printing or publishing, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling, anything that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on a handicap, or the intention to make such preference, limitation, or discrimination. Thus, the FHA covers all written and oral notices or statements by a person engaged in the sale or rental of a dwelling. Therefore, as the argument presented is explained, if the association’s website is providing information regarding the sale or rental of units or lots, and proper precautions are not taken to ensure that the website can be “listened to” rather than “read” by an individual who is visually impaired or blind, then that association could be a prime target for the threat of a federal discrimination lawsuit.

Victim’s Awareness, Inc. is a national not-for-profit corporation whose membership consists of persons with disabilities and others who are committed to equal access, equal opportunity and equal rights for protected classes. Employees of this company, along with its constituent members, troll the internet searching for websites offering housing for sale or lease that do not provide a mechanism for those who are visually impaired or blind to have the  content of the website automatically read to them. In order to have this functionality, what is technically referred to as a “widget” must be installed by the website host.

Typically, organizations such as Victim’s  Awareness, Inc. will send a demand letter including a letter of explanation, demand for evidence preservation, and a draft copy of the to-be-filed federal lawsuit and complaint demanding that the association immediately retrofit its website to ensure equal access by the visually impaired and blind. Failure to do so guarantees a lawsuit will be filed in Washington, D.C. against the association. Typically, this type of lawsuit is extremely expensive to defend.  If liability results, the damages can easily be in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars.

Sadly, even immediate compliance may not be sufficient to avoid monetary penalties.  Because the demand brings about the desired change, the would-be plaintiff, in this case, Victims Awareness, Inc., argues that they are entitled to their attorneys’ fees and costs for their preparation of the demand letter, preservation of evidence demand, and draft complaint. Therefore, even if an association complies with the demand by making its website accessible to those who are visually impaired, Victims Awareness, Inc.’s asserts that its attorneys’ fees and costs will need to be satisfied. If an association refuses, then, even though the website is now FHA compliant, Victim’s Awareness, Inc. suggests that they can still file the lawsuit to collect its attorney’s fees and costs.

Because discrimination lawsuits is one of the few areas where board members can have individual liability it is likely that most associations will fold their hand and agree to the would-be plaintiff’s demands. It will be interesting to see the results should an association decide to fight such demands on the basis that the FHA also provides that reasonable modifications must be granted by an association in response to a handicapped person’s request so long as the modification is paid for by the person making the request. It remains to be seen whether such an argument pierce the demands made by groups such as Victim’s Awareness, Inc.?

A community association risks being in harm’s way when it operates a website that promotes sales and leasing activities and is open to the public at large. In this instance the ol’ adage remains true- “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Thus, to find additional  information on the “widget” to bring your website into compliance and to learn more about this issue you can visit  In addition,  consider discussing this important matter with your association‘s attorney.