Who Do You Actually Represent When Your Client Is A Homeowner’s Association Or A Condo Association?
What we are representing when an association, be it a condominium association or a homeowner’s association, our firm is actually representing the association as a whole and we take directions from the board of directors. We may also take directions from a particular director or officer who has been named as a legal liaison to take directions from and there are other times when a property management company has the authority to either give us legal work or have us work on a particular issue but the corporate entity that is the association includes all of the members of the association and that’s whether it’s developer controlled or not. Basically we are representing that entire entity and those members within it. We don’t represent the members individually because that would be a conflict especially if there was an adversarial situation between the association and the unit owner.
For example, if a unit member isn’t paying their assessments then the association through their board of directors or through the management company will send the file to my office to collect against that particular unit owner. So I’m not representing that unit owner and I’m representing the association as a whole and that unit owner is actually a part of that. So although there is not a direct representation, the attorneys that handle association work and represent the actual associations are representing that entire body and take their directions from the board of directors or from your community association manager.
What Specific Work Do You Do For HOA Or Condo Association Members?
There is a variety of legal issues that we handle. Of course, we handle collections, so with people paying their maintenance assessments, special assessments or if they’ve been fined and they haven’t paid their fine for some reason, then the file will come to us with the ledger showing what the unit owner owes and we will go and collect that from the unit owner. If they don’t pay the association willingly then there are legal steps that we can take to force them to comply with the payment of dues and the assessments that are imposed. So that’s one area, the collections, which is pretty big.
The second is to draft documents that the association needs because Florida statutes cover not for profit corporations. There are some rules that are included in those particular statutes. There are statutes that cover condominium associations, statutes that cover homeowner’s associations but a lot of times, they will defer to the governing documents of the association and those include the declaration of condominium or the declaration of covenants. Those include the articles of incorporation and they include the bylaws of the corporation and any rules or regulations that might be put into place. If the association is just starting through a developer then the attorney actually drafts those documents. If the corporation has been in place, the association for a while then what happens is that those documents, a lot of times, need to be amended or they need to be restated.
This means that the entire document is actually re-written and so it’s a brand new document, with certain exceptions that relate back to the original document. So there is drafting those types of documents. There is also just the general advice that’s given. So if there is a question that comes up. Let’s say it’s a parking question or it’s a speed bump question on whether or not there is supposed to be, there is a member that wants those removed. If there is a pet or a leasing issue, if there is an issue with an approval of either an owner or of a tenant and those issues come up all the time and the board needs some guidance for that so we act as counsel for them and give them our best opinion based on the governing documents, the statute and the case law in place.
So those are pretty much the three main area and there are other in the outlier areas that we practice but pretty much collections, drafting of documents and advising the board of directors or their community management officer in regard to issues that may pop up between the association and the membership.
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