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MichaelHymanFirm shareholder Michael L. Hyman is prominently featured and profiled in a new book from the Community Associations Institute titled “Creating Community Association Law: True Tales from Early Pioneers.”

The new volume focuses on the history behind the laws governing homeowners and condominium associations. Author Marvin Nodiff delves into the creation of states’ first association laws and the attorneys who led the charge to enact them.

Hyman first began work with condominium associations and HOAs in 1970. The book discusses his work in the 1970s and ‘80s in filing lawsuits to free communities from triple-net leases that left buyers and owners responsible for paying developers rent for shared recreational amenities for up to 99 years. CAI-book-300x300He was appointed to The Florida Bar’s first condominium commission, which conducted hearings throughout the state, and he was one of the authors who rewrote the condominium statute to provide operational rights to owners.

Hyman became the first attorney in South Florida to launch a major practice dedicated to the representation of community associations.

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MichaelHymanThe firm’s latest Miami Herald “Real Estate Counselor” column is authored by Michael L. Hyman and appears in today’s edition of the newspaper.  The article, which is titled “Florida HOA Communities Installing New License Plate Reader Cameras,” focuses on deployments by communities of new automated license plate reader cameras that automatically read and record the license plate of all passing vehicles.  Michael’s article reads:

. . . For HOAs and even some condominium communities, especially those facing security and safety issues and concerns, deploying such cameras at key entrance/exit points with the accompanying signs alerting drivers of the monitoring could represent an effective prevention and investigative tool.

News reports over the last several years have chronicled ALPR installations by Florida HOAs locally in Coral Springs as well as in the areas surrounding Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Panama City and Naples. MHyman-Herald-clip-for-blog-1-29-23-300x300A recent article on the TapInto.net news site that also appeared on msn.com focused on the Kensington Glen community in Coral Springs and its deployment of ALPR cameras that are connected to the city police department’s Real Time Crime Center.

Gil Sternbach, the president of the HOA for the community with 258 homes and no security gates or guard house, describes the cameras as their “invisible gate.” The HOA installed four solar-powered ALPR cameras to read license plates and capture images of vehicles going in and out of the two roads leading into the community.

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A recent column on Motley Fool’s www.Fool.com website caught the attention of our firm’s South Florida community association attorneys. Author Christy Bieber begins by noting the negative perceptions toward HOAs that she and her husband shared, but she ultimately acknowledges their benefits and appeal.

“Living in a neighborhood with a homeowners association (HOA) has always seemed like a huge hassle to me. Several times, my husband and I have walked away from buying a home we love in an HOA neighborhood because of the ridiculous rules and restrictions applied to homeowners or because of the high fees the neighborhoods charged,” begins her column.

“We didn’t want to commit to huge monthly costs on top of a mortgage payment, or have our association tell us what kind of flowers to plant. And we’ve also lived in HOA neighborhoods where the association was disorganized and caused nothing but trouble.”

She notes that they vowed never to buy a house in an HOA neighborhood again, but they have now changed their minds and are looking to buy a property in a community with a strong association.

Why the change of heart?

HOA-Community-2“We really fell in love with the neighborhood,” she writes.

Bieber notes that it is ideally located, near their favorite stores and restaurants, and hosts fun special events. She also loves the miles of walking trails that wind by beautiful lakes and streams. Rather than sitting in traffic to visit the area, they decided their best move would be to make the community their home.

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Serving as a member of your community association’s board of directors can be a thankless job. Preserving and maintaining an enclave’s property values requires making difficult decisions occasionally and consistent rules enforcement, which can lead to some disputes from time to time.

However, in my 22 years of experience working closely with association directors, I have found that most feel a strong sense of fulfillment and pride from the important work that they are doing for their communities. By answering the call of board service, they are taking on the vital functions of community administration and working to effectively maintain, repair and improve the governed property while preserving harmony within the community, with the aim of maximizing the property values of all owners within the community.

meet-300x166The requirements for being a board member in Florida are such that most home and condominium owners qualify. The minimum standards for board service include: being 18 years of age or older; not having been convicted of a felony without voting rights having been restored; not being delinquent in payment of assessments due to the association (candidates for board positions cannot be delinquent on assessment payment obligations, and sitting directors become ineligible to retain office if more than 90 days delinquent in payment of assessments to association); and taking a state-mandated certification course or signing a certification document within 90 days of taking office. In addition, some communities may have their own eligibility criteria, such as having to be an owner of a home or unit within the community.

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Eduardo-Valdes-002-200x300The firm’s latest Miami Herald “Real Estate Counselor” column appears in today’s edition of the newspaper and is authored by partner Eduardo J. Valdes.  The article, which is titled “Appellate Ruling Shows Potential Pitfalls of Fining, Enforcement Missteps by Community Associations,” focuses on a recent case that highlights the significance of the reasonable checks on enforcement actions against unit owners prescribed under Florida law and associations’ own governing documents.  Eduardo’s article reads:

. . . A recent ruling by Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal demonstrates the potential legal liabilities and costs for associations that fail to meet the mandated prerequisites for the imposition of fines as well as suspensions from community amenities or board seats.

The decision stemmed from a dispute between unit-owner Dale L. Gillis and the Jackson Shores Townhomes Association in Sebring, Fla. In early December of 2017, the day after conducting a site inspection of association property and finding violations on Gillis’s property, the property manager for the community sent a violation letter informing him that he owed a fine of $100 for the alleged violations. EValdes-Herald-clip-for-blog-1-15-23-102x300The letter also included an invoice for the $100 fine with instructions indicating payment was due by the end of the month.

Gillis responded by objecting to the fine, but eventually the association suspended his access to community amenities and removed him from the board of directors based on his refusal to pay. He filed suit against the association, but it prevailed after a non-jury trial.

Apparently undeterred, Gillis then filed for and was granted an appeal before the Second DCA. In the subsequent unanimous opinion, the appellate panel focuses on pertinent provisions of Florida law and the association’s own governing Declaration of Covenants.

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Homeowners and condominium association boards of directors use official resolutions enacted and approved by the directors during board meetings as a key management and administrative tool. The elements that are involved in creating effective resolutions are universal, and they should be known and utilized by all board members for every resolution they put to a vote at an official board meeting.

Resolutions are formal statements created and enacted by an association’s board of directors on its official policies and decisions. They should cover the purpose for the resolution, the action(s) that will follow upon its ratification, and the basis for the board’s authority to make the decision.

Common association resolutions are those covering administrative matters and changes. Based on varying provisions of an association’s governing declaration and documents, these could focus on elections, meetings, amenities, special events, or other aspects of association operations that may require attention.

boardmeet-300x200Other typical resolutions are those affecting association rules, policies and restrictions. These are meant to clarify the duties and rights of the owner members, such as the maintenance of the exterior appearance of homes, pet restrictions, vehicles/parking, and any other issues that may arise as communities evolve.

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Gary-Mars-2021-2-200x300The firm’s latest Miami Herald “Real Estate Counselor” column was authored by partner Gary M. Mars and appears in today’s edition of the newspaper.  The article, which is titled “Industry Association Offers Lawmakers, Advocates Legislative Priorities for 2023,” focuses on the 2023 legislative priorities from the Community Associations Institute, which serves as the leading voice for the associations industry.  His article reads:

. . . To determine CAI’s priority issues for 2023, its Government & Public Affairs team surveyed nearly 1,000 members including the federal legislative action committee (LAC), Government & Public Affairs Committee, and state LAC representatives. Fifty percent of respondents said they anticipate condominium safety issues in 2023, including those covering reserve studies and funding; as well as building inspections, maintenance and structural integrity.

The organization recommends statutorily mandating reserve studies and funding for all community associations, and it also supports additional requirements by developers during the development process and prior to the transition of association control to homeowners. GMars-Herald-clip-for-blog-1-1-23-102x300It addresses structural integrity through statutorily mandated building inspections at 10 years, 20 years, and every five years thereafter, as recommended by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ published protocol for building inspections.

Bauman also wrote that CAI encourages policymakers to engage industry stakeholders, including community associations, in an open forum over legislative initiatives and regulations involving short- and long-term rentals. The group’s position is that association boards of directors, with homeowner input, are the appropriate governing body to craft policies regarding whether short- and long-term rentals make sense for their community.

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For all those who reside in communities governed by homeowner associations or are buying into one for the first time, you should be aware of documents referred to as the covenants, conditions and restrictions of such community, or CCRs in industry parlance for short. These CCRs, together with an association’s articles of incorporation, by-laws, and rules and regulations, comprise the governing provisions with which all owners in a community must abide, and they are given the effect of a legally binding agreement to which all the owners governed by the association are bound.

For some sprawling HOA communities, minimum square-footage requirements are common provisions found in such covenants. These restrictions on the size of homes within a community are aimed at maintaining uniformity as to the types of homes located within it. Homes that are too small or too big by comparison to all the others might be considered to have a detrimental effect on the property values for the enclave.

HOA-community-300x151Architectural restrictions covering property improvements are also almost always in place. Again, the goal with these is to help ensure architectural aesthetics and cohesion. Homeowners and the architects they hire must pay careful attention to the architectural planning criteria to which all modifications or improvements to homes within a community must abide so as to keep in compliance with the association’s standards and to uphold its community appeal.

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MTobacksrhl-law2-200x300The firm’s latest Miami Herald “Real Estate Counselor” column appears in today’s edition of the newspaper and was authored by Michael Toback.  The article, which is titled “Appellate Ruling in Hollywood Case Spotlights Notice Requirements for Condo Association Lawsuits,” focuses on the takeaways for Florida condominium associations from a recent appellate decision that brought an added measure of clarity to the pre-suit requirements for associations bringing legal actions against their unit-owner members.  Michael’s article reads:

. . . The new opinion from Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal came in a case that stemmed from a dispute at the Gateland Village Condominium in Hollywood, in Florida.

The association for the community filed a three-count complaint against unit-owner Mary Elizabeth Holly seeking injunctive relief requiring her to make requisite repairs to her unit’s leaking air-conditioning system, which was purportedly causing damage to the building’s roof as well as water intrusion into another unit, and to allow the association to access and inspect her residence. MToback-Herald-clip-for-blog-12-18-22-100x300It also sought damages for breaching the association’s governing declaration by failing to provide it access to the unit and to maintain/repair her air conditioning system.

In response, Holly asserted that the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction due to the absence of service of process, alleging she was not personally served with the summons and complaint. She also alleged that Gateland failed to satisfy prerequisites prior to filing suit required by both Florida law and the condominium association’s own governing documents.

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A couple of years ago in December 2020 I wrote a blog post about wild hogs invading several communities in Manatee County and making local headlines at the time in the newscasts of several Tampa Bay-area TV stations. The same issue now appears to have come to a head at a community on Florida’s east coast just north of Daytona Beach, where a station recently covered a vicious attack by wild hogs against an 89-year-old resident and his small dog.

According to the November 22 report by News FOX 35 (Orlando), two wild hogs attacked David Reisman and his dog as he set out to take his pet for a walk. He tells the station he was able to fight back with his flashlight before his wife ran outside and scared the animals away.

“I started hitting these wild beasts in the face several times,” Reisman explains in the report.

wild-pigs-300x200A fellow neighbor and homeowner in The Crossings at Grand Haven in Palm Coast, Barton Kaplan tells the station that the hogs have been an ongoing issue, and the problem has now become out of control.

“We can’t roam freely to visit our neighbors. We’re hostages in our own homes,” he laments to the reporter.

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