House Bill 1195 made its way through the Florida legislature and was presented to our Governor on June 13. It appears that our Governor will sign the bill–although nothing is certain nowadays–and the provisions contained in HB 1195 that amend various sections of Chapters 718, 719, and 720 of the Florida Statutes will become effective on July 1, 2011.
There’s a very curious amendment to F.S. Section 720.303 that will impact the ability of ROC board members and managers to control the behavior of members attending board meetings.
We all know that unit owners are entitled to attend almost all board meetings of a condominium or cooperative association and are entitled to speak on all designated agenda items. Lot owners in mandatory homeowners’ associations have a similar right to attend meeting of their association’s board and, according to F.S. Section 720.303(2)(b), they also have the right "to speak on any matter placed on the agenda by petition of the voting interests for at least 3 minutes."
Chapters 718, 719, and 720 each contain provisions allowing the association to adopt reasonable written rules governing the frequency, duration, and manner of unit owner statements.
But what exactly constitutes a "reasonable" rule in regards to "duration"? In other words, how long should a member be entitled to speak on a particular agenda item?
There is nothing in the condominium or cooperative statutes to help answer this question. However, ROC managers, board members, and their attorneys could look to that "3 minute limitation" in F.S. Section 720.303(2)(b) for some guidance. We’ve thus often suggested to our ROC clients that limiting a member to speaking for no more than three minutes on any agenda item would appear to be reasonable.
However, if HB 1195 is signed by the Governor, effective July 1, 2011, that three minute standard will be removed from F.S. 720.303(2)(b). Members attending board meetings in mandatory homeowners associations will have the right to speak at such meetings "with reference to all designated items".
It’s interesting that the provision does not specify "designated agenda items" as do both the similar provisions in Chapters 718 and 719.
While I have no idea why the "3 minute limitation" was removed, I do know that it’s still very important to have reasonable written rules governing the behavior of members at board and membership meetings.
Hopefully, resident owned communities that don’t have those written rules will put that task on their "to do" lists this summer.