All too often, we are asked by boards of directors and property managers what steps can be taken to prevent residents from continuing to break rules in their communities. Seldom, however, do we hear community associations that are active and persistent in disciplining their rule breakers. Typically, violations range from disobeying noise ordinances to more problematic ones such as ignoring an association’s prohibition of short-term rentals. Regardless of how big or small—or even how chronic—an infraction may be, it is important that board members do their part in enforcing the rules and regulations of their associations. Follow-Rules-300x157

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While recovery from property damage and power outages may take precedence in the hours and days following a hurricane, it is also important to consider—and to take swift action to recover from— not-so-apparent implications of a storm. Calendar-300x157

As we enter into the “season” of Annual Meetings and Elections, deadlines are soon approaching for community associations to distribute their Notice(s) of Annual Meeting and Election to Owners. The Florida Statutes, Florida Administrative Code and association governing documents provide us with a strict protocol of when such Notice(s) must be distributed, depending upon an association’s scheduled or required date to hold the Annual Meeting and Election. Following a storm such as Hurricane Irma, a few hours or days without power may affect a printing company or management office’s work hours, and, in turn, make it difficult or impossible to timely distribute Notice(s) of Annual Meeting and Election in accordance with statutory and governing-document-based protocols.

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We hope that you and your loved ones are safe after the storm with little to no damage to your property.  Our thoughts remain with those whose homes and loved ones were impacted by Hurricane Irma.  As local, state and federal officials throughout Florida respond to those who have been impacted—whether it is because of loss of power, property damage or fallen powerlines or trees—we want to make sure we do our part to help our commuIrma-1024x535nity as well.

If you have had a chance to drive around, you will notice that there are a number of trees that have fallen on homes, causing serious damage to their roofs, windows, and even their foundation. If you’ve been able to tune in to the news to see coverage of the storm’s aftermath you have seen that many areas experienced massive flooding. Due to the property damage that some Floridians are currently experiencing, we want to make sure that everyone is well-informed on the proper way to handle any insurance claims that may arise. Keep in mind that it is important that condominium, cooperative Continue reading

Forecasters and South Florida residents are keeping an eye on Hurricane Irma, a system that has recently been upgraded to a Category 5 and is forecasted to possibly impact the Florida Keys through portions of the Florida Peninsula. Although the exact location of where the storm will make landfall is still not known, we encourage all of our community association clients to take the proper steps to ensure their community is prepared and protected in case that it does hit.

As Hurricane Irma approaches, here are some helpful tips community associations should keep in mind when preparing for the storm:

  • Set-up a meeting with the community association manager and board of directors before the Continue reading

Hurricane Irma is now a category five storm that is predicted to impact the state of Florida by late this week.  As all community associations prepare their properties for the storm, they should also take specific measures to prepare for any insurance claims that may arise.  Below is an excerpt from an article by firm partner Laura M. Manning-Hudson on these pre-storm insurance recommendations that was posted in this blog earlier this year:

At the start of every hurricane season, association board members or property management should photograph and/or video all of the main public areas of the condominium property.  These images could become vitally important in the event that a storm strikes and claims are filed.   Associations should also take the time to store copies of their wind, flood and property insurance policies in waterproof cases in a secure location.  If possible, digital copies should also be stored in several computers and devices.

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Florida community associations, just as with all other property owners in the state, can be held liable for crimes committed on their properties.  Associations and other property owners owe a duty to their residents and guests to undergo reasonable steps to protect against foreseeable crimes.

There have been cases over the years of Florida associations being sued by the victims of crimes that took place in their community for allegedly failing to implement adequate security measures.  Some of these suits, especially those involving severe injuries, have been resolved in considerable rulings or settlements in favor of the victims.  These awards, combined with the litigation costs and the possibility of increased insurance premiums, can be financially disastrous for many associations.

ggate-300x225Exactly what is considered reasonable security is the key question before the courts in these negligence claims. Other considerations include whether the crime that took place was foreseeable.  For instance, in a gated high-end community, residents and guests may expect a greater level of security, so some might argue that such community is to take measures at a higher standard.

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Siegfried, Rivera, Hyman, Lerner, De La Torre, Mars & Sobel, P.A. achieved a significant milestone this year, celebrating 40 years of providing quality legal service to the South Florida, Florida and national communities. As we enter the fifth decade together, we are thankful for the relationships which we have built here in our backyard and beyond. It’s because of these relationships — and the trust we have earned—that we’ve continued to grow and flourish over the years. As we look back at where we have been, we are excited about where we are headed.

We take pride in the personalized professionalism we offer our clients. We will continue to mentor and expand our team to ensure we offer that same level of service as our younger attorneys transition into new leadership roles.  To commemorate our journey, we produced a short film explaining our plan to perpetuate our legacy throughout the 21st Century. Because we’ll still be here—you can trust us on that.

The outcome of this year’s legislative session evoked a lot of confusion from property managers and boards of directors serving the community association industry.  As a result, we have received a lot of requests from our readership asking for clarification on some of the laws that were enacted. In this post, we will be tackcc-article-photo-fb-3-300x158ling the debit card provision in an effort to clear up some misconceptions about the new legislation.

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The new Florida law that establishes criminal penalties for association fraudsters should help many associations to contend with suspicious and irregular activities by unscrupulous board members.

Association boards of directors control the purse strings for their condo communities, and as such they have always made for extremely appealing targets for fraudsters who conspire to assume control via their annual elections.  In a Las Vegas case, a U.S. Justice Department investigation revealed that 11 associations were defrauded of tens of millions of dollars in a board of directors takeover scheme from 2003 to 2009.  Forty-one defendants were convicted of rigging board elections through such tactics as traveling to Mexico to print phony ballots, using the master key at a condominium complex in order to remove ballots from mailboxes, and retrieving discarded ballots from condo dumpsters.

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After several years of failed attempts, the estoppel bill has become law in Florida and mandates major changes to the way community associations in the state prepare estoppel letters (also called estoppel certificates), which are legal documents detailing the amounts owed by a unit owner prior to the sale of their residence.

Below are the changes required by the new law:

  • Reduces the time associations have to respond to written or electronic requests for estoppel certificates from 15 days to 10 business days.
  • Requires each association to provide on its website the identity of a person or entity (and their street or e-mail address) to which requests for estoppel certificates may be sent.
  • Provides that estoppel certificates must be submitted by hand delivery, regular mail, or e-mail to the requestor on the date of issuance of the certificate.
  • Changes authorized association signatories for estoppel certificates from officer or agent of association to any board member, authorized agent, or authorized representative of the association, including authorized employees of the association’s management company. Continue reading