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Documents govern use of common areas

Question: Can an association lease out and charge a fee for the exclusive use of a common element such as a card room, which is clearly intended for the enjoyment of all residents? Can the board close off both our card rooms for the private use of only one unit owner? Can they convert the two card rooms into a single party/function room? _ Miami

Answer: They probably can do those things if the authority to do so is clearly set forth in your governing documents. The Florida Statutes are quite clear on this matter: " . . . the association may not charge a use fee against a unit owner for the use of common elements or association property unless otherwise provided for in the declaration of condominium or by a majority vote of the association . . . " F.S. 718.111(4).

Combining the two card rooms into one larger all-purpose room might be a good way for the existing facilities to serve a broader need of the association. Such a change, however, probably would be considered a major alteration of the common facilities, and the board would be well advised to set a proposed budget figure for the change and get a majority vote of the whole association before attempting it.

Roaming "guest'

isn't a good idea

Question: I live in a condo on the Intracoastal Waterway. Many nights, from midnight to 4 or 5 a.m., a man from a neighboring apartment complex fishes from our sea wall just a few feet from the condo units. One of our units owners gave him permission to fish anytime he likes, even though there is a sign posted saying "Private property, residents only" and the "host" unit owner is never out of bed with his "guest." Some unit owners do not like the intruder outside their bedroom windows. Isn't the condo leaving itself open to a host of potential problems by not limiting this activity? _ North Miami Beach

Answer: Regardless of how neighborly the gesture seems, it is not a good idea to set this example. A unit owner host has no right to instruct an outsider to break a community resident-only rule. At the very least, the "guest" should check onto and off of the sea wall every night through the host's apartment.

Consider that over a period of time, folks will get used to "a man" moving around the property in the middle of the night, and may not be curious if he or another turns out to be not a fisherman but a thief, or worse.

Advice: (a) Visitors should be with their guests, or at least have them registered, and (b) It is unwise to allow any outsiders to roam around the property in the middle of the night.

Be specific about

tree replacement

Question: One of the three palm trees in my front yard is dead. Our HOA documents says, "Maintenance and care for landscaped areas and irrigation systems within the common properties . . . as well as the front yard of the lot shall be the duty of the HOA." The board of directors says it will replace the tree, but at my expense. Is it my responsibility to replace the dead tree in my yard that is maintained by the association? _ Coral Springs

Answer: It can depend upon several factors. If the association has paid for, and replaced, trees in the front yards of others, it is reasonable for them to replace yours. If they have budgeted for replacements, it would show an intent, but they may not have even budgeted for or collected funds to replace trees in front yards. Perhaps some homes do not have front yards or trees, so it was determined that it would not be fair for the association to do any replacement, except at the expense of the owner whose lot the tree enhances.

Perhaps the association interprets the words "maintain and care" as just that, and does not mean the replacements, except at the lot owner's expense.

Don't just stand on a matter of principle. Sit down with the board and reword the documents if necessary and/or add a new budget column next year titled, "Front Yard Tree Replacements."

Jack Holeman is a longtime condominium manager, owner and board member. He welcomes your questions. Write to Jack Holeman, Condo Line, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Sorry, he can't take phone calls or provide personal replies. You can call the state Bureau of Condominium office in Tallahassee with your questions at (800) 226-9101 or (904) 488-0725 or call the Tampa bureau at (800) 226-6028 or (813) 744-6149 or write to the Bureau of Condominium, Correspondence Unit, 725 S Bronough St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1033.

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