Albert Moore, Attorney at Law

Does The Board Have The Authority To Increase The Amount Of Assessments For Unit Owners?

Usually they do. Typically, the difference in assessments is usually based off the square footage which the majority of the time increases with the increase in the number of bedrooms or bathrooms that you have. So certainly, a board can budget for assessments and charge different assessments based upon square footage. So that’s typically how that’s done. They will, at least, in their analysis of increasing the condos or units that they have a higher number of bedrooms or bathrooms or other living spaces based upon square footage but they don’t have to. They can certainly say that just because of the nature of the increase in number or the separation in number from a smaller unit or a unit with less bedrooms or bathrooms as justification to increase assessments for those particular units.

The state of Florida gives a great deal of discretion with boards of directors for community associations when it comes to creating a budget and the reason for that is that you don’t want to have the association as a whole determining the budget because you’d never get anything done. There are just too many numbers usually. So it really does need to be laid at the feet of the board of directors to determine the budget which would include the imposition of assessments that come up and unless there is something that is just completely unreasonable, a court will usually grant them that discretion to do so. A lot of times we will see judges and agencies from the state of Florida, if there has been a complaint made, they will basically tell a person is not happy when there is a difference in assessments between one unit and another or just that the assessments as a whole are too high.

They will basically say there is a remedy in that and that remedy is that you get a majority of the owners to elect a new board, one that’s assessments are more in line with your thinking. So the board controls it and then the association members ultimately control who is on the board by voting in board members. So it’s usually a wide range of discretion with the board to create the budgets and to create the assessments and if there are discrepancies based on the number of bedrooms or bathrooms or square footage, that’s usually justified and it would be tough for a unit owner to argue that it is patently unfair.

Does My Florida HOA Or CA Have The Right To Access My Condominium Unit?

The best way to answer that question, first of all, is to address the HOAs. If in the majority of HOAs in the state of Florida, you are dealing with single family detached homes and you are not attached to another unit. If that is the case then the homeowner’s association typically does not have the right to access the home. Now, the exceptions that would typically be there for an HOA with a single family home, it’s not attached to any other home, would be if you had a scenario where the house or the home is in such disrepair that it’s creating some type of health problem but typically the answer to that is to call the governing body where you are dealing with government or authority. So the city or the state or the county and otherwise to call in their code enforcement or health department and let them handle it instead of the association using self-help.

But there have been some cases where HOAs have petitioned the courts and been granted orders to be able to access but the cases that I’ve seen or that I’ve dealt with have been restricted to vacant properties. So typically the answer to that would be no. They do not have the authority unless it’s some type of serious health of code violation and that you’ve already been through the governing bodies and they would refuse to take any action and you would have to still go to court to get an order to do so, in my opinion. I would always advise an association, if they called me and said hey I want to go in and clean this place up and have taken the steps that I have just recited, I think that would be the illegal move on their part and so I would suggest they not do that.

When you are talking about HOAs that are connected or the living units are connected to other units and in condominium associations where it’s typically the case where the units are connected, then you have issues where and we talked about it with the mold and the leaky pipes, the issues where one unit may very well affect the other unit and does the association have the right to come in? If it’s occupied then my answer would be no because then you would have to really address that with the owner that’s there and if the owner is refusing to help then there are steps that you can take in court. If the owner completely ignores any such request and is just completely causing damage, then you can go to court and get a court order. If that’s the case then most of the time the unit owner would comply with allowing the association to have access or to require the unit owner to fix the problem so the association doesn’t need access.

But it’s not the case of what you see in your typical rental agreements where the landlord upon certain notice has access to gain entry or when you have a mortgage and the mortgagee is entitled to access under certain circumstances to protect their investment. With the association, it’s much more restrictive, so typically, the answer is no and I think that the safest thing, if it’s a connected unit is to try and find the owner with the connected unit and resolve the issue there so the association doesn’t have to actually enter into the premises. If that’s not the case and it’s creating an immediate health problem then call the governmental authorities that I referred to and you can also go to court and get an emergency order to enter so that it does not damage or destroy other units or common areas and limited common areas of a condominium association.

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