Vaccine Discovered to Prevent Zombie Homes from Plaguing Florida’s Community Associations!

Two recent Florida Appellate Court decisions offer hope for community associations plagued with zombie homes.

-By Joshua Gerstin, Esq.

Within the last decade, almost every community association has encountered the same problem, a lender forecloses on an owner and nothing happens for years.  Either the owner vigorously contests the lender’s foreclosure, the lender simply does not move forward or both.  While the lender’s case meanders through the courts, the association is left with a “zombie house”, an abandoned home lowering property values and/or an owner no longer paying his/her maintenance assessments.  Until now, once a lender filed a foreclosure lawsuit a community association could do nothing other than sit and wait, sometimes for years.

In two recent Florida appellate court cases a vaccine for this zombie house problem was discovered, the community association’s “relation back” provisions in its Declaration.  In Fountainspring II Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Veliz, Case No. 4D-3408 (Fla. 4th DCA March 15, 2017), and Jallali v. Knightsbridge Village Homeowners Association, Inc., Case No. 4D15-2036 (Fla. 4th DCA Jan. 4, 2017), the Courts ruled the association was permitted to begin its own foreclosure action after the lender’s foreclosure had already begun (and stalled). In addition to the Florida laws governing both condominium and homeowner associations, the Courts found the governing documents of each association to be a major factor in their decisions.

According to both the Fountainspring and Jallali cases, well-drafted “relation back” provisions in a community association’s governing documents allow community associations to foreclose on an owner after the lender foreclosure lawsuit has already begun.  Although the association’s lien and foreclosure remains subordinate to the lender’s foreclosure, the association can drastically cut the effect and expense of a zombie home.  Properly worded “relation back provisions” in a community association’s governing documents is another tool available to community associations struggling to keep costs down and property values up.

Please contact our office for an evaluation to determine whether your association’s governing documents have the necessary “relation back” provisions to benefit from these recent Florida court decisions.

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Looming ADA Rules Could Affect Millions of Websites

ada-website

As many small business property owners will attest, the ADA is a brutal and often times unfair law. Property owners that do not comply with the ADA are not entitled to any advanced notice prior to being sued.  Although important to promote access for the disabled, often times the ADA is exploited by a person that either has never actually visited the premises or visited the premises solely for litigation purposes.  This same heavy handedness is coming to websites and whether they are accessible to the disabled.  Property owners such as hotels and hospitality websites will be the first front which will soon be expanded to almost every website.

For more information, and how to check to see if your website is ADA compliant go to: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/small-business/fl-ada-website-accessibility-suits-20150623-story.html#page=2  

Please contact our office to assist your business with all of its legal technology needs, including the issue of ADA compliant websites.

Hidden Dangers–10 Declaration Provisions Every Community Association Must Change

10 Declaration Provisions Every Community Association
Must Change

Click here to download the full report.

 

  1. The Magic Language Exception. Known as the “Magic Language Exception”, inserting the words “as amended from time to time” after a Declaration’s statement of adherence to Florida law allows the Declaration to automatically adapt to changes in Florida law. Failing to incorporate the Magic Language Exception into a Declaration often times results in the loss of income from, and the benefits of, changes in Florida’s law related to the collection of delinquent assessments. Coral Isles East Condominium Assoc. v. Snyder, 395 So. 2d 1204 1981.

 

  1. The percentage for passage of an amendment is too high. Many associations are stuck with damaging and confusing Governing Documents because the threshold of affirmative votes for an amendment is too high. Consider amending your Governing Documents to a lower threshold of affirmative votes needed to pass an amendment in the future.

 

  1. Requiring tenant approval without the authority to do so.  Many community associations require pre-approval of tenants without the authority to do so in their Governing Documents. Undertaking an action (and possibly collecting a fee to do so) without the requisite authority can result in an expensive lawsuit.

 

  1. Enforcing Outdated and Illegal Provisions. Banning solar panels, improper age restriction enforcement (16 instead of 18), banning satellite dishes or improper debt collection techniques are only a few of the many outdated provisions in the Governing Documents of many community associations. Lack of intent and ignorance of the law is not a defense if the association is sued. Guidance to the Board of Directors and the amendment of these provisions should be undertaken.

 

  1. Failing to Rein in Rentals. Community associations, especially condominium associations, that do not limit renting in their communities may scare away lenders from lending to owners or may lose their FHA accreditation. Consider a Declaration amendment restricting new owners from renting until at least two years after their purchase.

 

  1. Releasing Homes Purchased at a Foreclosure Auction From Delinquent Assessments. Although Florida law limits a lender’s liability for past due assessments, the same restriction does not apply to third party purchasers at a foreclosure auction, unless otherwise stated in your association’s Governing Documents. Consider amending all provisions that release third party purchasers of a foreclosed home from payment of past due assessments.

 

  1. Borrowing limits. Many older community associations have bank borrowing limits set at amounts so low such loans would only be obtainable from a payday lender. Consider eliminating or increasing borrowing limits.

 

  1. Spending Limits. As a way to attract buyers in an era of “community association board’s waste money” many developers incorporated into their Governing Documents limits on the amount a Board of Directors can spend without owner approval. Unfortunately, the effects of inflation and increase costs have locked many of these community associations into unrealistic spending limits. Consider eliminating or increasing the amount your Board of Directors can spend without first obtaining owner approval by inserting an amendment that allows for a per year increase formula based on inflation.

 

  1. Unattainable Quorum. Florida law limits the percentage required for a members’ meeting quorum to 30% of the members. Nevertheless, many community associations are still unable to attain a quorum to conduct important business. Consider an amendment that lowers the required quorum for a member’s meeting below 30%.
  2. Regulating Guests. Associations with guests residing in units in the absence of an owner or approved tenant often find themselves ill prepared when a problem arises.  Declaration provisions relating to the use of homes by guests in the absence of an owner or approved tenant stops people from circumventing rental restrictions. Consider an amendment stating guests can only occupy a unit so many times per year. Another approach to dealing with long-term guests (e.g., guests staying for more than 30 days) is to require them to be screened in the same manner as tenants.

 

For a free analysis of your association’s community association Governing Documents please complete and fax the following to: (561) 750-8185 (no cover page needed) A representative from Gerstin & Association will contact you to set up your community association’s free Governing Document analysis.

 

Name: ____________________________

 

Association name: _____________________

 

Position at the association (director, property manager, etc.) _____________________

 

Email address: ______________________,

 

Telephone number: __________________

Pet Weight Limits Don’t Apply to Emotional Support Animals in Florida’s Community Associations

Another example of the expanding scope of the Fair Housing Act, is the recently decided case of Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condo. Ass’n, Inc., No. 13-12625 (11th Cir. Aug. 27, 2014). In Bhogaita a jury was persuaded the Altamonte Heights Condominium Association discriminated against the Plaintiff when it enforced its pet weight policy and demanded a removal of the plaintiff’s emotional support dog. The jury awarded Bhogaita $5,000 in damages, and the district court awarded Bhogaita more than $100,000 in attorneys’ fees. The association appealed both the judgment entered on the jury’s verdict and lost the appeal. Click the link below for the full text of the case

Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condo. Ass’n, Inc., No. 13-12625 (11th Cir. Aug. 27, 2014)–Fair Housing Act-disability provisions-pet weight limit for emotional support dog failed to accommodate disability

 

 

 

Owner Not Covered for Exploding Corpse in Palm Beach County, Florida Condominium

A decomposing body that explodes does not give rise to coverage for explosions and personal property damage…

Full article here :http://nypost.com/2014/04/27/neighbor-must-pay-for-damage-caused-by-an-exploding-corpse/

Commercial Landlord’s Blanket Refusal to Allow Sublease Fails

Recently, in the case of  Siewert V. Casey, 37 Fla. Weekly D527 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012), Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal illustrated the pitfalls and “time bombs” awaiting commercial landlords using “boilerplate” or outdated leases. In Siewert, the landlord’s commercial lease required the tenant to obtain the landlord’s written consent to an assignment or sublease.  The lease did not contain any specific standards (financial ability, credit score, etc.) governing the landlord’s approval process. Nevertheless, the landlord’s blanket refusal to allow a sublease was considered by the Court a breach of the lease:

 When a lease contains a boilerplate clause requiring the landlord’s consent for any
proposed sublease—without specific standards governing
the landlord’s approval—
the landlord may not then arbitrarily
withhold approval of a sublease.

This decision stems in part from Florida’s “implied covenant of good faith”.  The implied covenant of good faith is a common law doctrine requiring contracting parties to fulfill their contractual obligations in good faith.

To avoid suffering a similar fate, commercial landlords should seek assistance from an attorney in maintaining up to date master templates and leases. A lease should always be as short and concise as possible, while at the same time meeting the latest standards of Florida law and the landlord’s specific needs.  The full text of the Court’s decision can be found here: Siewert V. Casey, 37 Fla. Weekly D527 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012).

Hope & Desire Not Enough for Tortious Interference Claim In Florida

Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals: An existing relationship is required before bringing a claim for tortious interference with a business relationship. Hoping that one day you will have, or could have had, a business relationship is not enough.

Click here for the Florida 4th DCA opinion