ROC managers and board members that have asked me to help create or amend rules governing their communities know that I stress the importance of a unit owner obtaining the written approval of the board before that unit owner can take certain actions, including the following:
- making additions to his unit
- bringing in another occupant
- having a pet
- leasing or subleasing his unit
My colleague Michael J. Gelfand, a partner in the Gelfand & Arpe, P.A. law firm in West Palm Beach, reported in the August 2009 edition of the Florida Community Association Journal on a recent decision from one of Florida’s appellate courts. It’s the case of Curci Village Condominium Association, Inc. v. Maria, and the opinion of Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals focuses on a provision in the condominium association’s documents requiring prior written approval.
The unit owner in the Curci Village case defended the landscaping changes he had made by claiming that the association’s president, who was also the manager for the developer who controlled the association, told him that he "didn’t have a problem with" those landscaping changes when the unit owner first proposed them. However, because the association’s declaration of condominium required written approval for landscaping changes, a dispute between the unit owner and the association arose and resulted in this lawsuit.
The appellate court noted that Florida Statute Section 718.303 requires unit owners to comply with the condominium’s declaration of condominium and viewed that the declaration of condominium was a written contract between the association and the unit owner. Because that written contract (the declaration of condominium) required prior written approval for an alteration to the unit, the unit owner could not reasonably rely on the oral permission of the association’s officer or director.
The Curci Village decision should be very helpful to ROC boards and managers in communities with rules requiring prior written approval when a unit owner who did not obtain such approval argues that the manager or a board member gave him verbal permission to perform the disputed action. However, while it’s always preferable to have rules requiring prior written approval, ROC managers and board members must remain vigilant and make sure that those rules are consistently and faithfully followed.