Division of Florida Condominiums

 ROC board members can meet their board certification requirement by attending the 6th Annual Community Association Festival at the Venice Community Center on February 17, 2016.   Registration with a free continental breakfast starts at 8:30 a.m.  There will be several informative and entertaining speakers featured from 9 a.m. until 11:45 a.m.  We’ll break for a free barbecue lunch at 11:45 and then separate after lunch (and prize drawings) into three groups for specific board certification training that will start at 1:30 p.m..  I’ll be doing the training for board members of cooperative associations and two other community association attorneys will be training board members of condominium associations and mandatory homeowners associations.  

The entire event is free and even if you don’t need to meet the certification requirement, the opportunities to learn from our speakers–including one of analysts with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes–and network with ROC members from the area should not be missed.  Who knows, you may even win one of the door prizes!

Here’s the link to register for the event.  Seating is limited and RSVP’s are thus needed by no later than February 12.

I hope to see you in your "Mardi Gras" attire at the Venice Community Center on February 17!

 Now that Memorial Day is behind us, and many of our "snowbirds" have returned to their northern homes, my blog followers who are managers or board members in resident owned manufactured housing cooperatives can turn their attention to subsections (5) and (6) Florida Statute Section 719.1055.

When I last checked, none of the manufactured housing communities in our state qualify as "high-rise" buildings and. other than certain common area amenities (such as the clubhouse), it would appear that the provisions of these two subsections, which require the members of a cooperative to "opt out" of retrofitting requirements for fire sprinkler systems and handrail and guardrails, simply are not relevant to manufactured housing communities.

Nonetheless, the requirements of these two subsections do seem to apply to all residential cooperatives, including manufactured housing cooperatives.

I’d thus suggest that managers and board members in manufactured housing communities governed by Florida’s laws governing cooperatives take the steps needed to allow their members to waive these retrofitting requirements.  

Please note that, while the vote to forego fire sprinkler retrofitting can be obtained by limited proxy or by ballot personally cast at a membership meeting,  neither limited nor general proxies can be used for a vote to waive the retrofitting requirements for handrails and guardrails–that vote must be obtained at a duly called membership meeting or by the member signing a written consent. 

There are additional requirements in these two subsections, including reporting to the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes.  From what I’ve read so far, none of the bills passed in Tallahassee during the recent legislative session eliminate these provisions.

This summer might be a very good time for managers and board members in our manufactured housing cooperatives to work on giving the unit owners in their communities the opportunity to vote by the end of this year or in early 2015  to forego both of these retrofitting requirements.  

Let’s all have a safe and restful summer–one with no hurricanes or tropical storms on the horizon! 

I woke up one morning this summer with a pain in the area of my right shoulder blade.  I assumed that I’d just pulled or strained a muscle in my neck or back–that’s a fairly common but very temporary hazard of lifting weights and trying to maintain an active lifestyle for us "baby boomers".

Six weeks later, it was clear that there was more involved than just a muscle strain.  By the time my MRI revealed that I had several herniated discs in my neck, the discomfort and pain radiating down my right arm into my hand made it difficult–if not impossible–for me to work at my desk or on my computer for more than a few minutes at a time.

While I’ve managed to cope by answering emails on my iPhone, on my home laptop, or by installing an unwieldy device on my office chair, I feel like I’m functioning at perhaps 50% capacity and by the time I leave the office at the end of the day I can’t wait to collapse on a couch at my home with an ice pack on my aching shoulder.

Here’s the point I’d like to make today:  there’s absolutely no way anyone can tell how much pain and discomfort I feel–I have no cast, sling, nor any other visible signs to show that I have a condition that causes me great pain and will require surgery to correct.  

Not every disability is readily apparent. Board members and managers in resident owned communities are often requested to grant requests for reasonable accommodations under the Fair Housing Act to persons who show no outward signs of any disability.

I’ve continually stressed to ROC board members and managers the tremendous risks involved when a board refuses to grant a resident’s request for a reasonable accommodation simply because there’s no visible evidence that the resident is disabled.

As someone who has now "walked in the shoes" of many of these residents, I have a much better understanding of their anger and frustration when their legitimate requests are denied by ROC boards.  That anger and frustration may very well lead to a Fair Housing complaint and that’s certainly not in the best interests of an association or its members.

I’ll be submitting my materials for a board certification training seminar to the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes later this week and hope to have those materials approved within the next few weeks.  These materials will focus on training board members in resident owned cooperatives and once approved will be sufficient for those board members to meet the new board certification requirements under Chapter 719 of the Florida Statutes.

Once I get the approval from the Division, we’ll schedule a few board training seminars and I’ll post the times and locations on my blog.

In the meantime, I’ll be taking care of those herniated discs within the next few days and hope to be back at work and posting entries on this blog before all of our "snowbirds" return for the holidays!

 

 

Briny Breezes is a resident owned manufactured housing cooperative located in Palm Beach County.

Two of the community’s sea walls that protected the cooperative property needed repairs and upgrades.   The directors of Briny Breezes, Inc., the cooperative association that owns and operates the community, hired an engineer who reported that the required repairs and upgrades to the seawalls would cost approximately $150,000.

While there were adequate funds in the association’s reserve account to pay for these repairs, Briny Breeze’s governing documents clearly prohibited the association’s board of directors from spending more than $30,000 for capital improvements or spending more than $30,000 for replacement of capital assets in any fiscal year.  According to the association’s governing documents, the affirmative vote of at least 51 per cent of the members was required for these expenditures.

Earlier this year, Briny Breeze’s manager asked the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes (the "Division") to determine whether the association’s board of directors could use the reserve funds to pay for the seawall repairs that were needed to protect the cooperative property without obtaining the approval of the association’s members.

The Division, in its Declaratory Statement issued this May, held that the association could use its reserve funds to make the needed repair to the seawalls without a vote of the membership.

The Declaratory Statement cited Florida Statutes Section 719.104(5), a federal bankruptcy court decision interpreting Florida law, several decisions of our state appellate courts and a decision rendered by one of the Division’s arbitrators. 

The Division noted that , even if expenditures result in alterations or improvements to the community’s common elements, it is within the board’s authority to authorize these expenditures without member approval where the expenditures for the alterations or improvements are needed to protect the common elements.

At the same time, the Division did caution that an association’s directors might very well be precluded from unilaterally spending money for upgrades that constituted material alterations to the common elements and went beyond the repairs required to protect the common elements.

The Division concluded that, while the "safest course for the board is to get a unit owner vote", the board should not be limited to "simply repair the sea wall to protect the common elements."

Hopefully, this Declaratory Statement will provide ROCs with some guidance in the future.

I’ll be discussing issues affecting aging members of resident owned communities this week on "Community Matters".

Last week I posted an entry about attempts by some members of Florida’s legislature to eliminate the  regulation of Community Association Managers as well as the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes and (for good measure) end mandatory non-binding arbitration for certain disputes between owners and the associations governing their communities.

Proposed Committee Bill BCAS 11-01 moved quickly through the Business and Consumer Affairs Committee of Florida’s House of Representatives and was then assigned a bill number, becoming House Bill (HB) 5005.   According to reports from Tallahassee, HB 5005 was being "fast tracked" and was destined to breeze through one or two other House committees. There was concern that HB 5005 would then join up with a companion Senate Bill and would be voted on and approved by both the House and the Senate before many of those most affected by this legislation would have been made aware of what was occurring in Florida’s capital.

However, during the past week, HB 5005 somehow jumped off that "fast track".   Apparently, HB 5005 entered the Economic Affairs Committee of Florida’s House of Representatives as a 280 plus page juggernaut and exited that committee as a much less imposing 63 page piece of legislation.

Substitute HB 5005 preserves the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes as well as the mandatory non-binding arbitration program and maintains the laws providing for the regulation and licensing of Community Association Managers.

I would assume that our legislators heard from more than a few organizations over the past week or so (including the Federation of Mobile Home Owners and the Community Associations Institute).  I also have no doubt that a noticeable segment of the over three million residents of Florida ROCs made their feelings known to our representatives in Tallahassee.  

At least for now, HB 5005 is no longer a bitter pill for resident owned communities in Florida to swallow.  

I’ve spent part of the past few days in email correspondence and telephone and person to person discussions about Proposed Committee Bill (PCB) BCAS 11-01 with fellow community association attorneys, ROC managers, and concerned board members.

As you may already know, earlier this week, the Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee of the Florida House of Representatives (by a 10 to 5 vote) passed PCB 11-01.  This bill will now be assigned a number and will be scheduled for additional committee hearings.   The concern is that this bill is on a fast track and will not have to undergo deliberations in more than one or two other House subcommittees and that, while no companion bill has been filed in the Florida Senate (at least as of earlier today), that Senate companion bill will be forthcoming in the very near future.

So what’s the big deal about PCB 11-01?

How about these for starters–within this proposed bill’s 281 pages, you’ll find provisions that:

  • Eliminate many agencies that license and regulate numerous professions in Florida, including Community Association Managers
  • Eliminate what appears to be all or at least a substantial porton of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes
  • Eliminate the mandatory non-binding arbitration provisions found in Florida’s statutes governing condominium and cooperative associations

Please check out the full text of PCB 11-01 if you want to verify the incredibly far-reaching language that’s now being considered by Florida’s lawmakers.  

If you are a homeowner or condominium owner in a resident owned community, you might want to contact your state legislators about this bill.

I’ll have another entry later this week.