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Articles Posted in Community Association Litigation

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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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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Nicole-Kurtz-2021-200x300The firm’s latest “Real Estate Counselor” column in the Miami Herald is authored by shareholder Nicole R. Kurtz and appears in today’s edition of the newspaper.  The article, which is titled “Community Association Disputes? Here’s How to Minimize and Avoid Them,” focuses on the most common types of association clashes, the damage they can do, and some of the best approaches for associations to steer clear of them.  It reads:

. . . [F]or most communities to realize the benefits that stem from effective association oversight, some disputes are inevitably bound to arise from time to time. Some of the most typical association clashes involve:

  • Matters arising from compliance with state laws and municipal regulations;
  • Financial issues, including collections, special assessments and reserves;
  • Rule enforcement, including violations, suspensions and fines;
  • Architectural review applications and decisions;
  • Amendments to governing documents;
  • Maintenance of community amenities, and rules governing their use;
  • A perceived lack of transparency, including ineffective communications of association rules, changes and operational procedures to owners and residents;
  • Seemingly inadequate responses to residents’ concerns and complaints;
  • Meetings and their discussions, agendas and notices;
  • Devising, implementing and enforcing new rules and restrictions;
  • Renovations and alterations to the common elements or common areas;
  • Maintenance of the common elements and areas;
  • Board of director election irregularities and concerns;
  • Vendor contracts.

NKurtz-Herald-clip-for-blog-10-9-22-103x300The most effective community association boards of directors understand their business decisions will inevitably lead to disputes from time to time, but they should seek to avoid perceived minor or frivolous disputes whenever possible. They should also try to minimize or avoid significant disputes that may negatively impact the association’s operations and sow discord within the community.

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EvonneAndris-srhl-law-200x300The firm’s latest Miami Herald “Real Estate Counselor” column authored by partner Evonne Andris appears in today’s edition of the newspaper and is titled “The Costs of Community Association Lawsuits, And How to Avoid Them.”  Evonne’s article focuses on the potential impacts of community association litigation, and the benefits of alternative options for resolving association disputes.  It reads:

. . . In such an environment where emotions can run high, boards of directors and the owners they represent should always strive to let cooler heads prevail. While in certain situations litigation is a necessary tool to assist in the governance of a community, it is a tool that should be used with the understanding that escalating conflicts into litigation is almost always detrimental for both sides in association disputes, including those who eventually prevail in the matter.

Litigation is a disruptor of community harmony, and it could lead to very public squabbles that often make the local news. Such coverage can have long-term negative impacts for communities with their indefinite online lifespan via internet searches under a community’s name, making them potentially detrimental for property values.

EAndris-Herald-clip-for-blog-8-14-22-100x300Real estate brokers can also become keenly aware of communities that are rife with conflicts, and they will steer their clients elsewhere. Some lenders will also inquire about pending litigation in their loan pre-approval questionnaires, and they may become reluctant to approve mortgages for prospective buyers in communities involved in potentially significant lawsuits, or in those that regularly attempt to enforce their rules, policies and decisions through litigation as opposed to other forms of dispute resolution.

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